Capitals

Struggling Rams defense hoping to bounce back

Struggling Rams defense hoping to bounce back

ST. LOUIS (AP) It's been a rough couple of weeks for St. Louis' defense, and the Rams know it, too.

St. Louis has dropped three straight games, yielding 30 points against Green Bay and 45 against New England in its last two losses before its bye week. The Rams' points allowed average jumped nearly five points to 20th in the league, from 18.5 and fifth-best before playing the Packers. The overall defense dropped from seventh-best to tied for 14th.

``What has happened the last two weeks, everyone that is associated with this defense, players and coaches knows it's totally unacceptable,'' said Dave McGinnis, the assistant head coach who tends to speak on behalf of the defense. ``Now, the next thing you have to do is you have to accept, beginning with me, the responsibility to change it.''

Coaches and players point to turnovers as one reason for the slide. St. Louis (3-5) had two more takeaways than its opponents through the first five games. The Rams haven't forced a single turnover during their losing streak but have coughed the ball up four times, including three interceptions for Sam Bradford.

Next up is a trip to NFC West-leading San Francisco.

The 49ers have a plus-three turnover differential and have scored 38 points off their opponents' miscues, while giving up just 16 points on nine giveaways. They also rank as the top scoring defense in the league.

``The challenge again, going into this week, is the 49ers don't make mistakes,'' head coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday. ``We have to force the mistakes to compete with a team like this. You go in there and don't get the ball back either on third down or as a result of a turnover, it's hard to beat anybody.''

Opponents have converted about 40 percent of third downs against the Rams, 15th-best in the league. The Patriots secured first downs on seven of 12 attempts and the Packers nine of 15. In contrast, the Rams are tied with Tampa Bay as the eighth-worst in the league at about 34 percent.

The defense was particularly shaky against the Packers and Patriots, who rank ninth and first in scoring, respectively. They combined for 875 yards against the Rams. In the four games prior, St. Louis gave up 192 yards more total yards - coincidently the exact amount Miami gained in its 17-14 victory that started the current three-game slide.

``Individually, we've all taken turns in our mistakes and we haven't forced turnovers,'' said cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who has three interceptions this year. ``When you add those two things to the mix, it doesn't pose well to stop offenses. If we can start honing in on attention to detail and creating turnovers, we'll find ourselves with a better chance to win.''

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith's resume doesn't compare to the Packers' Aaron Rodgers or New England's Tom Brady, but he has the league's fourth-best quarterback rating this year. The 49ers also lead the league with 168.6 yards rushing per game.

McGinnis said the obvious measure of a good defensive game is the final score.

``If you're playing a team like this, you've got to find a way to match their physicalness in the run game and then be able to take care of the play-action pass when it shows up,'' McGinnis said. ``When you're watching defense, it's if you keep the opponent from having fewer points than you score, than that's when you observe you're doing good.''

Quick Links

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wizards’ First Round draft pick, Troy Brown is a Vegas Golden Knights fan

brown_vegas_golden_knights.png
Twitter/@MikeGrimala

Wizards’ First Round draft pick, Troy Brown is a Vegas Golden Knights fan

Uh, oh it may get awkward in Capital One Arena.

The newest draft pick for the Washington Wizards, Troy Brown is a Vegas Golden Knights fan.

Brown, who went to high school in Las Vegas, Nevada, wore a Golden Knights’ jersey on draft night.

The 18-year-old must not have known he was going to Washington, the home of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. He would have known better, right? Either way, we can't hold it against him because again he's from Vegas.

It’s a good thing it only took the Capitals five games to win the Cup, otherwise, that might make it a little tense. At least he wasn’t wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey right?

Ted Leonsis will get him rocking the red in no time.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE: