Schwartz shoulders blame for Lions' skid

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Schwartz shoulders blame for Lions' skid

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz admitted Monday that his team's season has ``gone off the rails'' and the progress made during last year's run to the playoffs has become a distant memory.

Schwartz, who has lost at least 10 games in three of his four seasons as Lions' coach, said the blame for the team's unfulfilled 2012 expectations rests entirely with him.

``The ultimate responsibility of the team is (with) the head coach, and I need to do a better job,'' he said. ``4-10 isn't good enough.''

Detroit's 38-10 loss at Arizona on Sunday was its sixth straight and the team's most lopsided defeat since a 48-3 loss at Baltimore in 2009. It also bucked the trend: After defeating Jacksonville on Nov. 4, Detroit lost its next five games by an average of 5.2 points, only to get hammered by the Cardinals.

Tight end Tony Scheffler said the Lions had chances to overcome four turnovers and beat an Arizona team that was riding a nine-game winless skid.

``We never thought we were out of it,'' Scheffler said following the loss Sunday. ``We just didn't make the plays to get back in it. Our defense fought hard the whole game. We didn't give them good field position. They kept us in it.''

Schwartz's assessment of the loss differed sharply. After defending his team's play in recent weeks, Schwartz said the Lions simply made too many errors Sunday to be competitive.

``We've had a lot of games this year that came down to one critical play in the fourth quarter that you look at and say, `Hey, if we made that one we would have won the game,''' he said. ``We can't be naive to think that this was one of those games.''

The Cardinals intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford three times, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Stafford told teammates Sunday that he believed he was responsible for the loss after a 24-for-50 passing performance that was easily his worst effort of the season.

``That is about as bad as I can play,'' he said. ``For us to be successful, I have to play a whole lot better than that. I understand that.''

Schwartz praised Stafford's decision to take responsibility for the loss, saying ``that's what good quarterbacks do,'' but he also reiterated his opinion that responsibility for the team's performance ultimately rests with the coaching staff. He also said he never considered pulling Stafford.

Calvin Johnson's play was Detroit's lone bright spot Sunday. Johnson made 10 catches for 121 yards despite facing coverage that Schwartz likened to a box-and-one defense in basketball.

``(Arizona) doubled Calvin (Johnson) on just about every play,'' he said.'' They used punt coverage to try to handle him and the fact that he still had 121 yards says a lot about Calvin, says a lot about (offensive coordinator) Scott Linehan's ability to still be able to get him the ball. But we severely lacked other playmakers on the field.''

The Lions host playoff-bound Atlanta on Saturday.

NOTES: Schwartz said that CB Jacob Lacey could be out for the season after injuring his knee in the first quarter of Sunday's game. ...TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) and DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) remain on the active roster despite missing Sunday's loss due to injury. Schwartz said no decision has been made as to whether either player would be placed on injured reserve. ... Johnson's 121 receiving yards Sunday give him 1,667 yards for the season, putting him 181 yards from breaking the NFL single-season record Jerry Rice set with San Francisco in 1995.

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Need to Know: How many Redskins roster spots are up for grabs in 2017?

Need to Know: How many Redskins roster spots are up for grabs in 2017?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 19, 18 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 10
—NFL Combine (3/2) 11
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 57
—NFL Draft (4/27) 67
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 203

Sunday morning quick hitters

How many spots up for grabs? A quick mid-February look down the final 2016 53-man roster shows about 20 players who may not be on the roster for Week 1 this year. This includes players who may depart as free agents and others who just won’t make the team. They probably won’t turn over that many spots but it does show that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - It's tag day

How many draft picks? The Redskins have nine draft picks, their own in rounds 1-6 and extra picks in rounds 4, 5, and 6. It’s easy to say that Scot McCloughan may turn that into as many as a dozen picks, especially with all the roster spots that may be open. But remember that last year the Redskins wound up with just seven picks with no pick in the fourth and two in the seventh. McCloughan may intend to stockpile more picks but it depends on how the draft unfolds.

1st-round RB a bad idea: Yesterday JP and I posted on the topic of Rob Kelley as the Redskins’ prime running back this season and it drew quite a bit of discussion on Twitter and on Facebook. I think that they should try to get an upgrade over Kelley but I don’t think they should use their first-round pick to do it. There are just too many other, higher priority needs.

More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0

A turnaround for Matt Jones? Last year Trent Murphy broke out after two mediocre seasons to register eight sacks. Can Jones do the something similar in this, his third season? The rough equivalent of Murphy’s performance would be Jones rushing for 800 yards. It’s as much a matter of him holding on to the ball as anything. Jones was on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards before losing his grip on the starting job, literally and figuratively.

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Posted by Rich Tandler on Saturday, February 18, 2017

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Morning tip: Paul George prefers starting 5 like one Wizards have

Morning tip: Paul George prefers starting 5 like one Wizards have

NEW ORLEANS -- The Wizards are where the Indiana Pacers, who eliminated them in the 2014 playoffs, want to be. They still have one of the game's best two-way players in Paul George but they're severely lacking in one area that's already been solved at 601 F Street.

George, who defends three positions on the perimeter, wants an Otto Porter or Markieff Morris next to him. 

"We definitely need shooters, somebody that can defend and stretch the floor for us a little bit more. Just go with the trend what the NBA is doing," said George after the East team practiced Saturday at the Superdome. "A lot of teams have stretch bigs or playing four perimeter guys that can shoot the ball. We got to follow the trend and put oursevles on that level to compete against those stretch teams."

It's such a vital part of a team's success, the Wizards traded a 2016 first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Morris last year before the deadline. They were better with him but still failed to qualify for the postseason at 41-41.

With a full season to get acclimated, Morris has taken off. Seven of his eight double-doubles have come since Jan. 8. With coverages shading towards John Wall, Bradley Beal and now Porter, he's often found himself wide open and has elevated his three-point accuracy to a career-high 36.7%. And the Wizards gave up a pick in a draft that was regarded as shallow outside of the top 10 selections (Georgios Papagiannis was taken 13th by Phoenix with Washington's pick).

When coach Scott Brooks goes to a smaller lineup, he'll shift Porter as a "stretch" option at the four spot. He's shooting an NBA-leading 46.5% from three-point range.

[RELATED: DeMarcus Cousins says Wall is NBA's best point guard]

George has been running out of gas. After having to defend LeBron James and play 36 minutes in a 113-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednedsay, George drew the assignment on Beal the next night. 

Porter made his first four three-pointers and George was tasked with tracking him instead. Beal was able to get free in the meantime and go 4-for-7 from deep. George only had 17 points in 37 minutes. In those two games combined, George shot 10-for-38, or 26.3%.

That's the value of having a stretch option such as Morris, who can face up bigs and beat them off the dribble, post up smaller players or shoot over them easily, or Porter. He's too quick for traditional bigs. He's too long for undersized players. 

"I don't complain about it. It's what made me," George said of the burden of being the best offensive and defensive player for the Pacers for 82 games. "I look forward to playing both ends of the floor but it gets exhausting. It's hard night in, night out to go from guarding a LeBron who is strong and physical, who is going to wear you down and then chasing a Bradley Beal. It takes a toll on you. Getting other teams' best defensive guys who are going to be physical, just getting hit, taking contact, it's draining. It's a phsyical toll. If we can get some more guys who can alleviate some of that we'll be much better off."

The Wizards (34-21) have won the season series 3-1 with Indiana (29-28).  The Pacers were a difficult out in the past with George. Washington pushed the then-No. 1 seed to six games in the East semifinals.

That's when the Wizards had Nene, a tradition 7-foot big who played 15 feet out. There were spacing issues with him occupying the low block with Marcin Gortat. 

Then the Wizards failed with a small-ball lineup last season, starting Kris Humphries and later Jared Dudley as at the "stretch" forward and bringing Nene off the bench. George and C.J. Miles responded by shooting 15-for-17 from three-point range in that blowout Nov. 24. 

With Morris, the Wizards have found the size and strength with finesse. Their guards have more room to roam. The shots come easier and the Wizards are a more explosive offense, averaging 108.1 points per game which is seventh-best in the NBA.

"You really don't see traditional center-power forward lineups. It's a couple teams that do it. They're really going away from that," George said. "They want to speed the game up. They want more possessions. In order to keep up with those teams you have to have a lineup that can match up and compete against those kind of teams."

[RELATED: Carmelo on getting final All-Star spot: 'It was a downer']