Eagles surpass last season’s win total 10 games into 2013

Eagles surpass last season’s win total 10 games into 2013

The Eagles might be a year or two away from contending for a championship—they don’t even know who their franchise quarterback is (or do they?)—but at least one thing is now certain. This year’s team is officially better than the 2012 iteration.

After finishing 4-12 in Andy Reid’s final season as head coach, Philadelphia has already clinched a better record just 10 games into 2013, Chip Kelly’s first season on the sidelines. With a sound 27-13 victory over a limited Packers squad, the Birds improved to 5-5 and once again find themselves in the thick of the playoff picture.

Yes, Green Bay was without 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, and down to practice-squad darling Scott Tolzien under center after the first series. The Eagles can only play the opponent that’s on the schedule though, and they took care of business on Sunday.

A Birds defense that has only given up more than 21 points twice all season was able to bottle up power running back Eddie Lacy for 73 yards on 24 carries. That forced Tolzien to carry the Packers’ offense in his first appearance in an NFL game, coming on in relief of Seneca Wallace who exited with a groin injury.

Tolzien piled up 280 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 39 passes, but threw two costly interceptions—one in the end zone. The pass to Jordy Nelson was behind its intended target, which allowed Brandon Boykin to swoop in for the pick (his second of ‘13) and a 73-yard return.

DeMeco Ryans also came up with his second interception of the season off of a tip after Tolzien attempted to thread a pass into traffic. Ryans set the tone for the Philly’s stifling run defense as well with 13 tackles—two for loss—building on another fine season.

The story once again though was the Eagles’ quick-strike offense led by Nick Foles, who finished with another strong line. The second-year passer connected on 12 of 18 passes for 228 yards with zero interceptions and three touchdowns—all over 32 yards. He did lose a fumble however to commit his first turnover of the ’13.

It wasn’t Foles’ best day despite the numbers. Two of his three touchdown passes were underthrown deep passes, the first of which in particular was nearly trouble. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams had the ball knocked away by his own teammate, and DeSean Jackson was there to collect the deflection for a 55-yard score.

It wasn’t a performance that is going to cement Foles as quarterback of the future, but as far as statistics are concerned, he’s still thrown 16 touchdowns with no picks this season. More importantly, his record as a starter this season jumped to 3-1.

If nothing else, Foles has earned another week to continue showing what he can do.

Jackson’s touchdown was his seventh of the season. Philadelphia improved to 5-1 in games where Djacc finds the end zone. Riley Cooper continued filling up the stat sheet as well with three catches for 102 yards and two scores. Coop now has five TDs over the past two games.

LeSean McCoy finally got on track as well, recording only his second 100-yard game since Week 3. How he finished was the most impressive part, with 115 of his 155 yards coming in the second half. The Eagles finished off the Packers with a clock-killing drive that ate the final 9:32 in the fourth quarter, largely Shady’s doing.

It may sound somewhat cliché, but this was a total team victory by the Birds, who toughed it out with several key injuries. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher was inactive, and Philly lost Jason Peters, Mychal Kendricks and Earl Wolff to injuries over the course of the game.

The Eagles forged ahead though and won anyway because they’re a better, more well-rounded team than they were a season ago. Credit Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis for the quick turnaround, and fans should be excited to find out what the ceiling is for this season.

The playoffs are right around the corner, and Philly is in the mix. Even if they don’t catch the Cowboys for an NFC East title, a wild card may be in play. As of this writing, the second wild card spot is currently owned by a five-win team.

First things first though, and that’s taking care of Washington next week, which will require the Birds to end this horrible 10-game losing streak at the Linc. Now winners of two straight, the Eagles will be riding a wave of momentum back to Philly. No reason right now to think they can’t continue to roll.

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

Flyers' power play rediscovers swagger in win over Canucks

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers got some swagger back Sunday night.

But especially so on the power play, which entered Sunday's clash just 2 for 19 over the last six games.

Two markers on the man advantage helped the Flyers edge the Canucks, 3-2, at Rogers Arena in Vanvoucer (see Instant Replay).

“It all comes back to finding a way to produce – and they did that tonight,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, who had called for his power-play participants to rediscover that swagger.

Hakstol’s club won for the first time in its last nine games in Western Canada. More importantly, the Flyers (28-24-7) moved within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently shared by Florida and Boston, in the Eastern Conference.

Thanks to the power-play success, the Flyers built a 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes and then hung on, atoning for a sub-par effort in a one-sided loss to the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.

The Flyers converted two of three power plays while blanking the Canucks on all four of their man advantages. The loss prevented the Canucks (26-28-6) from getting closer to a Western Conference playoff berth.

“I thought we were playing some pretty good hockey of late, but the pucks weren't going in,” said Flyers center Brayden Schenn, who scored the winning goal on the power play at 2:38 of the second period. “Tonight, we tightened up defensively again from Edmonton's game and were able to score a few more goals. It's a huge two points going home."

Wayne Simmonds, also on the power play, and Jakub Voracek scored the Flyers’ other goals.

“We needed a win,” Simmonds said. “Especially after the game in Edmonton, this is good for the morale."

Shayne Gostisbehere assisted on all three goals, recording the first three-point night of his career.

Schenn’s winning goal came only a minute and 27 seconds after Voracek gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead at 1:11 of the second by sending Sean Couturier’s huge rebound into a gaping net behind Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller. Voracek’s goal was his first in 10 games. He had not scored since Jan. 25 against the New York Rangers.

How did long sought-after goal make him feel?

"Like I scored a goal,” deadpanned Voracek. “We won the game. That’s the way I looked at it. It doesn't matter who scored the goals. Special teams were huge tonight. I liked our power play. We were going all 60 minutes. This one kept us in the race."

The Flyers were a well-rested team thanks to a two-day break between games and a three-day break before the start of the road trip. The Canucks, on the other hand, were playing their second of back-to-back home games with only a day’s rest following a grueling six-game United States road trip. But there was still considerable suspense over the final 30 minutes.

Markus Granlund and Jannik Hansen tallied for the Canucks, who are known as comeback artists, at 3:43 and 12:42 of the second, respectively, before the Flyers shut Vancouver down the rest of the way. Voracek indicated the Flyers were not nervous in the final frame.

"I don't think we changed anything to be honest,” he said. We were pretty tight in the neutral zone. We didn't give them much. When we had a couple of breakdowns, [Michal Neuvirth] was on his act.”

Neuvirth stopped 18 of 20 shots as the Flyers outshot the Canucks, 28-20. He enjoyed a much better start Sunday, holding the Canucks scoreless in the opening period after allowing four goals on his first 12 shots on Thursday in Edmonton. One of his better saves came with just over a minute into the game as he got his toe on Markus Granlund’s dangerous chance from in close.

"I felt good,” said Neuvirth. “I have been practicing well and playing with confidence. The last game, it didn't work out. I put that one behind me and restarted my mind and got back to work tonight.”

“I thought he was excellent,” said Hakstol. “He was calm and settled in there. You can go back through that 60 minutes and you can pick out three or four pretty darned good saves.”

Neuvirth excelled while making his fourth consecutive start and sixth in the past seven games overall.

“It feels good,” he said of the heavy workload. “It feels better when we win.”

But he was not about to get too excited. The Flyers have a tough clash at home Wednesday against NHL-best Washington and a road game Saturday at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field against the rival Penguins as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

“We have a tough schedule coming and we have to be ready,” Neuvirth said.

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

Sixers Twitter rejoices in the Kings' pick swap after DeMarcus Cousins deal

All hail the pick swap.

When word got out that the Sacramento Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Sixers fans on Twitter rejoiced.

On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded away the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović, and, in return, received an unprotected 2019 first round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and the right to swap first-round selections in the 2016 and 2017 drafts.

The Cousins move appears to significantly weaken the Kings, who are 24-33 and just 2.5 games better than the Sixers, so the pick swap looks healthier than ever.

But, for now, enjoy some samplings of Sixers Twitter from after the trade.

Here are some of the best tweets.