Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Coulda Gone Better: Sixers Thumped By Knicks for Second Time in Two Games

Well, home-court advantage didn't make much of a difference in this
one—probably partly because half the fans in attendance were NY
boosters, with Philly fans evidently too enthralled with the prospect of
watching Michael Vick throwing pick-sixes on TV to come out in force
for the Atlantic division battle. Regardless, a couple extra Philly fans
in the seats would likely have helped little, as the Sixers again
proved out-manned and out-played by the New York Knicks, who moved to
3-0 with their dissection of the 76ers tonight.

The
much-heralded (by me anyway, sorta) insertion of Kwame Brown into the
team's starting lineup proved unsurprisingly inconsequential, as Kwame
mustered four points, three rebounds, and largely indifferent defense in
ten minutes of game action, before apparently re-aggravating his calf
strain and leaving the game. In his stead, we got a resounding six
points and ten rebounds from the pivot combo of Lavoy Allen and Spencer
Hawes, with Knicks center Tyson Chandler basically stomping over both of
them, and backup Rasheed "Human Victory Blunt" Wallace hitting them for 10 points in the second half, somehow.

The
Sixers didn't fare much better anywhere else on the court. Dorell
Wright, Nick Young and Evan Turner, the three wings that I said would
have to step up to help Jrue Holiday out (especially in starting SG
Jason Richardson's absence) combined to shoot 11-38, while Jrue himself
struggled from the floor with 4-12 shooting, though he hit threes and
got to the line enough that his over all line (17 points, eight assists)
wasn't all that bad. Jrue's real issues came on defense, where he was
torched repeatedly by Knicks point Raymond Felton—a teamwide struggle,
as the Knicks again shot the lights out from behind the arc, hitting 13
of 32.

Not a whole lot of positive to take from this one, though
first-round pick Arnett Moultrie did get his first bucket as a Sixer,
slamming home a putback in garbage time. (Hopefully Moultrie eventually
sees consequential rotation minutes, unlike the last late-first-rounder
we traded for, Craig Brackins.) Also, I continue to be unduly fascinated
by Evan Turner's suddenly immaculate free-throw shooting—the guy shot
under 68% from the line last year and seemed to split just about every
time up, but he's 12-12 from the stripe so far this season. Hey, when
you get blown out by a division rival twice in two days, you take solace
in the little things. The really, really little things.

After
the game, Collins gave all credit to the Knicks, said that his team was
still trying to figure each other out, and adamantly refused to
overreact to a bad two-game stretch against a really good team. It's
fair enough, and I do think the Knicks made us look worse than we are,
but it's still pretty discouraging to see your team get outplayed this
badly in two consecutive contests.

The Sixers next face the
Hornets this Wednesday, a similarly young team, but one that's proven to
be a very professional outfit, going 2-1 (against strong competition)
largely without the help from their two injured young stars, Eric Gordon
and Anthony Davis. If they make it three no-shows in a row for the
Sixers, we might be in for a long season, putting undue pressure on
Andrew Bynum to save the team with his return, still scheduled for
who-knows-when. Trying times for Philadelphia sports fans, for sure.

Penalties the only consistent theme for Doug Pederson's Eagles

Penalties the only consistent theme for Doug Pederson's Eagles

CINCINNATI — There’s one thing the Eagles are very consistent at, and it’s nothing to be proud of.

The Eagles continue to be one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, and with 10 more infractions in their 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, they increased their 12-game total to 100 — second-most in the NFL this year.

Five times they’ve been called for 10 or more penalties, and that’s one shy of the most games in franchise history with double-digit penalties in a season.

And there’s four games to go.

The Eagles have been cited for penalties seven or more times in all but three games. They’re on pace for the third-most penalties in franchise history.

Earlier this year, the Eagles committed seven or more penalties in four straight games for the first time in six years. The last month, they did that again.

This is not a disciplined football team. Not remotely.

“The penalties are hurting us,” said Brandon Graham, who was called for a personal foul after a low hit on Andy Dalton Sunday. “You kind of get frustrated a little bit and sometimes a lot of stuff starts happening. But we have to clean that up.”

The Eagles are on pace for 133 penalties. The franchise high is 138, set in 1994 by a Rich Kotite team that lost its last seven games. The 2005 team — torn apart by the Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens feud — committed 134.

The only team with more penalties than the Eagles this year is the Raiders with 112. They always lead the league in penalties and at least this year they’re winning anyway.

The Eagles aren’t. Their lack of discipline has contributed greatly to their current stretch of seven losses in a nine-game span.

For the Eagles, it’s been just another part of the season that’s gotten away from coach Doug Pederson and his players.

“Penalties have got to stop,” Pederson said Sunday night. “Obviously, the turnovers and things like that too. It’s just not characteristic of how we coach and how we play.”

But it’s how this team has played. Consistently.

Only against the Bears, Cowboys and Giants have the Eagles committed fewer than seven penalties. When they commit 10 or more, they’re 1-4

“Some of it is focus, and some of it is anticipating the snap count,” Pederson said. “Some of it is a little on the quarterback, because we’re using so many snap counts and cadences to get indicators from the defense to tip their hat a little bit.

“Guys are geared up. We’ve got to focus in on that, because it’s something we work on every single week. Obviously the silent count we work on every week.”

Here’s a breakdown of the Eagles’ 100 penalties:

12 — Jason Peters

8 — Jason Kelce

7 — Nolan Carroll

6 — Zach Ertz, Allen Barbre

5 — Jalen Mills, Fletcher Cox

4 — Dorial Green-Beckham, Brandon Graham, Carson Wentz, Malcolm Jenkins

3 — Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Najee Goode, Marcus Smith, Brent Celek

2 — Jaylen Watkins, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Destiny Vaeao, Trey Burton, Matt Tobin

1 — Kenjon Barner, Darren Sproles, Ron Brooks, Jordan Matthews, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Donnie Jones, Bennie Logan, Chris Maragos, Leodis McKelvin, Halapoulivaaati Vaitai.

And here’s a breakdown of the types of penalties the Eagles have been hit with:

22 — False start

16 — Offensive holding

10 — Unncessary roughness

8 — Defensive pass interference, offensive pass interference

7 — Defensive offsides

4 — Delay of game, illegal formation, defensive holding

3 — Roughing the passer, facemask, neutral zone infraction

2 — Chop block, defensive 12 men on the field, encroachment, illegal contact, running into the kicker

1 — Unsportsmanlike conduct, horse collar tackle, illegal block above the waist, illegal shift, offensive 12 men on the field, offensive offsides, illegal use of hands

Resurgent Penn State headed to Rose Bowl vs. USC

usa-brandon-bell-james-franklin.jpg
USA Today Images

Resurgent Penn State headed to Rose Bowl vs. USC

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State players and coaches rolled hopefully back into Happy Valley on Sunday, greeted as Big Ten champions by cheers and honking car horns.

They got off the team bus, filed into a meeting room and huddled around a giant projector screen as the College Football Playoff selection committee made its picks.

As the contenders were announced, it became clear -- this unexpectedly triumphant season was going to fall frustratingly short of college football's biggest stage.

The fifth-ranked Nittany Lions -- winners of nine straight, including a huge comeback against No. 8 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game -- won't be part of the four-team playoff. Despite a head-to-head win against No. 2 Ohio State, the Big Ten title and a run fueled by one of the country's most explosive offenses, Penn State was ranked fifth by the selection committee.

Instead of playing for a national title, Penn State (11-2) will face No. 9 Southern California (9-3) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2.

"I would say there were a handful of guys that obviously showed a little bit of frustration and body language and things like that," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "But 99 percent of the guys in there are just excited about staying together as a family and being able to play in such a historic bowl game."

News about the bowl destination quelled a bit of that disappointment, and some, including quarterback Trace McSorley , tweeted their excitement with rose emojis Sunday.

Franklin didn't sleep much on the flight back from Indianapolis and is about to start a six-day recruiting trip, but he was still clearly amped for the Rose Bowl during a phone call with reporters -- even though he believed his team had done enough to go to the playoff by winning what he called "the toughest conference in football."

"Obviously, our guys would've loved to have the opportunity to go to the playoffs and compete for a national championship," Franklin said. "But like I said during the week, I thought our guys would be appreciative of the opportunity to be able to stay together as a family for another week and play the great game of football."

They'll do so against a team that's on a similar trajectory.

The Nittany Lions and Trojans have combined to win 17-straight games and are among the hottest teams in college football. Both have mounted striking turnarounds after ho-hum starts, energizing historically strong programs that had struggled with the weight of NCAA penalties in recent years.

Franklin arrived at Penn State in 2014 and took over a program heavily sanctioned by the NCAA for the university's role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Although the Nittany Lions have a full scholarship load this season, they're still feeling the impact from reduced scholarship numbers and start just five seniors, with only 17 on the roster.

USC, meanwhile, incurred NCAA penalties, including the loss of 30 scholarships, in the wake of a scandal involving former football player Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo, who the NCAA determined accepted gifts in the mid-2000s.

This will be the third time the programs match up in the Rose Bowl -- the first was in 1923 and the other in 2009.

"I think it makes for fabulous TV, that's for sure," USC coach Clay Helton said. "And it makes for a great bowl experience and that's what this time is all about."