Ouch, Babe: Sixers Lose Nail Biter to Wolves on Foul Call

Ouch, Babe: Sixers Lose Nail Biter to Wolves on Foul Call

At a certain point, it stops being bad luck and officially becomes a
real team character flaw. The Sixers' 92-91 loss tonight against the
Minnesota Timberwolves brough them to 2-5 for the year in games decided
by five points or less, with one of those wins being the Magic blowout
that Orlando cut to five in meaningless last-minute play, after going
8-15 in such games last year. Some of 'em might have been the result of a
bad bounce or two, but generally speaking, it's very hard to have faith
in this team when a game goes down to the wire, and their inability to
execute in a game's final minutes will forever hamper their ability to
move forward as a team in the NBA.

Tonight, you could argue that it was one of those fluke close losses,
akin to the Clippers loss where an excellently defended Chris Paul just
happened to hit a ridiculous turnaround jumper for the win. The Wolves
went ahead with 0.1 seconds to go in the game, thanks to a a foul call
on Andre Iguodala on a Kevin Love layup drive with the Wolves down one.
The replay showed that 'Dre got mostly if not all ball, but he might
have raked some of the hand as Love charged in, and really, that's a
call that the offensive player—especially a star like Love—gets eight
times out of ten. Hard to swallow, but it's more of a tough loss than an
unfair loss, and if the Sixers hadn't botched a couple possessions in
the final minutes, they wouldn't have been in that situation anyway.

Some positives in this one. Jrue Holiday had himself a nice bounceback
game after two straight clunkers, scoring 20 points on 10-20 shooting
(though the lack of FTs is again troubling) with five assists, three
steals and just one turnover. Jrue had the Sixers highlight of the
night, with an authoritative one-hand slam over Ricky Rubio on the fast
break, embedded below. The frontcourt also acquitted themselves
admirably against the Wolves' formidable big men, holding Kevin Love to
just 7-23 shooting and matching the Wolves on the boards, with both
teams grabbing 48 total.

A big part of that rebounding effort was Evan Turner, who pulled down
seven boards in less than 15 minutes of playing time. But that lack of
playing time is really starting to be a problem—the Extraterrestrial
played well tonight, getting off some nice shots early, crashing the
boards with typical abandon, and distributing well in the half court,
but Coach Collins was just not feeling Evan tonight, and Turner only
played about five minutes in the second half. It seems to me that
tonight's late-game malaise did a pretty good job illustrating why we
could use E.T.'s offensive talents in crunch time—if not today then
certainly in the not-too-distant future—but developing Turner doesn't
seem to be a priority for Collins right now. This is quickly becoming a
worrisome subplot to an otherwise encouraging Sixers season, and we hope
that whatever the issue is between Collins and Turner, it can be
quashed before it becomes an untenable situation.

That's three losses in a row now for the Liberty Ballers, and it doesn't
get any easier from here—Philly still has to visit Memphis and Houston,
both plus-.500 teams, before the All-Star break, and that old We Can
Beat Anyone confidence from a couple weeks ago is really starting to
fade fast. The Sixers really need to grab at least one of the next two
games, to avoid limping into the break on a potential 2-7 stretch and
continuing to lose ground to the Knicks, who look more legit than ever
after a win against Dallas today. It's good that we care enough to be
really disappointed by this recent losing, but personally, it's a
feeling I'd rather not get used to again so soon.

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

It sounds like the Eagles will be out without a member of their secondary for a while, perhaps the rest of the season.

A league source tells CSN's Derrick Gunn that Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks will require surgery to repair an injury to his right knee. The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen is reporting the injury is a serious quadriceps rupture that will end Brooks's first season as an Eagle and put him on the shelf until next summer's training camp.

Brooks was carted off the field after attempting to make an open-field tackle during the first quarter of Sunday's 21-10 win over visiting Minnesota. Brooks stayed down on the field for several minutes before his leg was stabilized and he was placed on a cart.

Brooks, 28, is primarily the Eagles' slot corner, but he's also a standout on special teams. A free-agent who left Buffalo to sign a three-year deal with the Eagles this past offseason, Brooks has 12 total tackles and a pass deflection this season, the LSU grad's fifth in the league.

Malcolm Jenkins slid over to slot corner in Brooks' absence Sunday, which allowed Jaylen Watkins to come in and see more playing time.

If Brooks is placed on injured reserve, the Eagles will have an open roster spot, possibly for another corner.

Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

They were great before the bye. They were bad since.

The Eagles rallied against the Lions only to lose late because of two turnovers. Then last week at Washington, they laid an egg.

But on Sunday, they looked like the pre-bye team — at least defensively — and handed the Vikings their first loss of the season.

"This is a team that for two weeks in a row has kind of got their lip bloodied a little bit," head coach Doug Pederson said after the 21-10 victory (see Instant Replay). "The Detroit game, obviously feeling sick about that one, and then last week in Washington not playing well and up to our potential.

"These guys are professionals. They know how to get themselves ready to go. I don't feel like I have to motivate them. ... They really took it upon themselves this week to really make the corrections, No. 1, from last week and the adjustments. The veterans, the leadership stood up today, took command of the game, and that's what you like to see from this group."

More from Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz:

The defense
If the Eagles were going to win this game, the defense would have to dominate.

It did (see story).

The Vikings finished with only 282 yards from scrimmage — or 52 more than the Redskins rushed for last week against the Eagles.

The Eagles held Minnesota to 93 yards rushing (3.4 per carry) and battered Sam Bradford, who was 24 for 41 for 224 yards with a pick and a garbage-time TD. They sacked him six times (they had zero last week) and forced him to fumble four times. Bradford entered the game without a turnover this season.

"I think the guys just put it in their mind to play better than last week," Pederson understated. "Our defensive line really came off the ball today, really took it upon themselves to just attack the line of scrimmage and play on their side.

Two of the Eagles' three takeaways occurred in the red zone and in the first quarter, when the game was scoreless. They picked off Bradford on 3rd-and-goal at the 6 and forced a fumble on 1st down at the 17.

"It's huge," Pederson said. "Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them. ... It was fun to watch our defense today. That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

Bring the heat
The Eagles blitzed more than they had all season (see story). 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prefers to let his front four bring the pressure, but it hadn't worked the last two weeks, and now they were facing Sam Bradford, who was familiar with the scheme.

"Anytime you know a quarterback on the other team and kind of know his strengths and weaknesses and things like that — just try to give him some different looks, put some pressure on him from different areas," Pederson said. "It was a great game plan. ... Sometimes just changing things up to help your guys be in position — we benefitted from that today, and guys did a nice job."

Going for two after a made PAT
Midway through the second quarter, Pederson took a point off the board and decided to go for two after the Vikings were penalized for hitting Caleb Sturgis on an extra point, which was successful.

Wentz made the conversion with a QB sneak.

"It was kind of a no-brainer, because you get the ball at the 1," Pederson said.

"I've got a lot of trust in our guys. If you don't work those situations in practice and talk about those situations, then yeah, negative things can happen. But I felt totally 100 percent confident in our guys to execute that play."

Another "no-brainer"
Pederson hasn't been afraid to go for it on fourth down — the Eagles entered the game 4 for 4 on fourth downs — and on Sunday he converted another.

On the aforementioned drive, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-2 at the Vikings' 44. After unsuccessfully trying to draw the Vikings offside, the Eagles called timeout ... and sent the offense back out to go for it.

"Sometimes at that point, they feel like you're going to rush the punt team out there and burn the timeout," Pederson said, "but I went with the offense. I just had total confidence that we were going to get the first down.

"It was a kind of, again, a no-brainer — almost like the two-point conversion."

The play was an run-pass option ... until Wentz dropped the snap. He then ran six yards for the first.

"Obviously when he dropped it, at that point, it was run all the way," Pederson said. "But great execution."

"One more shot"
With 15 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles had the ball at the Minnesota 17. 

Pederson sent out the field goal unit for a 35-yarder, but when the Vikings called timeout to ice Sturgis, it gave Pederson time to change his mind.

The offense came back onto the field. Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone, and then Sturgis came back and hit the field goal.

"Take one more shot," Pederson said. "Max the protection. It's two-man route. It's either a completion or an incomplete pass."

Wentz said there was "a little indecisiveness on the sideline," but once the play was decided on ... 

"It was just a max protect throw to Jordan or throw it away," Wentz said. 'It was pretty plain and simple: Don't take a sack."

All's well that ends well
Wentz botched a handoff. He threw two ugly interceptions in the first quarter. 

OK, those things happen (see Wentz's overall evaluation).

But he also dropped three snaps. How?

"I'm not really sure," Wentz said. "I just have to catch the ball, for starters. Some of them were a little off, but those are the things that we have to clean up."

On one of the dropped snaps, he converted the 4th-and-2. On another, he recovered and found Darren Sproles for a 19-yard gain.

Now, about those interceptions. On the first, he overthrew a blanketed Brent Celek. On the second, he forced a throw to Nelson Agholor with too much purple around.

"That one was 3rd-and-12, and there's no need to force that one," Wentz said. "As a quarterback, sometimes that happens. There's really no rhyme or reason. You see things and you kick yourself in the tail after the play, but you learn from it and move on."

Picks aside, Wentz's numbers weren't pretty — 16 for 28 passing for 138 yards with a TD. Pederson said Wentz "might have been pressing a little bit early" but overall "played efficient."

"Love the way he settled in," Pederson said. "There was no panic for him and any of us on the sideline."

Big V
Wentz was sacked five times last week. On Sunday, he wasn't sacked at all.

The Eagles at times max-protected, but they also benefitted from the improved play of rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was in his second game in place of suspended Lane Johnson.

Pederson said he didn't help Vaitai as much as he did against Washington.

"I felt he kind of settled in this week, did a nice job," Pederson said. "The run game obviously helps. ... We were in some two tight-end sets a little more today, and that obviously helped him a little bit. We'll evaluate the film tomorrow, but I thought overall he did a nice job."