Breaking down the Eagles’ dominant finish in Green Bay

Breaking down the Eagles’ dominant finish in Green Bay

When was the last time we saw the Eagles simply overpower an opponent the way they did the Packers in the fourth quarter on Sunday?

There are a ton of things to like about the Birds right now. Nick Foles can’t seem to make a mistake. LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson are about to reach 1,000-yard milestones. The defense hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in six games. We’re 10 games into Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach, and the team has already surpassed last year’s win total. The playoffs are on everybody’s mind.

What I enjoyed most of all about the victory in Green Bay though was the dominant fashion in which they closed out the game. Following a turnover on downs, the Eagles were awarded the ball at their own 8-yard line with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Packers never took possession again.

The Eagles called 16 plays total on that final drive. 12 were runs. Three were kneel-downs. The only pass attempt was on 3rd-and-7, their lone third-down conversion of the series.

Green Bay knew exactly what was coming, yet they were powerless to stop it. McCoy carried seven times for 41 yards. Bryce Brown ran twice for 11 more. Foles iced the game with a zone-read keeper for nine. Nine minutes and 32 seconds, gone, just like that.

This is the same club that’s ranked dead last in the NFL in time of possession this season. Even up to that point in the game, Philadelphia had only held the ball 16 minutes to the Packs’ 34. If their defense was tired, it was not for lack of rest.

No team strikes faster than the Eagles with an average scoring drive south of two minutes per Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski. Some weeks, Chip has proven incapable of slowing down the pace to his own detriment. He slowed it down to a crawl on Sunday though, and his offense was still unstoppable.

He didn’t do anything special or tricky at all. It was one handoff after another, offensive linemen and tight ends pushing defenders out of holes, backs trusting their lanes, running with power and staying in bounds.

And this was without Jason Peters on the field, the All-Pro left tackle exiting the game earlier with a quad injury. This was against the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense entering Week 10.

That is how good teams finish games. That is something we haven’t seen in Philadelphia since who knows when. It’s been years.

Afterwards, McCoy expanded on his offensive line’s performance. Per Reuben Frank for CSN:

“I think the offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage,” McCoy said. “The backs we have, you give us 1-on-1 opportunity with a linebacker, defensive end or a safety, nine times out of 10, we’re going to make them miss, and today that’s what’s happened.

“I think it’s one thing for a back to be confident to run the ball, it’s another when the guys up front want to run the ball even more than you do. It says a lot about the guys up front the way they played today.”

And left guard Evan Mathis, who is charting as the club’s best run blocker according to metrics by Pro Football Focus:

“As far as a football game goes, you don’t usually have more fun than that,” guard Evan Mathis said.

“You’re ahead, which is good, and then to go out there with nine-plus minutes on the clock and be able to run the ball effectively and be able to completely control the clock, get first downs, it’s a great feeling.

“We take a lot of pride in being able to do that. It’s comforting knowing that you’re able to do that.”

It doesn’t get much better than knowing if the game is on the line and all the offense needs is a first down to put it away, they have the ability to lean forward and take it. At its nuts and bolts, football is still and will always be about dominating up front.

Did the Eagles have the Packers defeated before they went on that march? Probably, but why let them go out shooting? Good teams quietly smother opponents and go into their victory formation.

The Eagles just took a huge step toward becoming one of those good teams.

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

PITTSBURGH – Wayne Simmonds remained defiant.

Yes, the Flyers have lost seven of their last nine games. Yes, they are five points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
But it's not over in terms of the playoffs.

"We played a great game, but unfortunately, it didn't go our way," Simmonds said after the 4-2 loss to the Penguins in the Stadium Series outdoor game at Heinz Field (see game recap).

"It wasn't good enough. I don't know what to say, guys. We have 21 games left and a never-say-die attitude. We're gonna keep pushing, no matter what. We've got to be desperate every game and play it as if it’s our last."

The Flyers had their chances and their moments. When Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal in 34 games early in the third period, it was a 3-2 game and momentum had been building in the Flyers' favor.

Then a key moment. A lost faceoff and the puck goes back to the point where Chad Ruhwedel fires so quickly that goalie Michal Neuvirth couldn't track the puck.

That was it. Game over.

"We brought it back [to 3-2]," Simmonds said. "We just had to get the tying goal and it slipped away. … We've got to score."

Still, there is time to regroup again with 21 games left.

"We have to have a short memory," Simmonds said. "Whether it's a good game or bad game, you move on."

They’re moving on but they're not gaining traction.

Weal back in lineup
Jordan Weal (concussion symptoms) re-entered the lineup in place on Roman Lyubimov. Weal missed two games after suffering the injury Feb. 16 in Edmonton.

Weal moved to left wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Simmonds.

“It’s a short sample, but it’s his body of work since he has been with us over the last couple weeks,” coach Dave Hakstol said of moving Weal there.

Before his injury, Weal played left wing on Sean Couturier’s line with Jakub Voracek. Brayden Schenn went back to center Saturday night between Nick Cousins and Voracek. It was another new line for Schenn.

If you’re wondering, Schenn has played left wing 33 times this season in 58 games.

Weal said he “felt good” and seemed excited to play in an NHL outdoor game.

Midway into the game, Michael Raffl went back to the top line and Weal moved to a line with Couturier and Dale Weise.

Weal played 15:43.

Power-play position
Shayne Gostisbehere played the point this game with the first unit and not the half wall. He also scored a goal there.

Coach Dave Hakstol has been rotating him from the point to the half-wall depending upon the personnel on the ice.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment no matter where I am," Gostisbehere said. "It's just nice to be on the power play. Whatever position they put me in out there, up top or on the wing, it's something I have to be ready for. I think I'm comfortable in both spots."

Outdoors
General manager Ron Hextall liked the outdoor game concept.

"It’s unique," Hextall said. "When they first started, I don’t love change. I was a little skeptical, I guess. I think they’re terrific. I really do.

"It’s good for the game. People watch an outdoor game and will pick that game because it’s an outdoor game. There is something about them. They’re neat."

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).