Football is back! Brees, Saints defeat Cardinals

836491.jpg

Football is back! Brees, Saints defeat Cardinals

From Comcast SportsNet
CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- Tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame and see all the bronze busts. Cheer tackle Willie Roaf's induction. Watch Drew Brees produce a touchdown on his only try. Pretty good weekend for the New Orleans Saints. And boy, did they need it. Brees didn't need much time to top off a good visit, smoothly leading a touchdown drive in his only series Sunday night during a 17-10 victory over Arizona in the Hall of Fame game. "Just to be up here and see all those guys get inducted and take a tour of the Hall of Fame, that was really special," said Mark Ingram, who scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run. "For us to all be here, it puts a lot of things into perspective going into this football season." The game was canceled last year for the first time in 45 years, a casualty of the NFL's lockout of the players. Labor issues also came into play in Sunday night's game -- the seven officials were replacements. It showed. The referee announced the result of the coin flip incorrectly -- Craig Ochoa said the Saints won the toss and deferred, then caught his mistake and said the Cardinals had won the toss. There were some other communication problems as well for the first-time crew. The win completed a good trip for the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32), who needed a few smiles after their offseason dominated by their bounty scandal. Suspended coach Sean Payton got the league's permission to attend a dinner for Roaf and the other five Hall of Fame inductees on Friday night. Payton isn't allowed to have any contact with the team this season as punishment for the team's bounty program. Players got to tour the hall and sat in the back three rows of the stadium for Roaf's induction on Saturday, wearing black t-shirts with his No. 77. It was a proud moment for a franchise that's been overshadowed by the bounty scandal all offseason. "The induction was great," interim coach Joe Vitt said. "Our young players went through the Hall of Fame yesterday and saw a lot of history of the NFL and really took it in. From that standpoint, it was a great weekend." Don't forget that opening drive. Brees was sharp on the 10-play drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards with one off-target throw. Brees skipped offseason workouts and minicamp because he was unhappy getting the team's franchise tag. He later agreed to a five-year, 100 million deal. Nothing has changed. "Drew was Drew," Vitt said. "That's the first unit. There's high standards here." The Cardinals (No. 23) are using the preseason to pick a quarterback, with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton competing for the starting job. Kolb got to start the game but had a tough time, throwing an interception on his first pass and leaving after bruising his ribs on the third series. "He has a bruise in his chest and that makes it kind of tough to rotate, move," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think he'll probably be practicing sometime this week." Skelton took over and completed 4 of 6 for 32 yards. "You never want to have an injury in the preseason, especially an early game like this, having to play that fifth preseason game," Skelton said. "But he will be OK." The Cardinals finished 8-8 last season, Kolb's first in Arizona. He started nine games and threw for nine touchdowns with eight interceptions while learning a new offense on the fly because of the lockout. Skelton filled in when Kolb was hurt and went 5-2 as a starter. After the opening series for each team, the backups got into the game and things got ragged. The fill-in officials had a few rough moments, too. Ochoa, who has eight years of experience with BCS leagues and 16 years at Division III, flipped the ceremonial coin and announced that New Orleans had won and deferred. As he started walking away, he caught his mistake. "Correction," he said. "Arizona won the coin toss." After New Orleans scored on its first possession, several Saints came in to block for the extra point and gestured to the officials to point out that they had reported for the play. Coming out of the 2-minute warning in the first half, Ochoa announced that the previous play was under review, then corrected himself and said it was not. The officials had trouble spotting the ball after a punt that involved a penalty, repeatedly moving the ball after consultations. The league has locked out its officials and hired replacements in case the labor dispute extends into the season. They've trained them for the last two months. The league used replacement officials for the opening week of the 2001 season before reaching agreement with the union. Notes: It was the Saints' fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame game, their first since 2007. The Cardinals made their fourth appearance, their first since 1986. ... Arizona's Dave Zastudil had a 79-yard punt, a record for the Hall of Fame game. ... Saints rookie Laron Scott had a 67-yard kickoff return. ... Arizona LB Paris Lenon limped off with an ankle injury after the opening series and didn't return.

Quick Links

Counting down the 10 best games of the Wizards' 2016-17 season

Counting down the 10 best games of the Wizards' 2016-17 season

The 2016-17 Wizards season had some crazy twists and turns. It ultimately ended with a loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, but they won their first division title and had their most wins as a franchise since 1978-79. Along the way there were many memorable games. Here is a look at the 10 best...

CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH SLIDESHOW OF WIZARDS' 10 BEST GAMES

10. April 6, 2017 - Beal says goodnight at the Garden

The Wizards got their 48th win of the season behind 25 points from Bradley Beal and 24 points for John Wall, who also had eight assists. Both hit four threes, none bigger than Beal's from the corner with :49 seconds left. That put the Wizards up 106-103 and that held as the final score. After Beal hit the three, he high-fived a Wizards fan at Madison Square Garden on his way back to play defense. It was a great moment for a team that was inching close to a playoff run.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

9. February 28, 2017: Wizards take down big, bad Warriors

Yeah, Kevin Durant got hurt, but it was still a huge win for the Wizards who had just lost two straight coming out of the All-Star break. And even without Durant, the rest of the Warriors were pretty much the same guys who won 73 games one year before. The Wizards edged Golden State by four points after entering the fourth quarter tied. They dropped 40 points in the first quarter alone. Beal led them in scoring with 25 points, and Markieff Morris was great with 22 points and four blocks but it was Wall's career-high 19 assists that made the biggest difference.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

8. January 19, 2017: Wizards' controversial win at Knicks

Wall (29 points, 13 assists, 3 steals) and Otto Porter (6 threes) led the way, but this one is memorable because of how it ended. First, Wall made a huge play by turning a defensive rebound into a fastbreak dunk with :13 seconds left. Then, on the final possession Courtney Lee passed up what looked like a wide open shot. It was later revealed by the Knicks that they were confused by Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe standing on the court during the play. Lowe was later fined by the NBA.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

7. December 18, 2016: Wizards prove themselves against Clippers

Some would argue the Wizards' Sunday afternoon win over the Clippers in December was among the biggest turning points of their season. At the time, L.A. was one of the very best teams in basketball. But the Wizards beat them convincingly behind 41 points (including 6 threes) by Beal and 23 points, nine rebounds and three steals by Morris. Morris' defense on Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter also helped seal the victory for Washington, who improved to 12-14 and secured their first three-game winning streak of the season.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

6. March 25, 2017: Wall explodes as Wizards win at Cavs

This was a nationally-televised game that many were waiting for. The Wizards had emerged as one of the best teams in the East and the Cavaliers did not take them lightly. Immediately, the Wizards imposed their will by shooting 82 percent in the first quarter. Wall set a career-high for one quarter with 18 points in the frame. He ended up with 37 on the night as the Wizards won in a 127-115 blowout that was not as close as the score would suggest. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers emptied their bench in consolation.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

5. March 11, 2017: Morris beats Blazers in OT

This may rival the controversial Knicks game as one of the weirdest of the season. The Wizard came back from down 21 points and there were many standouts, as Wall had 39 points and Morris, Porter and Marcin Gortat all logged double-doubles. But it was all decided on a shot by Morris on the baseline that dropped in with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock. A closer look at the replay revealed Morris stepped out of bounds before dribbling out of the corner to shoot. The refs could not review the play and the Wizards were given a victory that probably shouldn't have been theirs. If Morris was called out of bounds, the Wizards would have been down one point with little time left to play. The Blazers were understandably very upset about that.

GAME STORY

CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH SLIDESHOW OF WIZARDS' 10 BEST GAMES

4. February 6, 2017: OT loss vs. Cavs

The only loss to make this list, the Wizards overtime battle against the defending-champion Cavaliers was one of the best games of the entire NBA season. Afterwards, Scott Brooks called it an "instant classic." Not only did all the stars show up with great games, but LeBron James' fadeaway bankshot to send the game to overtime may go down as one of the best - or at least most difficult - of his career. The loss also snapped a 17-game home winning streak for the Wizards.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

3. January 24, 2017: All-black game vs. Celtics

The game itself was nothing to write home about, as the Wizards destroyed the Celtics by 15 points behind Beal's 31. But the hype that preceded this one made it among the most memorable of the season. After beating the Hornets in Charlotte the night before, the Wizards announced they were going to wear all-black clothing to their rematch with the Celtics, their first meeting since Wall and Jae Crowder got into a postgame altercation that took their budding rivalry into overdrive. Sure enough, they did show up in all-black. The Wizards set the bar high for themselves and could have easily been embarrassed by a loss, yet they delivered on all accounts.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

2. April 28, 2017: Wall's epic Game 6 vs. Hawks

This game was also pretty lopsided, as the Wizards beat Atlanta by 16. But it was a closeout game and in it Wall put in one of the best performances by a Wizards or Bullets player in decades. Wall was brilliant with 42 points, eight assists, four steals and two blocks. Most impressive were his 19 fourth quarter points, which set a new personal best for points in one quarter. Wall scored the Wizards' final 13 points to almost singlehandedly ensure they would advance a round in the playoffs.

GAME STORY

MUST-SEE MOMENTS

1. May 12, 2017: Wizards win Game 6 vs. Celtics behind Wall's 3

This will go down as one of the best Wizards games in years, even though they ended up losing the series. Down 3-2 to the Celtics with their season on the line, the Wizards made key plays in the fourth quarter to stay alive. They also avoided the bad optics of a loss where the Celtics showed up in all-black and looking for revenge. To win, the Wizards had to come back from down five points with less than :90 seconds to go. Beal and Wall matched the Celtics, who couldn't miss in the final minute. And it all came down to Wall knocking down a three-pointer in Avery Bradley's face with 3.5 seconds left. One defensive stop later and Wall was on top of the scorer's table celebrating with a soldout crowd. It was an amazing moment and one that will be recalled for a long time by Wizards fans.

GAME STORY

CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH SLIDESHOW OF WIZARDS' 10 BEST GAMES

Quick Links

Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Need to Know: Are the Redskins one of the 10 most talented NFL teams?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 26, 18 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

It’s been 145 days since the Redskins played a game. Their season opener against the Eagles at FedEx Field is in 107 days.

Days until:

—Redskins minicamp (6/13) 18
—Training camp starts (7/27) 62
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 76

A top 10 team? Or No. 22?

Former Cowboys VP and current SiriusXM commentator and NFL.com writer Gill Brandt did a list of his top 10 NFL teams in terms of talent. At the top of the list was the consensus pick for the best team in the league, the New England Patriots. Also on the list were some of the regulars on lists like this one—the Steelers, Falcons, Cowboys, etc.

But the team at No. 10 on the list was something of a surprise. Since it’s being mentioned here you’ve probably figured out that it’s the Washington Redskins.

Brandt points out that they have a significant number of quality players in what should be the prime seasons of their careers, which he says, “portends good things”.

Judging talent is always subjective, especially when you don’t know how new players who arrived as free agents or draft picks will fit in. But good players are good players. Do the Redskins really have enough of them to stack up as a top-10 team?

One way to gauge this is to try to figure out how many of a team’s players could start for at least half of the other teams in the NFL. That is subjective but that’s what we do here so here we go.

On the offensive line, Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses could start for most teams. Of the skill players, Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Terrelle Pryor, and Jamison Crowder are on the list.

Defense is a little trickier since not all the players in the front seven would be scheme fits everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say that most teams could find some way to utilize Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Zach Brown as starters. Josh Norman is probably the only member of the secondary who would qualify here although with as weak as the safety position is around the league you could make a case for D.J. Swearinger.

Not counting the safety, that makes a total of 10 who start for at least 16 teams, just less than half of the starters. There are some who could make it there is they take some steps towards reaching their potential. Brandy mentions Josh Doctson and Preston Smith. I would add Spencer Long and, if healthy, Junior Galette.

On the other side of the coin, where are the Redskins clearly below average? Left guard is the weak spot on the O-line. While the running backs aren’t awful I’m not sure many teams would trade their group for Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson. Despite the addition of Allen, the D-line remains suspect.

It is interesting to note that the Redskins are one of three NFC East teams on Brandy’s list; the Cowboys are fifth and the Giants are sixth.

You can look at the strong and weak points of the Redskins and write almost any 2017 storyline you want to. Peter King of The MMQB has his doubts about Pryor and Doctson being able to adequately compensate for the free agency losses of Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson and his power ranking have Washington at 22nd.

Two respected analysts, two very different views of how the Redskins stack up in 2017. We have a little more than 100 days before we start to find out who’s right.

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

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it