3-2!! 3-2!! Sixers Go Over .500 With Win in New Orleans

3-2!! 3-2!! Sixers Go Over .500 With Win in New Orleans

Sooo much better than last year. Five games in last season, the
Philadelphia 76ers were just picking up their first win—a home victory
against the mediocre Pacers—on their way to starting the season 3-13, a
hole it took the whole season to crawl out of. Now, five games into the
'11-'12 season, we already have our third win—all won on the road, all
coming from behind, all with our young guys showing why they just might
be capable of leading this franchise back to something vaguely
resembling prominence. It's a pretty nice thing.

Tonight was
looking dangerously like a repeat performance of the Sixers'
disappointing performance in Utah, as the Hornets jumped out to an early
double-digit lead and seemed to be keeping the Sixers at arms' length
for much of the second half, showing impressive fight despite a somewhat
talent-depleted roster. But thanks to some awesome defensive tightening
in the fourth quarter, and some absolutely huge late-game shots from
Jrue Holiday, the Sixers were finally able to grab the lead and pull
away late, holding on for the 101-93 victory.

There were a number of players who stepped up for the Sixers, led
perhaps by Evan Turner of the bench. The Extraterrestrial started out
miserably, missing open looks and turning the ball over (echoing his season-worst
performance in NO last year), but found a groove late in second quarter
that continued into the second half and breathed life back into the
lethargic Sixers. Evan ended with 21 points on 8-12 shooting, with six
boards and four dimes, easily his best game of the season and probably
his second best as a Sixer. After two back-to-back bum games, it's
exactly what he (and we) needed to reinforce that he is still ahead of
where he was last season.

And once again, Spencer F'ing Hawes. Spence saw his streak of
double-digit rebound games finally snapped, but he still grabbed seven,
scored 17 and even picked up a season-high four blocks. The Unibrow
entered this game as the league leader in FG% with his 67.6%, and though
it might drop a few tenths after going 8-12 tonight, we're certainly
not complaining. The improvement is real—Hawes has become absolutely
automatic from 18 feet, to the point that even on the one such shot he
missed (with 90 seconds to go), Andre Iguodala was able to swoop in for
an offensive rebound because nobody bothered to box out. He might come
back to earth a little in future weeks as defenses start to adjust to
his newly proven skill set, but he's proving why with certain
high-upside players, you have to hang on a little more than feels right,
just in case they suddenly start to figure it out.

Still, the game ball tonight has to go to one Jrue Holiday. Like Evan,
the Damaja started the night out slow, looking off on his jumper, but
boy did he ever end strong. Jrue hit a couple gigantic threes in the
fourth to give the Sixers the separation from the Hornets they'd been
scrapping for all game, and another with under a minute left that was
just barely ruled a two, ending with a season-high 24 points, along with
eight assists and zero turnovers. On a team that has so badly craved a
closer in recent years, Jrue is starting to present a pretty convincing
case that the guy's been there all along, and if Coach Collins continues
to put the ball in Andre Iguodala's hands in the final seconds, he's
gonna have a lot of explaining to do in his post-game press-conferences.

It wasn't all wine and roses for the Sixers—'Dre's hot shooting start
came crashing down to the mean with his 2-10 night (0-4 from deep), and
Jodie Meeks' shot continues to be totally M.I.A., as he went 1-5,
missing some open looks that really sapped the team's momentum.
Meanwhile, Hornets lead scorer Eric Gordon shredded the team's defense in the first quarter,
and finished with 22 points, though the Sixers' tight wing D in the
second half at least dictated that he needed 22 shots to do so. But the
Sixers protected the ball (just eight TOs total), were able to get stops
late, and so thoroughly outplayed the Hornets' bench (41 points to 26)
that they were able to overcome the strong performances from Gordon,
power forward Carl Landry (21 points, 8 boards) and point guard Jarret
Jack (19 points, 11 assists). As Zumoff said, it'll be a recurring theme
this season.

Ultimately, the Sixers were the better team in four of their five road
games, and won three of them—pretty acceptable, all told. While 3-2
isn't exactly winning a championship, it's still a very good start for
the Liberty Ballers, who now get to play their first game in Philly this
year (against the Pistons on Friday, the latest first home game of any
team) as a winning ballclub. A small victory, and one we hope to add to
as the season progresses, and Holiday, Turner, Hawes and the rest of the
guys try to prove that they're capable of growing into a legit Eastern
Conference power. We can't wait to root 'em on at the WFC this Friday.
Marreese Who?

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”