Eagles Take Step Backwards, Lose to Falcons

Eagles Take Step Backwards, Lose to Falcons

If Juan Castillo's dismissal was supposed to light a fire in the locker room, then it was unsuccessful. If it was intended to correct problems on defense, Todd Bowles appeared to have the exact opposite effect.

After holding opponents to 18.8 points per game through six weeks, the Eagles' defense gave up 30 on Sunday. After losing fourth-quarter leads in consecutive games, and seven times over the past two seasons, they surrendered six scoring drives on the first six possessions.

They were a no-show up until the final minutes, or just long enough to tell the remaining home crowd, "Thanks for coming."

Matt Ryan was a surgeon, hitting on 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, while Julio Jones caught five balls for 123 yards, including a 63-yard score. The duo led the undefeated Atlanta Falcons to a 30-17 victory, dropping the Eagles to 3-4.

The game was not nearly as close as the scoreboard would indicate though.
The Falcons were ahead 14-0 in the opening period, 24-7 at the half, and 30-10 at one point in the fourth quarter. They were unstoppable in the early goings, converting on seven straight third downs, ultimately reaching the end zone on their first three possessions.

The Eagles won the coin toss and deferred, sending Atlanta on a methodical, 18-play march that chewed almost nine minutes of clock. Following an ugly three-and-out, the Falcons made the most of excellent field position around midfield. The Eagles matched with six of their own, but Ryan quickly came back with the deep strike to Jones.

Atlanta also went 66 yards in under three minutes to sneak a field goal before halftime.

With the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense entering the week, the Eagles predictably were not up for a shootout -- least of all in wet, windy conditions. By the time the defense finally forced their first punt of the afternoon, it was going to take a Michael Vick miracle to steal a W.

He didn't have it him. Vick was 21 of 35 with a TD and zero turnovers, but only averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, and was under an increasing amount of pressure late in the game. LeSean McCoy was stifled for much of the day as well, carrying 16 times for 45 yards, but added rushing and receiving scores.

It was far from a quality performance by the offense, but dropped in a hole at the very start, it was almost an impossible situation. The Eagles only had three meaningful possessions in the first half, and by then they were already trailing by 17.

It turns out Bowles didn't work like some magic pill that promises to transform any defense into Gang Green in just two weeks or your money back. It was only one game, but they actually regressed, even looked like they had quit by the end. It was enough to make anybody wonder if firing Castillo backfired.

That's not good for Reid, who went into the bye with some major issues on offense, and some troubling trends on defense, but appears to have exited the bye with the same issues on offense, and wholesale problems on defense.

Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

Ben Simmons, Robert Covington react to Ersan Ilyasova trade

On Wednesday, the Sixers traded Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks in exchange for Tiago Splitter and a 2017 second-round pick, as well as the option to swap 2017 second-round selections (see story).

"I want to thank Ersan Ilyasova for his positive contributions to this organization both on and off the basketball court," president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. "Ersan is a true professional whose daily examples of hard work, focus and consistency have helped facilitate the ongoing growth of our program and culture."

The Sixers took to Instagram to express their appreciation for Ilyasova’s leadership. Ilyasova quickly embraced the role of a veteran go-to when he was traded to the Sixers in early November. Both posts below exemplify his team-first mentality.

✊🏼 A true Pro @ersanilyasova7

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Thanks for being a great teammate @ersanilyasova7. Wishing you the best in ATL

A post shared by Rob Covington (@atf_33) on

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

Best of NHL: Rickard Rakell, Ducks snap Bruins' win streak at 4

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rickard Rakell broke a tie with his second goal with 2:34 to play, and the Anaheim Ducks snapped Boston's four-game winning streak under new coach Bruce Cassidy with a 5-3 victory over the Bruins on Wednesday night.

Rakell also scored in the second period for the Ducks and has 24 goals in his outstanding season. Ondrej Kase, Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano also scored for Anaheim, and Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves in his first victory since Jan. 23.

Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal in the third period for the Bruins, who hadn't lost since Cassidy replaced Claude Julien on Feb. 7. Defensemen Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara scored early goals, and Tuukka Rask stopped 20 shots.

Anaheim beat Boston for the seventh straight time (see full recap).

Rare goal from Russell lifts Oilers over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Kris Russell's goal with 7:58 left was his first in more than a year and lifted the Edmonton Oilers over Florida 4-3 on Wednesday night to snap the Panthers' five-game winning streak.

Russell's goal was his first since Feb. 11, 2016, when he played for Calgary. He went goalless in his first 48 games with the Oilers.

Fellow defenseman Oscar Klefbom also scored for Edmonton, as did forwards Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Connor McDavid, who came into the night leading the NHL scoring race, had an assist on Russell's goal.

Aleksander Barkov, Colton Sceviour and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida. Keith Yandle had two assists for the Panthers, giving him 400 points for his career.

Cam Talbot stopped 31 shots for the Oilers, who have won their last eight games at Florida -- last losing on the Panthers' ice in 2002. James Reimer made 31 saves for the Panthers, who just completed a 5-0-0 road trip (see full recap).