Eagles Looking to Avoid Letdown Game in Arizona

Eagles Looking to Avoid Letdown Game in Arizona

I know a lot of people are picking the Eagles today, and by association, many of them disrespecting the Arizona Cardinals. This is a dangerous game for the Birds though, and not just because the Cards upended New England last week, or because they've won nine of their last 11 games going back to last November.

This has some of the makings of a letdown game for Philadelphia -- coming off of a huge victory over a potential Super Bowl contender in the home opener, playing in a dome two time zones away, and looking ahead to next week's primetime battle against the rival New York Giants.

Obviously Arizona is a bit limited offensively, although they do possess a dangerous secret weapon in Larry Fitzgerald, but the defense is for real, and there are simply too many game-changing plays made by special teams for it to be mere coincidence. As long as they can hang in there until the fourth quarter, it's a mix that has the potential to swing the momentum on any given snap.

The Eagles are no slouches either, and certainly have all the pieces in place that they might beat the Cardinals soundly. Just saying, it's not necessarily going to be easy, and there aren't many reasons to believe it will be. If this is going to be a walk, the Eagles are going to have to execute in a manner they haven't yet this year. Thus the keys to this contest are fairly simple.

Pressure Kevin Kolb

Kevin Kolb disputes the notion that he plays scared, but there are three simple facts he can't ignore:

1. Arizona's offensive line is not good.
2. Philly's defensive line is great.
3. Any quarterback will get rattled under constant pressure.

Kolb is no different, and that's speaking from first-hand knowledge of the way he operates. To counter, the Cardinals receivers will run a lot of routes that develop quickly, but if the back seven can keep a lid on the short and intermediate stuff, the Eagles front should be able get Kolb's feet moving. That's when he starts pulling out early and running for his life.

The O-line is pretty porous all around, but Trent Cole will be working against D'Anthony Batiste, Levi Brown's replacement at left tackle. Cole already has two strip sacks in two games this season (one negated by a penalty), so this would appear to have big day written all over it.

Simplify the Offensive Game Plan

Jeremy Maclin is out, as are King Dunlap and Jason Kelce on the offensive line. That means less firepower in the passing game, and a new left tackle and center going against a strong defensive front that will create confusion by blitzing.

The last thing the Eagles can have happen is Michael Vick dropping back three out of four times in an attempt to press the Cardinals secondary vertically similar to what they did in Cleveland. There's no telling what kind of pressure the quarterback will be under as Arizona uses different packages to cross up the protection calls and get free rushers after Vick.

Second, the Eagles can't afford to turn the ball over four or five times again this week. The Cardinals have become an extremely opportunistic team, thriving and almost relying on getting extra chances off of their opposition's giveaways. It's bad enough they'll probably create an advantage for themselves with a special teams play at some point, but hand them extra chances will only set you up for failure.

Control the ball, and let the big plays take care of themselves. Settle for a punt when necessary, and make the Cardinals offense drive the length of the field.

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).