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Wilson gives Seahawks optimism about next season

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Wilson gives Seahawks optimism about next season

RENTON, Wash. (AP) While the rest of his teammates were throwing shoes, shirts and other belongings in boxes, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was in an upstairs meeting room watching film of the finest performance of his rookie season - one that ended in a loss.

Wilson can't wait for next season to begin. Neither can the rest of his Seahawks teammates.

``We're good. And we know that,'' wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. ``And we know we're capable of winning any game and matching up against anybody that we play against, but we also know we have work to do. There is progress to be made.''

The Seahawks were clearing out their lockers Monday, a day after nearly staging one of the biggest playoff comebacks in NFL history before losing to the Atlanta Falcons 30-28 in the divisional round. For the fourth straight time in the postseason, the Seahawks were ousted one game shy of the conference championship game.

Yet none may be as painful as the roller coaster the Seahawks went through Sunday.

Down 20-0 at halftime and 27-7 to start the fourth quarter, the Seahawks rallied behind Wilson's sterling play. He completed his first 10 passes of the second half, and finished 14 of 19 for 241 yards and two touchdowns over the final 30 minutes. He added another touchdown run and when Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left, the Seahawks had taken a 28-27 lead.

Then Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took over with 25 seconds left and two timeouts, and he connected on a pair of completions when Seattle's blitzes didn't get enough pressure on the passer. Matt Bryant then made a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds left to give Atlanta the lead.

And even still, the Seahawks season wasn't done until Wilson's desperation pass on the final play of the game was intercepted by Julio Jones in the end zone. It seemed an appropriate final chapter to a Seahawks season that was anything but boring.

``The thing I said to the guys afterward is 25 seconds isn't going to define this team,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ``It was one of those moments that we had captured the night and they found a way to finish it. But this has been a great year for us in growth and accomplishment and coming to grips with what we're capable of doing and the kind of play we're able to put out there week after week.''

Wilson set an NFL record for the most yards passing in a playoff game by a rookie with 385, which also set a Seahawks franchise record. It capped a remarkable season for Wilson, who didn't earn the starting nod until after Seattle's third preseason game and wasn't given full reign of the Seahawks' offense until midseason.

While some franchises continue to search for a solid foundation at quarterback, the Seahawks go into next season knowing that the position is all but locked up for the foreseeable future. That's why Wilson spent some of Monday morning watching film rather than packing up his locker.

``Obviously, there are very high expectations for our football team now, and that's great to have,'' Wilson said. ``That means that we've got to work that much harder in practice, we've got to work that much harder in the offseason, and we've got to play that much better come game time. I look forward to those challenges and that's what I wait for.''

Wilson was outshined by Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III for most of the season, but if the rookie of the year vote included playoff performances, Wilson might be the favorite.

Yet it was Seattle's defense, which got most of the attention early in the season, that let the Seahawks down. While it's hard to criticize a unit that led the league in scoring defense, the loss to Atlanta was the fourth time during the season that Seattle allowed tying or winning points in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

Seattle couldn't hold a late lead and gave up scores against Detroit and Miami, then let Chicago tie the game on the final play of regulation after allowing a 56-yard pass play to Brandon Marshall - a game the Seahawks eventually won in overtime and started them on a six-game win streak the Falcons finally snapped.

This time, it was a 22-yard pass to Harry Douglas followed by a 19-yard strike to Tony Gonzalez that put the Falcons in position to pull out the victory. Carroll said Monday he didn't regret going for a fourth-and-1 deep in Atlanta's end in the first half that cost Seattle a field goal attempt, but there was some second-guessing about the zone coverage and blitzes Seattle chose to call on the final two plays.

Another area of concern was the lack of a pass rush without defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL in the playoff win over Washington. Seattle got very little pressure on Ryan and was held without a sack for the third time this season. In 12 of their 18 games, the Seahawks had two sacks or less. And an Atlanta run game that ranked in the bottom half of the league for most of the season rushed for 167 yards. The Falcons averaged 6.4 yards per carry against Seattle after averaging 3.7 in the regular season.

Those are areas the Seahawks will address, while also relishing the success of a season that was supposed to be a foundation for the future and instead became a year where they were left disappointed they weren't playing for a chance at the Super Bowl.

``This is something great to build on for next season,'' Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. ``We'll have new parts, that's just the nature of the game, but we definitely have a great core here and something to build on.''

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For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

For a January game, Wizards vs. Pistons has plenty of playoff implications

Winners of six of their last nine games, the Washington Wizards have breathed new life into their season, now with revitalized hopes of making the playoffs. On Monday, they will get a shot at one of the teams standing in their way.

With a 2 p.m. tip-off on NBC Sports Washington, the Wizards host the Detroit Pistons in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. The Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and the Pistons are ninth.

With a win over the Pistons, the Wizards would move into a tie for ninth, just one spot out of the playoff picture. Though more than two months remain in the regular season, the Wizards can gain some valuable ground.

Whether that is on their mind going into the match-up depends on whom you ask.

"It's definitely too early to talk about it," head coach Scott Brooks said.

"I think there are some very important games [coming up] where we go head-to-head against the guys who are around us in the standings," guard Tomas Satoransky said, singing a different tune.

Satoransky doesn't just see an opportunity against the Pistons on Monday, he mentioned Friday's game against the Magic as well. Orlando is one spot behind the Wizards in 11th.

The standings are one thing. Even more important for the big picture is head-to-head records, which determine tiebreakers for playoff seeding. The Wizards are 0-1 against the Pistons, having lost in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

A win on Monday would tie the season series with only one meeting left, on Feb. 11. If the Pistons win on Monday, they would lock up the tiebreaker.

The Wizards have reasons to be confident going into this meeting with the Pistons. While they are playing their best basketball of the season, Detroit has been in a tailspin. Going back to Dec. 3, they are 7-18. Only the Cavaliers have more losses during that stretch.

In those 25 games, the Pistons have been 28th in the NBA in offensive rating (103.6) and effective field goal percentage (49.6). They have committed the third-most turnovers per game (15.6).

Injuries haven't been the reason, but the Pistons have a few to report entering Monday's game. All-Star center Andre Drummond missed their last game on Saturday with a concussion and is considered day-to-day. Guard Ish Smith is also day-to-day after missing Saturday's game with a groin injury.

The Wizards have a chance to beat a reeling team and gain some control of their playoff hopes. We'll see if they take advantage.

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

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That time Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray practiced together

Thanks to Antonio Brown, we have the hopes and dreams of a splashy off-season for the Washington Redskins in one tidy four-second video.

Brown, the NFL’s best receiver, is angling for a trade out of Pittsburgh.

Kyler Murray is the reigning Heisman Trophy quarterback and a projected 2019 first round pick.

During the NFC Championship game, the Steelers wide receiver tweeted out a clip of him hauling in a deep pass from the University of Oklahoma product. Yes, that’s going to draw some eyeballs, perhaps especially from fans of a team with quarterback uncertainty and lacking offensive playmakers.

Another OU standout, wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown”, joined his cousin Antonio and Murray for the workout. This isn’t the first time all three shared a field.

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The best rolled thru today, appreciate you @ab 📞

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Marquise Brown, a true speed threat, could become the first wide receiver selected in the 2019 draft.

There’s no way for the Redskins to land all three. Even two seems highly unlikely considering the two prospects are projected first-round selections and acquiring Brown would cost a No. 1 and plenty more. It’s still cool to dream. Considering the quarterback concerns with Alex Smith, Jamison Crowder entering free agency and the need for more pieces regardless, even landing one of them would work.

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