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Texans look to limit mistakes against Patriots

Texans look to limit mistakes against Patriots

HOUSTON (AP) Win the turnover battle.

That's Texans coach Gary Kubiak's biggest concern as his team prepares for a divisional playoff game at New England.

The Patriots lead the NFL in turnover differential this season at plus-25. The Texans have done well in that area this year and were seventh with a plus-12 margin.

But in the first meeting with New England, Matt Schaub threw an interception on Houston's second drive, contributing to an early 14-0 hole in a 42-14 win by the Patriots.

``They get them,'' he said. ``They don't give it up. If we go in there and do anything to help them we're in trouble.''

Kubiak is also preaching the importance of taking advantage of opportunities this week. He was unhappy with Houston's inability to do that in the first meeting with the Patriots.

The Texans were just outside of the red zone when Schaub was intercepted in that game. And Houston went on fourth down twice before halftime and didn't convert after passes fell incomplete.

``Missed opportunities, they hurt all the time, but against these guys they're a lot worse because of what they do offensively and how good they are,'' Kubiak said of the Patriots. ``When you get opportunities to go down there and score some points, you better. You better not hurt yourself. We've got to find ways to do that. They're going to make plays and we understand that, but we got to find a way to make quite a few ourselves.''

Another component of that will be for Houston to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals like it did again and again against the Bengals. Houston dominated the first half of that game, outgaining Cincinnati 250-53, but led by only two points at halftime after kicking three field goals.

``We've just got to finish,'' Kubiak said. ``We moved the heck out of the ball and had a good day offensively. We've got to finish, got to put those points on the board.''

Especially this week when the Texans face a New England team averaging an NFL-best 34.8 points a game. Houston is averaging 26 points, but managed more than 20 points just once in the last five games.

The Texans are 9 1/2-point underdogs in this one. Kubiak doesn't think his players are concerned about that.

``We know that our effort and how we performed last time wouldn't give us a chance against anybody on the road,'' Kubiak said. ``It's about right now refocusing on all the things we have to do to go down there and have a chance to be successful, and I'm sure that's what they're thinking about.''

That's doesn't mean the Texans haven't noticed that almost no one is giving them a chance to win on Sunday. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy's piece in the Sunday newspaper called the Texans ``fraudulent,'' and said all the Patriots have to do to get to the AFC championship game is ``beat the terrible Texans.'' It got the attention of Arian Foster.

The star running back responded by changing his Twitter avatar to the first three paragraphs of the column on Monday.

Foster had 32 carries for 140 yards in Houston's wild-card win, and the Texans will certainly need another big game from him against the Patriots. They faced Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins of Cincinnati and not go up against another in Vince Wilfork.

``If you sit there and think you're going to run it at him consistently, it's very difficult,'' Kubiak said of Wilfork. ``They're very good against the run ... the thing that is so difficult, is he plays everywhere. So it's not like you go the other way with the ball or try to avoid something. You're going to have to deal with him all day long.''

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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around. 

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Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 impressive comeback victory over the L.A. Clippers

Five observations from Wizards' 125-118 impressive comeback victory over the L.A. Clippers

The Washington Wizards beat the L.A. Clippers 125-118 on Tuesday night.

Here are five observations from the game...

What a comeback

Against the Clippers on Tuesday, they appeared headed towards another epic beatdown. They allowed 40 points in the first quarter, 73 by halftime and trailed by as many as 24.

But they rallied and somehow stole a victory away from the scorching-hot Clippers to stop a two-game skid and momentarily end all the jokes and proclamations that the John Wall era is over.

It was only one game, but head coach Scott Brooks has to be happy with how his team responded to a tough few days.

Lineup changes

After two-plus seasons of rolling out chalk lineups, Brooks made some adjustments for Tuesday's game that went further than anything he's done since taking the job in Washington.

With Dwight Howard out due to injury, he promoted Thomas Bryant and not Ian Mahinmi to the starting lineup. Brooks also moved Kelly Oubre Jr. in to replace Morris. The idea was to add some youthful bounce to the starting lineup, and it sort of worked.

Bryant gave them a boost early. He threw down an alley-oop for Wizards' first basket. Soon after that, he blocked Marcin Gortat and finished with a layup on the other end.

Bryant was solid with seven points, three rebounds and a block. Morris didn't necessarily respond to getting demoted, as he shot 3-for-11, but he made some nice plays at the end.

Oubre got into early foul trouble and was held to three points in 12 minutes.

Brooks' changes can't be judged by one game, but the fact he made them speaks volumes about where this team is at right now.

Satoransky making some noise

Brooks fluctuating his lineups is going to create opportunities for others to take advantage. So far, in recent games, Tomas Satoransky has stepped up to fill the void.

He helped key the near comeback on Sunday against the Blazers and he was on the floor for the Wizards' best stretches against the Clippers. 

Satoransky is usually good for several things that the Wizards need right now. They need effort on defense, which he provides. And they need guys to pass and move without the ball on offense, which he does.

Satoransky ended up with 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. The numbers may not pop in the box score, but his impact was clearly felt in this one. The guy deserves more playing time at this point.

Green was also good

The Wizards wouldn't have made this a game without Jeff Green, who continues to outperform his role and his contract.

The veteran forward got hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the frame. He hit back-to-back threes in the fourth that put the Wizards within striking distance.

The Wizards' front office has made some missteps with their bench free agent signings. But when it comes to backup power forwards, they are batting 1.000 the past two years. They found Mike Scott last season and Green for this season, both on bargain, one-year deals. Scott, ironically, now plays for the Clippers.

Howard out again

As mentioned above, Howard missed this game. He had a setback with his piriformis injury and it's not clear when he will return. Brooks said he is considered day-to-day, but that's what the Wizards said for weeks, all through training camp and into the regular season.

Surely, there could have been some intentional misdirection along the way. But the injury seems entirely unpredictable. It would not be a surprise of Howard missed more games. And the longer he's shut down, the longer it will take to get him back up to speed to return.

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