By DOUG FEINBERG LONDON (AP) -- Tina Charles and Candace Parker each had double-doubles and Angel McCoughtry provided a spark off the bench to help the U.S. women's team overcome a sloppy performance Saturday to beat Croatia 81-56 in their Olympic opener. Coach Geno Auriemma had said he was hoping that the Americans could play a style of basketball that would be entertaining and help grow the women's game internationally. That didn't happen Saturday. The U.S. struggled for the first three quarters before pulling away to win their 34th consecutive Olympic contest. The victory was far different than the 54-point pounding the Americans gave Croatia a week earlier. Despite missing its first 14 shots, Croatia hung tough for the first 30 minutes before the Americans finally could pull away. The U.S., which has dominated its opponents en route to the last four gold medals, only led 53-49 early in the fourth quarter before a 16-0 run put the game out of reach. McCoughtry started the burst with consecutive layups and Tamika Catchings capped it with a three-point play that made it 69-49. Swin Cash, who hadn't played in the first few quarters also had a three-point play in the spurt. McCoughtry finished with 13 points. Charles had 14 points and 10 rebounds; Parker finished with 11 points and 13 boards. Jelena Ivezic scored 22 points and Marija Vrsaljko added 19 for Croatia, which was making its Olympic debut. Vrsaljko missed the previous contest last Saturday as she was getting married. While the Americans had their way on offense in that contest, they struggled Saturday. The U.S. built a 9-0 lead early on as Croatia missed its first 14 shots. The Americans could have been up a lot more, but missed a lot of easy shots and turned the ball over. The U.S. finished with 21 turnovers. Vrsaljko finally got the Croatians on the board with a lay-in with 2 minutes left in the first quarter. The U.S. built its lead to 21-9 and looked poised to take command early before going cold from the floor. Croatia scored the next 14 points, capped by Luca Ivankovic's lay-in that gave the team it's first lead of the game, 23-21. Ivezic's 3 minutes later made it 26-23. Diana Taurasi had seen enough, hitting consecutive 3s to restore the Americans' advantage. The U.S. led 31-28 at the half. It was the second straight Olympics that the Americans struggled in their opener. They trailed the Czech Republic 13-2 before winning by 40 at the Beijing Games. The U.S. men's basketball team, who are also heavy favorites to win the gold, didn't make the women's opener. They had practice at the same time. The two teams marched together in the opening ceremonies and are staying in the same hotel Next up for the U.S. is Angola, which lost to Turkey 72-50 in its first Olympic debut. The Americans will also face China, Turkey and the Czech Republic in pool play. The U.S. beat the Czechs in the finals of the 2010 world championship to qualify for the London Games. The Czech Republic lost its pool opener, falling to China 66-57. In other early games Saturday, Russia rallied past Canada 58-53. Brazil played France and Australia met Britain later Saturday night.
Alex Smith's brutal leg injury suffered in the third quarter of the Redskins’ 23-21 home loss against the Texans on Sunday shook up the lineup, and opened up long-term quarterback questions.
There’s also the immediate need at backup now that Colt McCoy moved into the starter role. There’s no QB on the practice squad so scratch that possibility.
Let’s go through some potential free agent options:
Sam Bradford – Probably the cleanest candidate among the available free agents, which also perhaps says something about the available free agents. Arizona signed Bradford to a one-year, $20 million contract during the offseason hoping the former No. 1 overall pick would serve as a bridge while 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen developed. That plan last three games as the Cardinals went 0-3. Bradford threw four interceptions and two touchdowns while posting a QB-rating under 60 in two of the three losses. However, Bradford threw for 3,000 yards as recently as 2016 and would likely be ready to play rather quickly. It’s possible he even emerges as the starter depending on how the Cult of Colt fares.
Paxton Lynch – The 2016 first-round selection flamed out after two seasons with the Broncos. The 6-foot-7 passer posted video game statistics at the University of Memphis, but entered the NFL with raw skills. His game didn’t develop with Denver, leading the AFC West squad to cut bait and sign free agent Case Keenum this offseason. Lynch, 24, worked out for the Redskins earlier this season and had a good workout, according to one source. If nothing else, Washington could get a look at a young passer.
Matt Moore – Longtime NFL backup spent the previous seven seasons with the Dolphins. Moore provided instant offense when called upon over the years. At 34, he might be cooling off. Moore threw for 861 yards, four touchdown and five interceptions in four games last season. Miami lost both of his starts.
Josh Johnson – Johnson last played in 2015, but has served as a backup in different spots as recently as 2017 with the Texans. The Raiders released the 32-year-old in May. He is listed as a quarterback for the San Diego Fleet in the upstart Alliance of American Football League. So, why does Johnson deserve consideration? He played for the Bengals in 2013 under then offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Ryan Mallett – The strong-armed passer had nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions over 21 games for the Patriots, Texans and Ravens. He played two games for Baltimore in 2017.
Colin Kaepernick – If we’re talking best available quarterback, Kaepernick’s name tops this list. The irony of him replacing Smith on the active roster is evident. Kaepernick’s rise led the 49ers to benching Smith and then trading him to the Chiefs after the younger QB directed San Francisco to the 2013 Super Bowl. Kaepernick’s remaining time in the Bay Area was spotty, but he had 16 touchdown passes with only four interceptions in 2016.
He hasn’t played an NFL game since. Obviously, there are numerous factors involved with that scenario beyond talent, namely Kaepernick’s stance on police brutality nationwide turning him into a political topic. Teams across the league lack viable backup options. Some struggle with their starter. Yet Kaepernick remains waiting for a job. The wait likely continues. All we know for sure is the Redskins need another quarterback.
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Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Texans.
On the field, players from both teams went up to the veteran quarterback to offer an encouraging word as he was carted away with his leg in an air cast.
Reaction poured in immediately across Twitter - including a chilling reminder from Joe Theismann about his own brutal injury.
Alex Smith’s leg OMG!! That’s nuts. Pray he’s able to move forward with rehab with a positive approach and in light.— Kerry Rhodes (@Kerry25Rhodes) November 18, 2018
Feel awful about the Alex Smith injury but the resurgence of Colt McCoy’s career would be awesome to see— Malcolm E Carter (@MTreeC88) November 18, 2018
Notwithstanding that @PatrickMahomes5 was drafted to replace Alex Smith, Alex was a terrific mentor to Patrick - assuring him that he would never have to worry about him undercutting him - this speaks to that sportsmanship. https://t.co/vnnN2xRdKD— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) November 18, 2018
Prayers for my guy man! You will bounce back!— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes5) November 18, 2018
Absolutely devastated for Alex Smith... Sending nothing but positive vibes for cuzzie’s rehab— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) November 18, 2018
Prayers up for you Alex. 🙏🏾— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) November 18, 2018
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