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Texans pack up after franchise-best 13-win season

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Texans pack up after franchise-best 13-win season

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans expected to advance farther than they did last season.

Instead, a late-season collapse cost them a bye week and home-field advantage, and they lost in the divisional round just as they did a year before. Now they're left to ponder another missed opportunity after a season that began with such high hopes ended with a 41-28 loss to the New England Patriots.

Coach Gary Kubiak still believes his team moved forward this season.

``Last year we were just excited to be in the playoffs ... and now we're really, really disappointed because we're not in the Super Bowl and we're not playing this week to get in the Super Bowl,'' Kubiak said. ``That's a big compliment to everybody in this building and how hard they work ... we will always be that way now and we expect to be that way for a long time.''

But not everyone is looking on the bright side of a season where Houston won a franchise-best 13 games. Star defensive end J.J. Watt, who developed into one of the top defenders in the league this season, summed up the year differently.

``I don't see it as a success,'' he said. ``We don't have a trophy, so it's not a success. And in my mind in this league if you don't have a trophy then you're not a success. So we work hard this offseason, put every single thing we have into it, and we're going to come back next season with that trophy on our mind.''

Watt's performance this season was one of the biggest reasons Houston won its second straight AFC South title. Watt led the NFL with a franchise-record 20 1/2 sacks in the regular season. He also had 107 tackles, including 39 for losses, 16 passes defended and forced four fumbles. He added another nine tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks and three tackles for losses with two passes defended in Houston's two postseason games.

``Of all my years in football, and I've been around a couple of MVPs, it's as good as a football season as I've ever seen,'' Kubiak said. ``He's a second-year player is what's amazing about it. I think the sky's the limit for this guy.''

As Watt grows into a more veteran role, Kubiak plans to lean on him as an example for other young players on the team.

``The thing I want him to do is raise this team's level of play and see us get past that step that we haven't gotten past in the last two years,'' Kubiak said. ``I think he's committed to doing that. I think he's going to be a leader on this team for a long time.''

Much of the criticism from fans and media following the loss has been directed at quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw an interception in the fourth quarter Sunday to end a drive that could have cut New England's lead to less than a touchdown. He also threw for 343 yards and two scores in the loss.

Schaub made the first two postseason starts of his career this season after missing last year's playoff run with a foot injury.

Kubiak believes putting all the blame for the loss on his quarterback is unfair, and said that a number of players, including Schaub, didn't make plays that could have changed the outcome. He has no plans to make any changes at the position in the future.

``I believe in Matt,'' Kubiak said. ``He's the quarterback for our football team and I have no doubt about him. I feel very good about our quarterback. Our whole team has got to get better - and that includes coaching and playing - for us to make the next step and Matt's a part of the team.''

Schaub led an offense that was seventh in the NFL with an average of 372.1 yards a game. He was helped by excellent seasons from running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson. Foster was second in the AFC with 1,424 yards rushing in the regular season and Johnson bounced back from his worst season to finish with a career-high 1,598 yards receiving, which led the AFC.

Kubiak was disappointed that those numbers didn't translate into more consistent offensive outings in the last part of the season.

``There's a lot of good things going on right there, but we want to be the best,'' he said. ``And being the best meant that we could have been more consistent in the last month of the season and that could have been a difference for our team. That's the biggest thing right now for me is why weren't we more consistent in third down playing and those type of things late in the season like we were in the first three quarters of the season?''

NOTES: Rookie WR DeVier Posey injured his Achilles tendon in Sunday's game and will require surgery. Kubiak wasn't sure Monday how long he'll be out. ``It's a big blow,'' Kubiak said of the injury. ``You just feel bad for the kid because he had put himself in a situation to come back here next year and compete for a starting spot on this football team.''

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Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson puts on a show in his hometown to lead Capitals over Toronto

Tom Wilson's two-point night including the shorthanded game-winner as the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday. The win was Washington's third on their six-game road trip, which concludes Saturday in Buffalo.

Here are four reasons Washington won.

1. Braden Holtby’s first period

After the first period, it looked like we were going to have a goalie duel. Frederik Andersen looked absolutely brilliant to start and the Caps needed Holtby to be equally brilliant to keep Washington in it. He was.

Holtby made 12 of his 40 saves in the opening frame, including an absolute beauty to rob Patrick Marleau. Andersen robbed Michal Kempny and Nicklas Backstrom on one end of the ice and Toronto picked up the puck off the rebound for a quick 2-on-1 counter. Kasperi Kapanen fed Marleau beautifully, but Holtby stretched out to make the spectacular save with the blocker. A few minutes later, Holtby made a quick pad save on a William Nylander backhand, then recovered just in time to deny Connor Brown on the rebound attempt.

Because of Holtby’s efforts, both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie.

2. Alex Ovechkin draws a penalty, scores the power play goal

Morgan Rielly does not take many penalties. Heading into Thursday’s game, Rielly had taken only two minor penalties all season, which is pretty remarkable when you think about a top defenseman averaging 22:43 of ice time per game.

In the second period, however, Ovechkin managed to draw a hold on Rielly. When you get a team’s top defenseman in the box, you need to take advantage. The Caps did just that off a quick play off a faceoff.

T.J. Oshie won the draw back to John Carlson. As soon as the draw was taken, Ovechkin backed away towards the top of the opposite faceoff circle. Toronto was slow to setup the defense, so when Carlson fed Ovechkin for the one-timer, he had an open shooting lane on net. Ovechkin delivered a fadeaway one-timer from above the circle and beat Andersen glove side.

3. A key forecheck by Tom Wilson

Brett Connolly made a nice play in front of the net to deke around the stretched pad of Andersen and backhand the puck into the open goal. Wilson made that play happen, however, with a great forecheck.

Jake Gardiner went to recover the puck behind the goal line in the defensive zone, but Wilson came streaking in like a freight train and knocked Gardiner off the puck. Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and fed Connolly in front of the net. He did the rest.

4. The Tom Wilson shorthanded exclamation point

Washington carried a 2-0 lead into the third period and looked to be the better team, but a goal form Andreas Johnsson put the Maple Leafs right back in it. The ice was definitely tilting in Toronto’s favor and less than 90 seconds after Johnsson scored, John Carlson took a hooking penalty.

With the game on the line, however, the penalty kill delivered.

Holtby made a kick-out save and two Leafs went after the rebound, but Brooks Orpik made a key stick lift on Mitch Marner and Eller beat Johnsson to the puck and had a lane for the breakout. Wilson turned on the jets and hustled out of the zone to try to catch up with Eller for the 2-on-1. He got there just in time and Eller delivered the pass to him just past the blue line. Wilson took aim and fired a wrister past Andersen to end any hopes for a comeback.

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Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

Capitals fan finishes late wife's dream of watching DC at every NHL arena

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Capitals fan Greg Christian and his late wife, Dona, made a plan to watch their favorite team at every NHL arena. Greg finally achieved that goal.

Gred attended the Caps' tilt with the Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Jan. 23, taking with him a picture of Dona sporting a Hockey Fights Cancer jersey.

Greg and his wife were long-time Caps fans, and spent road trips talking about hockey and sports. They were soon inspired to follow the Caps on the road and make it to every possible venue to watch them play.

However, those plans would be interrupted in April 2017, when Dona was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The two made it to 34 NHL venues together before she passed away in November, last taking in a Caps game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, according to the Washington Post.

The two have now seen Washington play at 36 venues, including two past arenas and three stadiums. And once Seattle gets an NHL franchise, Greg told WUSA9 he plans to be in attendance.

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