Capitals

Texans clinch playoff berth, beating Titans 24-10

201212021405507232438-p2.jpeg

Texans clinch playoff berth, beating Titans 24-10

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Antonio Smith picked up the ball J.J. Watt forced Titans running back Chris Johnson into fumbling, and the Texans' defensive end ran from the Houston 37 all the way to the end zone.

Smith walked around the end zone holding the ball up just in case he'd scored a touchdown.

Officials insisted the play had been whistled dead after Smith recovered the ball, so the Houston Texans forced five more turnovers and also had six sacks in beating the Tennessee Titans 24-10 on Sunday to clinch a second straight playoff berth.

``They blew the whistle,'' Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. ``I think it could be a touchdown for us but unfortunately they blew a whistle, and it's not. There's nothing you can do about it. We did a great job of getting turnovers all day long.''

Easy for Kubiak to be charitable after his Texans set a franchise-record for wins in a season by improving to 11-1 with their sixth straight victory. They also improved to 6-0 on the road - the NFL's only unbeaten team away from home. And just for good measure, they also swept the Titans, the team they replaced in Houston, for only the second time as a franchise.

Fullback James Casey, who caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub, said the feeling of clinching is a lot different this year than last season. The Texans are happy to know they're in the playoffs with more goals still ahead.

``We have a lot higher aspirations this year, but still we clinched the playoffs and that's hard to do,'' Casey said. ``We're in it now. We have a shot. We have other things we want to do too. We want to clinch the division, we want to get home field advantage, so we have a lot of work to do and are already looking forward. We know we have a really big game against New England on Monday night, so we're excited about that.''

Rookie Whitney Mercilus had two sacks, Watt had another sack giving him 15 1/2 and the Texans also batted down a handful of Jake Locker's passes.

``We kind of got after him and frustrated him a little bit, and that was our goal,'' Watt said. ``The defense played great, and I think the defense did a heck of a job. I'm very proud of how we played.''

Schaub also threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder to Lestar Jean on the opening drive to put Houston ahead to stay. Arian Foster scored on a 2-yard TD run as the Texans led 21-3 at halftime to avoid any overtime drama after needing extra time to beat Jacksonville and Detroit in a span of five days in their last two games.

``Our defense really won the game for us,'' Schaub said. ``They created all those turnovers and stops on fourth down. The game ball goes to the defense because we weren't holding up our end on offense.''

For the Titans (4-8), the issues are growing quickly. They lost a second straight game and now have combined for 13 turnovers in back-to-back home losses. Locker fumbled twice and was intercepted three times. Right tackle David Stewart broke his right leg on the opening series, and left guard Steve Hutchinson hurt his right knee late in the first half.

``What could go wrong, would go wrong,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said.

Tennessee outgained the Texans 354-332 in total offense with Locker throwing for 309 yards in the debut of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. He took over when Chris Palmer was fired a week ago. But when Locker settled down, his teammates took turns dropping balls or wiping out big plays with penalties.

``When he got going, then other people took their turns at making mistakes, so it was just sloppy, on the offensive side of the ball, at different times throughout the game,'' Munchak said.

NOTES: Andre Johnson, the AFC offensive player for November, had five catches for 56 yards after totaling 35 catches for 614 yards over the past month. ... Foster's streak of rushing for at least 90 yards a game ended at five. He ran for 38 yards on 14 carries. ... Stewart was taken to a hospital after being carted off the field. ... The Texans first swept Tennessee in 2004. Now they have won four of six in this AFC South rivalry.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Who will the Caps play in their first playoff series? The round robin, explained.

Who will the Caps play in their first playoff series? The round robin, explained.

Before the season pause, the Caps were in danger of falling down the standings. Now they could claim the top spot in the east.
 
When the NHL paused its season on March 12, the Capitals held just a one-point lead in the Metropolitan Division and trailed the conference-leading Boston Bruins by 10 points.

The Bruins held an almost insurmountable lead atop the conference and the Philadelphia Flyers were one of the hottest teams in the league. At that point, Washington looked more likely to drop in the standings than to climb. With the NHL’s new 24-team playoff format for the 2019-20 season, however, the Caps will have three games to possibly claim the top spot in the east.
 
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Tuesday the league’s return to play plan including the 24-team playoff format.

Washington, as one of the top four teams in the conference, will get a bye to the first round of the playoffs and not have to play in the play-in round. Instead, the Caps will play a round-robin tournament against the other top seeds in the conference: Boston, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. The winner of that round robin will determine the seeds for the playoffs.
 
The inclusion of a round-robin has some fans a bit confused as it is not something seen in a normal season so let’s break it down.
 
First off, you can throw out the current seeding for the top four teams. The regular season records determined who the top four teams are, but that is it. They no longer matter. The round robin is a clean slate for those four teams. Washington will play each of the other teams once and regular season rules will apply. That means there will not be continuous overtime in a tie game, but instead it will go to five minutes of three-on-three followed by a shootout.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST



What this means is that Boston, despite being the presumptive Presidents’ Trophy winner, could fall all the way down to the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Caps, meanwhile, could claim the top spot in the conference with a strong showing in the round robin.
 
Why did the NHL do this? Bettman went into this in a video conference with the media after the initial announcement. Basically, this is an acknowledgment that the top teams need to play competitive games before playing against a team that had to win a playoff series just to get there.
 
What will be the reward for earning the top seed? It is not yet clear.
 
It has not yet been determined if the teams will be reseeded after the play-in round or if the playoff will be a bracket throughout. This could be significant depending on the upsets we see in the play-in round. For example, a bracket would set up for the No. 4 team to play the winner of the series between the No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins and the No. 12 Montreal Canadiens. If Montreal pulls off the upset as the lowest seed, that would give the No. 4 seed the best matchup on paper in the next round while the No. 1 seed would be playing either the No. 8 or 9 seed.
 
As one of the top seeds, the Caps will finish no lower than No. 4 in the conference but could potentially finish No. 1.

But we are still a long way off from determining who Washington will play in their first playoff series.
 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin shares ninth Rocket Richard Trophy, but Capitals miss some other milestones

Alex Ovechkin shares ninth Rocket Richard Trophy, but Capitals miss some other milestones

The Capitals will hopefully be back on the ice this summer for the Stanley Cup playoffs after Tuesday’s return-to-play announcement by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. 

Remember where we left off on March 12 before the ongoing coronavirus pandemic halted play? 

Alex Ovechkin had 48 goals and with 13 games to go he seemed a lock to reach 50 for the ninth time in his career. That would have tied him with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the most 50-goal seasons in NHL history.

That won’t happen now. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declared the regular season over on Tuesday as he laid out his plans for what the league hopes to do if it can get players safely back on the ice.  

But if Ovechkin will fall just shy of 50 goals, he can console himself with yet another Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer. He will share that honor this year with Boston’s David Pastrnak, who also finishes with 48 goals.

It is the first time players have shared a Rocket since 2009-10 when Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos each had 51 goals. Three players tied for it in 2003-04. That trio was Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and now-Capitals forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who was then with the Atlanta Thrashers, who now play in Winnipeg. In other words, it was a long time ago.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Ovechkin remains two goals away from tying longtime Capitals forward Mike Gartner for No. 7 on the all-time goals list. Gartner has 708. Ovechkin sits at 706. That will have to wait until next year. Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731) and even Brett Hull (741) could all be within reach.

Meanwhile, Ovechkin was far from the only Caps’ player pushing for a milestone only to come up short with the regular season ended prematurely. John Carlson won’t reach the hallowed 90-point mark for a defenseman. Carlson hit the break with 75 points, which was 10 more than anyone at the position. He still had a decent shot to get there with 13 games left.

Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque was the last NHL defenseman to hit 90 points in a season 26 years ago with the Boston Bruins in 1993-94. Carlson remains a favorite for the Norris Trophy. Wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

The Capitals had other players posting career years, too. Tom Wilson has 44 points to set a new personal best and his 21 goals were just one short of his single-season high.

Jakub Vrana, in his age 23-24 season, hit his career-best mark with 25 goals. Lars Eller had 16 goals, which was two shy of his career best (18). He also needed just one more point to reach 40 for the first time.

Maybe the most intriguing number out there? Braden Holtby is currently tied with Olie Kolzig at 35, but he might never get another chance to make that record his own. His contract expires at the end of the season. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: