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Texans want to improve on 3rd down against Colts

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Texans want to improve on 3rd down against Colts

HOUSTON (AP) Despite gaining plenty of yards, Houston's offense has had trouble finishing drives in the past few quarters.

Coach Gary Kubiak knows a big part of the problem is the group's inability to convert third downs and he's looking for ways to fix the problem.

``It's always a focus,'' he said. ``If you're making third downs, you're staying on the field. You've got possession time. You're helping your defense, all those things. We've been pretty good at it for about nine weeks ... and we have not been very good at that the last three or four weeks. You've got to make those plays.''

The Texans converted just four of 14 third down tries in Monday night's 42-14 loss to the Patriots. But it wasn't the first time they'd struggled in that area.

They converted just four of 17 third down chances a week earlier, but used a dominant defensive performance to get a 24-10 win over Tennessee.

Quarterback Matt Schaub said better execution will help them get back on track when they host the Colts on Sunday with the AFC South title on the line.

``We've got to be on top of every situation ... and be able to make adjustments in the game,'' Schaub said. ``We just need to handle those situations because at such critical points in the game we have to be at our best.''

Left tackle Duane Brown believes some of the trouble on third down comes from inconsistency in the running game.

``We left a lot of yards out there Monday night,'' he said. ``We had some big runs that broke, but in this league you have to be consistent. You can't have a 15-yard run and then two negative plays. You have to be able to get five here and eight there ... to set up the rest of your offense.''

Kubiak has been disappointed in his running game recently. He attributes some of the struggles to tackle Derek Newton and tight end Garrett Graham missing time recently with injuries. But that certainly isn't the only problem.

``It's not good enough right now across the board,'' he said. ``It's something we got to get back to, something we got to do better. It's everybody, but it has not been good enough.''

Kubiak was encouraged by the improvement of running back Ben Tate on Monday night in his second game back after missing four games with a hamstring injury.

Houston used him as a complement to Arian Foster before his injury, and Justin Forsett has filled that role recently. But Kubiak said Tate could return to being Houston's second back soon if his conditioning improves.

``He has taken steps forward the last two weeks and I would say he's very close to being ready to go back in there for Arian and maybe carry the ball 15 times, that type of thing,'' Kubiak said. ``We'll see how he works this week, but he's taken positive steps.''

Although they've had trouble in a couple of areas recently, the Texans are still averaging the sixth-most yards in the NFL (384.5) and are fourth in scoring (28.1).

But they know that they'll have to get these problems cleared up if they hope to finish out the regular season strong and make a push in the playoffs.

Receiver Andre Johnson thinks Monday's loss will help them clean things up and be better in the future. He isn't concerned about the defeat lingering into this week's game.

``I think you learn from any loss that you have,'' he said. ``I'm sure what happened Monday night there is a lot to learn from. I'm not worried. I'm fine. I can't speak for everybody else. You'll have to ask them. I'll be ready to go on Sunday. That's pretty much it.''

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

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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