Nationals

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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Nationals walked off again, this time by Cardinals' Paul DeJong

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Nationals walked off again, this time by Cardinals' Paul DeJong

ST. LOUIS -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez was awake most of the night after Washington lost on a walk-off grand slam Sunday.

He likely won't be catching up on that missed sleep Monday.

Paul DeJong handed the Nationals their second straight walk-off loss, capping a back-and-forth finish with a game-ending solo homer in the ninth inning of the St. Cardinals' 7-6 victory Monday night.

DeJong took Koda Glover (0-1) deep leading off the ninth on a 3-1 pitch. A night earlier, Ryan Madson allowed a game-ending ninth-inning grand slam to the Chicago Cubs' David Bote in a 4-3 defeat.

"I don't sleep most nights, I like to watch replays of the game," Martinez said. "And last night was no different."

Washington's bullpen has blown saves in three of its past four games. All-Star closer Sean Doolittle has been on the disabled list since early July, and top setup man Kelvin Herrera went to the DL with right rotator cuff impingement last week.

"I don't know what else to do," Martinez said of the bullpen.

The usually stoic DeJong wasn't quite sure how to celebrate his first career walk-off homer. He started calm, keeping his head down as he rounded the bases. After coming around third, though, he whipped his helmet into the grass, threw his arms down and bellowed out a roar.

"My first walkoff, it felt so good I had to do something a little different," DeJong said.

The Cardinals recorded their 10th walkoff of the season and DeJong became the sixth different player to end a game in grand fashion.

"They're all special, all emotional," St. Louis interim manager Mike Shildt said. "These guys have the mentality, `Do your job, keep the line moving.' They have a lot of trust with each other."

The Cardinals have won six in a row and moved to nine games over .500 for the first time this season.

DeJong's 380-foot drive ended a wild final two innings.

Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko homered in the eighth inning to put St. Louis up 6-4. Gyorko started the rally with a leadoff drive, and Carpenter followed with a three-run homer off Sammy Solis.

The Nationals tied it at 6 in the top of the ninth on RBI singles by Daniel Murphy and Matt Wieters off closer Bud Norris. Dakota Hudson (3-0) relieved Norris and stranded two baserunners by retiring Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton.

Juan Soto and Bryce Harper homered for the Nationals, who have lost five of seven.

Gyorko sparked St. Louis' big eighth inning with his homer off Justin Miller. Kolten Wong and Patrick Wisdom then singled to set up Carpenter's 33rd homer. Carpenter has homered in seven of his past 10 games. He extended his major-league leading on-base streak to 31 games with a first-inning bunt single. He has 17 homers during that string.

Harper won a 10-pitch battle with starter Miles Mikolas by drilling his 29th homer leading off the fourth to lead 2-1.

Ryan Zimmerman added a run-scoring double in the second for the Nationals.

Jose Martinez had four hits for the Cardinals.

Mikolas gave up four runs on four hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Tommy Milone started for Washington and gave up two runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden would like clarification on the new helmet rule

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden would like clarification on the new helmet rule

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on Tuesday, August 14, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Jets in their second preseason game. 

Talking points

The NFL officiating crew of Carl Cheffers visited the Redskins facility over the past couple of days to give their annual rules update seminar to the players, coaches, and media. The big topic was, of course, the new rule that prohibits players from leading with their helmets when contacting another player. 

Here is the exact wording of the rule, per the video that was shown to the players, coaches, and media. 

The officiating standards for the Use of Helmet rule are:

  • Lowering the head (not to include bracing for contact)
  • Initiating contact with the helmet to any part of an opponent. Contact does not have to be to an opponent’s head or neck area — lowering the head and initiating contact to an opponent’s torso, hips, and lower body, is also a foul.
  • Making contact on an opponent (both offense and defense)

Prohibiting players from leading with their helmets in the interest of safety is an admirable goal. Jay Gruden said that he was in favor of it in theory, but he saw issues in the implementation.

"We are in constant dialogue, we have the video, we’ve seen multiple videos and we understand what they’re trying to do, and we respect that,” said Gruden. “We will try to play to the rules, but there still are some gray areas there that I’m concerned about as a coach that can cost you football games and can cost players suspensions and all that. So hopefully those gray areas don’t come up and bite you.”

Gruden was asked to drill down on the “gray areas”. 

"I just think they are the 'bang-bang' type plays,” he said. “You know, the receiver goes up for a pass and the defensive back has a low target and then at the last second the receiver ducks his head; I mean is it targeting or not?”

Gruden said that he hoped that the officials would keep their flags in their pockets if there was any doubt. I asked Cheffers what they would do if it wasn’t clear if a violation had been committed. His response did not answer my question, but it did shed some light on the process that is going on during the preseason.  

“Certainly in preseason we do things differently than we do in the regular season,” he said. “I think what’s going to happen is that we’re going to build a library of plays—stuff that we call, stuff that we don’t call—we’re going to build a library to make a decision when the regular season comes to exactly what they want us to call and exactly what they want us to stay away from. At that point, we’re doing exactly as they direct.”

So, in other words, the enforcement of the rule is a work in progress. I suppose that’s the only way to do it since the rule is fewer than 50 words and the owners voted on it without any real input from the competition committee or anyone else. Some trial and error is called for. 

The problem is, the trial and error won’t end when the season starts. And, last time I checked, a loss due to a mistaken application of the rule would be just as costly in September as it would be in December.

Bureau of statistics

The Redskins were penalized for 733 yards last year; only one team, the Panthers, was penalized fewer yards. 

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The agenda

Today: Jay Gruden news conference 9:30; Practice with Jets 9:45; players available to the media after practice.

Upcoming: Preseason Jets @ Redskins (Aug. 16) 2 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 18 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 26 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler