Romo's five picks doom Cowboys vs. Bears

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Romo's five picks doom Cowboys vs. Bears

From Comcast SportsNet

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Charles Tillman had the ball thrown right into his hands. All the Chicago Bears cornerback had to do was grab it and run 25 yards untouched down the sideline for a touchdown.

Lance Briggs had to go three times farther and sidestep a few Dallas Cowboys on his way to the end zone.

The interception returns by Tillman and Briggs, who are among the five 30-something starters on Chicago's defense, came in a 34-18 win over the Cowboys on Monday night when Tony Romo matched his career high with five picks.

"I think Lance's was better. He juked a couple of people. His was longer, so by far I think he had the play of the game," Tillman said. "Mine was simple and boring. His was exciting."

Briggs' interception came in a wild two-play exchange of turnovers midway through the third quarter, and put the Bears up 24-7.

The first fumble of the season for Chicago (3-1) came when Jay Cutler was sacked by DeMarcus Ware to set Dallas up at the Bears 27. It was the third forced fumble already for Ware, the Pro Bowl linebacker who turned 30 during training camp.

On the very next play, Romo was trying to escape pressure when he was hit from behind by Henry Melton. The ball popped forward into the air to Briggs.

"Just outstanding play by our defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "It seemed like everybody had a say in it. How about Lance Briggs? You guys didn't know he could run that fast."

Despite his fumble, Cutler was nearly flawless after halftime, completing 11 of 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He was 18 of 24 overall for 275 yards. A 34-yard TD pass to Devin Hester started the half and there was later a 31-yarder to Brandon Marshall, who had seven catches for 138 yards.

The Cowboys (2-2) are a .500 team again, alternating wins and losses this season. Since the start of the 1997 season, Dallas is 122-122 in regular-season games with one playoff victory.

"This has to be a wakeup call for us. I don't say that nonchalantly. It has to be," said Jason Witten, the Cowboys' 10th-year tight end. "You can't bounce back and forth like this and try to compete come December-time. You can't do it. We have been in that situation before. You cannot do it. And we know that, and we'll get better."

Making things worse for the Cowboys, they now head into their bye week. And their next game is Oct. 14 at Baltimore, starting a stretch of playing four of five on the road.

"These next two weeks are going to be very long," running back DeMarco Murray said. "They're going to seem like forever."

Dallas owner Jerry Jones, however, called it a "timely bye" and a chance to reassess things for his team that opened the season by winning at the New York Giants. The defending Super Bowl champions are the next team to visit Cowboys Stadium, on Oct. 28.

"I know it's the same makeup of the team. Same personnel," Jones said. "We've seen this team play well and we can play a lot better. ... We have a lot of work to do."

Chicago scored first on Robbie Gould's 43-yard field goal with just over 4 minutes left in the first half. Three plays later, Romo threw a ball right at Tillman when intended receiver Dez Bryant kept running down the field instead of cutting toward the sideline.

"We were just seeing how the corner played," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. ""Tony saw it one way. Dez saw it another way."

Romo finished 31 of 43 for 307 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown to Miles Austin just before halftime.

Chicago opened the second half with a 73-yard drive capped with the TD by Hester, who sprinted by rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne and had to make a lunging catch at the goal line -- a play upheld after a replay review.

That was one of three plays reviewed by referee Walt Anderson and his crew. The regular refs were back to work a week after that disputed Monday night ending in which Seattle won at home against Green Bay.

Romo was picked off again when his short pass deflected off receiver Kevin Ogletree and was caught by Major Wright. The Bears ran only two plays before the teams traded turnovers on consecutive snaps with Briggs' first interception return for a score since 2005.

"We have a ton of athletes, a great mixture of old and young, a great core," Briggs said. "All of the talk coming into training camp about the offense. The defense, we've got a lot of pride. We want to be consistent. We want to get turnovers. We want to get after the passer. We want to shut down the run."

The Bears did all of that against the Cowboys, who had only 41 yards rushing.

Murray had 131 yards rushing in the Cowboys' season-opening victory at the Giants. He has only 106 in the last three games, including 24 on 11 carries Monday night with an 11-yard run.

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With Brooks Orpik nearing return, Capitals' defensive pairs coming into focus

With Brooks Orpik nearing return, Capitals' defensive pairs coming into focus

When the Capitals were contemplating whether to trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, General Manager Brian MacLellan sought out Brooks Orpik’s opinion.

Orpik and Shattenkirk played together in the Olympics in 2014.

“I vouched for him hard,” Orpik said. “It’s a tough transition for a lot of people when they get traded at the deadline. That was something Mac and the coaches were a little worried about, but he’s got the kind of personality and demeanor where I think he could go to any of the 30 teams and fit in right away.”

Although Shattenkirk was paired with Nate Schmidt in his Capitals’ debut Tuesday against the Rangers, the team’s long term plan is for the former Blues’ star to skate alongside Orpik, who is working his way back from a nagging lower body injury.

Shattenkirk and Orpik were a tandem in Wednesday’s practice.

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“I watched the game [Tuesday] night and I think we played a little bit together in the last Olympics,” Orpik said. “I also know him pretty well off the ice from [Sochi] and I see him quite a bit in Boston in the summer.”

The off-the-ice familiarity helps. But what Coach Barry Trotz really likes about the Shattenkirk-Orpik pairing is its balance.

“They can complement each other because one is a physical defender and the other is a poised puck moving defender…who has more of an offensive flair,” Trotz said.

With Karl Alzner-John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen forming the other two tandems, each of the three pairs has a lefty and a righty.

“The three pairs we have, they really have good balance,” Trotz said. “They got a little bite to them, a little bit of weight to them, a little bit of offense, some defense. I like our three pairs.”

The pair that’s going to be under the spotlight in the coming days and weeks, though, will be the newest one: Orpik-Shattenkirk.

One practice in, Shattenkirk said he felt some chemistry with Orpik.

“I’ve fortunately been able to see him play firsthand in the Olympics,” Shattenkirk said. “So I know the type of style he brings. He’s a steady, steady guy back there and I know he’s always going to be there to be in a support role for me. Until we get into games and play together it’s going to be a little bit of a process but I’m looking forward to it.”

Orpik echoed Shattenkirk’s sentiments.

“Anytime you get a new partner it’s a little bit of an adjustment,” Orpik said. “You just try to get better every game. You’d wish for it to happen a lot quicker than it does but you just try to stay patient.”

With 20 games remaining in the regular season, the two will have ample time to get on the same page prior to the playoffs, which figures to be a defining moment of the Alex Ovechkin Era.     

“This is probably our best chance to win in here,” Orpik said, asked what message management sent to the dressing room by acquiring Shattenkirk. “Everybody is aware of what our situation is going into free agency this summer. I don’t think it’s an indictment on anyone who got bumped out of the lineup. I think it’s just trying to maximize what we already have here. [Shattenkirk] is obviously a pretty good piece to add to what we already have.”

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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

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