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Titans set NFL mark routing Jags 38-20 in finale

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Titans set NFL mark routing Jags 38-20 in finale

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Munchak believes he's the man to coach Tennessee back to the playoffs.

His case: two wins in his final three games along with some young talent that helped the Titans become the first in NFL history with two players scoring twice each on returns.

Mike Mularkey's argument for keeping his job in Jacksonville may be a bit tougher, especially after what happened in the season finale.

The Titans rallied with Darius Reynaud scoring on consecutive punt returns and rookie Zach Brown returning two interceptions for touchdowns Sunday in routing the Jaguars 38-20.

``Obviously, I feel I'm the guy for the job,'' Munchak said. ``I feel like we're going to get this thing going ... 9-7 a year ago, 6-10 not happy. But I think we're getting the right guys here, we're doing it the right way, so yeah obviously I think myself and the staff feel good about the direction we're going.''

Titans owner Bud Adams will make the final decision. Jaguars owner Shad Khan has yet to put his stamp on Jacksonville, and general manager Gene Smith and Mularkey both could be gone after the team lost 12 of its final 13 games. It was the worst season in franchise history yet the Jags landed only the No. 2 pick in the draft.

Mularkey talked about how hard he and his assistants worked this season, and he defended their effort by pointing out the Jaguars played hard every week.

``There has been no give-up, there has been no quit by any of these guys,'' Mularkey said. ``I give them credit. I think they can walk out of this locker room, whatever their record is, with their head up knowing that they did everything they could.''

Still, Mularkey has lost 20 of his last 23 games as a head coach dating back to Buffalo, and these Jaguars lost eight games by 16 points or more.

``This is the worst season I've ever been a part of, and it's extremely disappointing,'' Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ``To finish the season the way that we did with some of those plays it's outrageous. The whole thing was very disappointing because we came into this year with such high hopes and we felt like we had a special group of guys that could do some things.''

The Titans (6-10) head into the offseason with optimism despite being outgained 375-221 in total offense with the Jaguars holding the ball for more than 32 minutes. They also set a franchise mark for most points allowed in a season, giving up 471 points.

``We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it's nice to end up with a win,'' Munchak said.

The defense did sack Chad Henne seven times while picking him off three times. They did drop three other chances at interceptions before Brown picked off a pass and ran it back 79 yards for a TD. Reynaud followed with a 69-yard punt return just before halftime taking a 21-14 lead in the span of 75 seconds.

Then Reynaud got the scoring started after halftime, returning a punt 81 yards after the Jaguars went three-and-out to open the third. Two plays later, Tommie Campbell deflected a Henne pass to Brown, who ran it back 30 yards for a 35-14 lead.

``The first one I dropped it, but coach told me that he was going to throw me another one,'' Brown said. ``I was just waiting for me. He threw it to me two times.''

Reynaud also became the first player in franchise history to return two punts for TDs in a game and tied an NFL mark with 13 others.

Jacksonville led 14-7 with Henne tossing a 5-yard TD pass to Jordan Shipley and a 30-yarder to Justin Blackmon until the Titans defense started catching the balls they got their hands on.

``We had total control of what we were doing and we were moving the ball, so it's on us,'' Henne said.

The Jaguars made Keith Toston the fifth different running back to start a game this season, and he had a career-high 66 yards on 12 carries by halftime as the Titans missed tackles and dropped three would-be interceptions. Toston finished with 74 yards.

NOTES: Reggie Bush was the last to score on two punt returns in a game on Oct. 6, 2008. ... The Titans' previous mark for most points allowed in a season was 460 in 1983 as the then-Houston Oilers. ... This was the 17th time in Tennessee history with multiple return TDs in a game. ... The Titans also had three return touchdowns Sept. 23 in an overtime win over Detroit. Reynaud had a 105-yard kickoff return in that game. ... Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis had a career-high 103 yards receiving.

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Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

While protests continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, the world's biggest sports figures, including Michael Jordan and LeBron James, have used their platforms to make it clear where they stand on the numerous social issues fueling the protests.

You can now add the Washington Wizards to that group. Early Monday morning, the Wizards posted a "united statement" on social media in response to Floyd's death and the protests that have followed.

Included in the post are four separate statements.

"We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country."

"We will no longer accept the abuse of power from law enforcement."

"We will no longer accept ineffective government leaders who are tone-deaf, lack compassion or respect for communities of color."

"We will no longer shut up and dribble."

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura were among players to share the same statements on Instagram.

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What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

This week, NBC Sports Washington is taking a look at some of the biggest “What If” questions in Nationals history. First up, Matt Weyrich and Jim Scibilia examine what the 2019 World Series would’ve looked like had the Yankees faced Washington instead of the Astros.

The Houston Astros had a pretty brutal last few months of 2019.

They closed out the month of October by blowing leads in both Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, handing the Nationals one of the biggest upset victories in MLB history. In November, they were exposed for carrying out an illegal sign-stealing scheme that prompted a two-month investigation. Then, just before Christmas, they lost star pitcher Gerrit Cole in free agency.

Perhaps the only thing that could’ve made it worse? Losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series to fall short of winning the AL pennant.

In another timeline, the Yankees came back against the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS before taking them down in a win-or-go-home Game 7. The matchup would’ve posed a very different challenge for the Nationals, who swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before waiting four days to find out who they would be facing in the World Series.

The Yankees would’ve made their 41st appearance in the Fall Classic, an MLB record. Meanwhile, the Nationals were embarking on their first World Series run in franchise history—and D.C.’s first appearance since 1933. Even though the Astros posed a juggernaut-type threat as well, the Yankees’ history would’ve made the uphill battle appear even more steep for Washington.

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D.C. doesn’t get a lot of credit nationally for being a sports town, but there’s no better way for a fanbase to get in the spotlight than by facing a New York City team in a championship. How does the Nationals Park crowd fare against the Yankee Stadium faithful? What is each city doing to support its team? Have mayors Bill de Blasio and Muriel Bowser made a friendly wager on the outcome of the series?

As for the games themselves, the Nationals entered the World Series on seven days’ rest while the Yankees would’ve only had two days to prepare following their ALCS Game 7 win. Even though many debated whether they would be rusty after the break from playing, the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against Houston; they would've been fresh and ready to take on a tired Yankees team.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone planned to use Luis Severino in Game 7 of the ALCS had they made it, which would’ve lined up the following pitching matchups in the World Series:

Game 1 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Max Scherzer (with Corbin available out of the bullpen)

Game 2 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 3 – Luis Severino vs. Aníbal Sánchez

Game 4 – Yankees’ bullpen vs. Patrick Corbin

Game 5 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Joe Ross (Scherzer woke up that morning with neck spasms)

Game 6 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 7 – Luis Severino vs. Max Scherzer

Just like the real Game 1 with Scherzer and Cole on the mound, this version would’ve featured a fantastic pitching matchup with three-time Cy Young winner Scherzer facing Tanaka and his 1.76 career postseason ERA. However, there was no Justin Verlander behind Tanaka like the Astros had behind Cole, pushing the advantage in starting pitching much farther over in favor of Washington.

Paxton and Severino combined to make five playoff starts last October and only once did one of them advance past the fifth inning (Paxton went six in ALCS Game 5). Strasburg, who won World Series MVP, would’ve been the difference maker with two matchups against Paxton while Severino would’ve been tasked with besting NLCS star Sánchez and Scherzer.

The most intriguing matchup, however, might have been Game 4. The Yankees entered the playoffs with one of the best bullpens in the majors, making it an easy choice for Boone to use his relief corps rather than give J.A. Happ or CC Sabathia a chance to start. On the other side, the Nationals would've been starting prized offseason addition Corbin. The runner-up for his services in free agency? The Yankees.

On offense, New York boasted an elite combination of star power and depth much like the Astros. Giancarlo Stanton would’ve been a player to watch, as his 34 home runs against the Nationals from his time with the Miami Marlins are his second-highest total against any team. Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez all presented power threats in the box as well.

Perhaps the two most fun players to watch in the series, however, would’ve been Gleyber Torres and Juan Soto. Both young stars from Latin America play with a flair and level of self-confidence that make them must-watch TV every time they step to the plate. Although each player had already built up a national reputation on their own, facing off on the World Series stage would’ve been a treat for fans everywhere.

Of course, the Yankees didn’t make the World Series, so we’ll never know what the outcome would’ve been had the Nationals faced them instead. But there’s no doubt such a matchup would’ve presented plenty of intrigue—both on and off the field.

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