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Texans lead Bengals 16-10 after third quarter

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Texans lead Bengals 16-10 after third quarter

HOUSTON (AP) Arian Foster ran for a long-awaited touchdown and set a little postseason history on Saturday, leading the Houston Texans to a 16-10 lead over the Cincinnati Bengals after three quarters of their playoff rematch.

The Texans dominated but had to settle for Shayne Graham's three field goals in the first half. Foster finally got into the end zone on a 1-yard dive in the third quarter, putting the Texans in control.

He also became the first running back to top 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games, getting 113 yards on 26 carries through three quarters.

Still, it was up for grabs because Pro Bowl passer Matt Schaub made one bad mistake. His sideline pass was intercepted by Leon Hall and returned for a 21-yard touchdown, the cornerback's second score in three games.

Given how much the Texans dominated, the Bengals were fortunate to be so close. Houston piled up 351 yards and held the ball for 32 minutes, but got into the end zone only once.

By contrast, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton had a horrid time. He completed 4 of 10 passes for 3 yards in the first half. With J.J. Watt's sack added in, the Bengals had minus-6 yards passing and only 53 yards overall.

His 45-yard pass to A.J. Green got Cincinnati moving in the third quarter and set up Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal. When Dalton tried to go to Green again, Johnathan Joseph intercepted and got the Texans in scoring range again as the quarter ended.

After swatting down one of Dalton's passes at the line, Watt wagged his finger at the quarterback.

Nothing was going to come easy.

For the second season in a row, the Bengals opened the playoffs at Houston looking for their first playoff win since 1990, a 21-year drought that was tied for ninth-longest in NFL history. They lost 31-10 last season, with the then-rookie Dalton throwing three interceptions.

The main difference in this one: Schaub was back in charge for Houston. Rookie T.J. Yates filled in after Schaub hurt his foot last season, got the Texans a win in their first-ever playoff game, but couldn't take then any farther.

Their franchise quarterback started a playoff game for the first time in his career. He came into the game in a slump, with the Texans losing three of their last four games while the offense sputtered.

The second time the Texans got the ball, they got going. Schaub completed an 18-yard pass, Foster had a 17-yard run and Keshawn Martin went 16 yards on a reverse, setting up Graham's field goal.

It became a pattern - move the ball down the field, settle for three points. The fans started booing the familiar, come-up-short endings.

And Schaub did the one thing he wanted to avoid: Let Cincinnati's high-scoring defense get its hands on the ball. Hall anticipated Schaub's throw, stepped in front and returned it untouched for the defense's fourth touchdown in the last four games.

Hall also ran back an interception 17 yards for the only Bengals touchdown in a 13-10 win over Pittsburgh that clinched a playoff spot. It was the first interception return for a touchdown against the Texans this season.

Like the Texans, the Bengals ended the season by hitting a wall on offense - one touchdown in the last two games.

A lot was on Dalton, who grew up in suburban Katy and had a dreadful playoff debut as a rookie last year in his hometown. He threw three interceptions, including one that Watt returned for a game-turning touchdown just before halftime.

He had to be better if the Bengals were going to end their notable playoff drought. Through three quarters, it wasn't even close.

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

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Dustin Hopkins isn't 100-percent so the Redskins reportedly worked out five kickers

Lost in the fact that Tress Way is having a stellar season is that his fellow specialist, Dustin Hopkins, is getting it done, too.

The Redskins' kicker has made 17 of 19 field goals so far in 2018, giving him an 89.5-percent conversion rate on kicks. Against Carolina, he nailed a career-long 56-yarder, plus he's 17-for-17 on extra points.

But on Tuesday, a report came out saying that Hopkins is "a bit banged up." As of now, the Redskins don't know if they'll have Hopkins or not this weekend vs. the Texans, which is why they worked out five kickers five days before the Houston matchup, per Field Yates.

Among the group of free agents was former 'Skin Kai Forbath, who made 32-of-38 three-pointers for the Vikings in 2017. He was with the Burgundy and Gold from 2012-2014 and also briefly in 2015. 

Washington also reportedly tried out two maligned kickers in Roberto Aguayo and Blair Walsh. 

The Bucs drafted Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft but he flamed out in Tampa and was gone after a single year and poor 2017 preseason. Walsh, meanwhile, hasn't been the same since missing a 27-yard game winning playoff attempt versus Seattle while he was with Minnesota.  

Rounding out the group was Sam Ficken and Jon Brown.

The Redskins have been very reliant on both Hopkins and Way this season, seeing as their offense has had its issues. They've needed Hopkins to cash in on field goals to avoid wasting points and Way to help win the field position battle each week.

For some franchises, losing a kicker for a week or two wouldn't be much of a problem. And while Washington could very well be OK without Hopkins, they'd rather not have to bring in a new foot for any amount of time.

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Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Through his first two seasons in Washington, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was not known to make significant adjustments to his lineup. In his first season coaching the Wizards, 2016-17, he didn't really need to. They had the best season for the franchise, 49-33, since the 1970s.

Last year, the tweaks he made were largely by necessity. John Wall missed 41 games and he had to adjust.

What Brooks has been doing in recent games with his Wizards' rotation are something we haven't really seen before. First, he benched Ian Mahinmi for three games. Then, he sat Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr. in the fourth quarter. 

Morris returned to play fourth quarter minutes on Monday in their win against the Magic, but Porter remained on the bench, sitting in the last seat on the end with a towel over his head, rising periodically to clap and cheer on his teammates.

Such is life for the Wizards right now. They are off to a 4-9 start, well below their standards, and Brooks is doing whatever he can to right the ship. So far, those decisions have paid off, as they have won two straight games for the first time this season.

"We weren't winning, so I had to make some changes," Brooks said.

Brooks, it appears, has reached a new point in his tenure with the Wizards. He is willing to sit key players in his rotation, and ones that happen to make a good deal of money. Porter is the highest-paid player on the team, carrying a salary of $26 million and Mahinmi is not far behind at $15.9 million.

As Brooks insists, it isn't quite as simple as him deciding to bench a player. It has much to do with the flow of the game and how he simply has more options at his disposal this year.

Instead of Morris and Porter, he has rolled with Austin Rivers and Jeff Green in the fourth quarter. Both Rivers and Green weren't on the team last season.

Rivers gives them more speed in a three-guard lineup and plays physical defense on the perimeter. Green has been shooting lights-out and is one of their most versatile players on both ends of the floor.

The added depth on the Wizards' roster has set in a new reality for Brooks. The players are beginning to understand that.

"We do have depth. That's the thing," Porter said. "We have so many good players that are interchangeable. We're just finding ways to win."

"It is definitely evolving into something different that I haven't seen before," Mahinmi said. "I remember a few years back, it was a defined first unit and second unit. If the second unit was going, he would let them run and let it ride. With this roster, we have even more flexibility than last year."

Porter played just 22 minutes against the Magic. He has been held to under 24 minutes in three straight games. The lack of playing time has crushed his numbers. He has just 21 total points in those three outings.

Mahinmi is averaging only 14.1 minutes per game this season, his fewest since 2010-11. And that number is skewed by the fact he started six games to begin the year with Dwight Howard nursing an injury.

The evolving rotation has required an adjustment for the players. Though it doesn't change how they prepare for games, they now understand that surprises can happen.

"He's made a whole lot of change from a game-to-game basis. I'm with [everyone else]. I'm seeing it has it goes," Mahinmi said. "[It's like] 'I guess I'm not playing tonight.' Just stay ready. That's part of being a professional."

Mahinmi says he and other players aren't owed an explanation from Brooks when he makes those changes. And he is quick to say it doesn't bother him.

"As long as we win, I'm happy," he said.

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