Cardinals hold, Eagles hold on to fourth-straight victory

Cardinals hold, Eagles hold on to fourth-straight victory

After setting a franchise record for most consecutive attempts without an interception, Nick Foles finally made a bad decision—horrendous, in fact.

While nursing a three-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles floated a pass into the middle of the field, a desperation play made under duress. The ball was snared easily by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson in Philly territory. Trouble.

The pick would not stand however. The officials threw their yellow hankies on rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu for defensive holding, and the Eagles retained possession. By the conclusion of the game, the Cardinals were seeing another color—red—but no matter. The bottom line is Philadelphia walked out of the Linc victorious again, holding on to defeat Arizona 24-21 after another tense fourth quarter.

The Eagles improved to 7-5 on the season to keep pace with Dallas for first place in the NFC East. The team is now riding a four-game winning streak, including two-straight at home after going a more than full calendar year without a W at the Linc. Foles is now 5-1 as a starter this season, while Philly’s defense has hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in eight straight.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Birds though. For starters, Foles looked increasingly uncomfortable as the game wore on and became ineffective late. While the sophomore signal-caller connected on 21-of-34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns—zero turnovers—he was just 6-of-14 in the second half. The offense managed just two first downs over the final six possessions, excluding defensive penalties.

Foles struggled with accuracy some in the first half as well, despite hitting on 15-of-20 attempts. The QB was bailed out a few times by some excellent catches, and seemed to become increasingly indecisive as his confidence was shaken. Foles was sacked five times on the afternoon.

To be fair, Foles managed to post a 112.0 passer rating, and officially is now at 19 touchdowns without an interception—one short of Peyton Manning's record to start a season. Arizona's defense is also one of the better units in the league with Pro Bowl-caliber playmakers at every level.

Still, he certainly didn’t do the defense any favors in the second half. The Cardinals came storming back from a 17-point deficit with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters on long drives of 80 and 86 yards. It doesn’t look nearly as bad when you take into account the fact that Arizona held the ball six times in the second half, but the rally made for a tight contest when it appeared at one point the Eagles might run away with it.

The fourth-quarter comebacks are becoming a concern though. Washington was able to turn a 24-point deficit into a one-possession game two weeks ago. That being said, the Birds were able to hang on in the end.

The Eagles got to punt the ball away after Foles’ would-be miscue, followed by a Cardinals four-and-out. There was too much time left on the clock for kneel-downs after the quick turnover, so on third down the second-year passer looked to pass. Foles hit the deck for a sack, and it looked like Arizona would get one last chance until the zebras intervened. Another defensive holding gave Philly 1st-and-10.

Ball game.

The Cardinals were livid after the referee’s calls, racking up some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as time was winding down. It was somewhat understandable given what appeared to be ticky-tack penalties, especially after Bradley Fletcher avoided a flag for contract on Arizona’s final play from scrimmage.

Yet what truly did the Cards in were turnovers. Carson Palmer was stripped by Trent Cole, one of two sacks for the ninth-year veteran—he now has five over the last four games. Nate Allen and Cary Williams added interceptions, bringing Arizona’s total giveaways to three. The Eagles didn’t have any.

It wasn’t pretty, but this is the quality win observers have been clamoring for. Arizona came in riding a four-game streak of their own and ahead in the Wild Card standings. The Eagles and Foles bested them, and are officially on a roll heading into a big matchup against 7-5 Detroit.

Welcome back to meaningful December football, folks. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Notes

• One week after destroying Trent Cole on a 60-yard touchdown reception to Washington’s fullback, the reserve safety blew up Brandon Boykin to break Larry Fitzgerald free for a 43-yard score. Later, Chung drilled Cary Williams. Chung is not just bad at football, he’s bad for his teammates’ health. Get well soon, Earl Wolff.

• Brandon Graham also had two sacks in the game after going weeks without making a big play. DeMeco Ryans had one as well, giving Philly five for the game.

• Zach Ertz enjoyed a breakout game. The rookie tight end set career highs with five receptions, 68 yards, and two touchdowns. Brent Celek also got into the end zone. Good game plan by Chip Kelly. Arizona has now allowed 14 touchdowns to players listed as tight ends this season.

• Although, what’s with using Brad Smith in a Wildcat formation down by the goal line, Chip? The Birds were driving before Smith bobbled the snap on first down. The loss killed the momentum, and the Eagles were forced to settle for three points.

• Glad to see DeSean Jackson returning punts again. He took one to the house that was called back for a holding penalty. He’s their most explosive returnman by far and should be back there at least 50 percent of the time. Jackson also went over 1,000 yards receiving with 36 on three catches.

• LeSean McCoy had 19 carries for 79 yards—a reasonable 4.2 average against the NFL’s second-ranked run defense. The All-Pro back added five receptions for 36.

• White-hot coming into the game, Arizona QB Carson Palmer was 24-of-41 for 302 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches for 72 yards, while the emerging Michael Floyd hauled in five for 99—both players scored.

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

Wayne Simmonds stars as Flyers top Predators, push win streak to 5 games

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dave Hakstol likes Wayne Simmonds’ net-front play more than that of any player in the league.

The Flyers' power forward showed on Sunday why his coach thinks that way.

Simmonds’ two power-play goals in front of the crease helped extend the Flyers’ win streak to five, their longest of the season, in a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (see Instant Replay).

“If there’s a better guy in the league at net front, whether it’s on power play or 5 on 5, I don’t know who that is,” said Hakstol said after Sunday's victory. “He did a great job there tonight.”

Simmonds’ first goal came when he deflected Jake Voracek’s shot past Juuse Saros, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead at 18:12 of the first period.

“They had great movement around the top of the box and Jake told me to go back door if he was going to get it for a one-timer,” Simmonds said. “So I stuck my stick out back door and he hit it, and it went in the net.”

Then Simmonds batted a puck through Saros' legs for a 2-1 advantage at 6:47 of the second period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.

“It was kind of a little bit of a cluster and the puck comes to me, and I’m alone in front of the net so I just put it five-hole and it worked,” Simmonds said.

The right wing’s father was watching in the sellout crowd of 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena during the Flyers' annual father-son trip.

“It was nice, obviously,” Simmonds said. “I just went outside and saw him. He didn’t really say much to me, but I know he’s glowing on the inside.”

Simmonds has now scored 10 career goals in 20 games against Nashville.

“What I really like about Simmer is he’s at net-front, he’s scoring goals, he’s on the power play, but he’s a great, hard-nosed, 200-foot player,” Hakstol said.

Simmonds’ goals gave the Flyers an early spark on Sunday.

“It was huge,” said Flyers left wing Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal at 16:37 of the second period when made a power move on a rush and tucked the puck past Saros. “That gives us all the momentum.”

The Flyers improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

“We’re just trying to take care of pucks and maintain the pressure that we have,” Simmonds said. “The next shift up every game is the most important shift and that’s how we’re trying to play it here.”

Predators coach Peter Laviolette, a former Flyers coach, wasn’t surprised by his former team’s power-play success. The Flyers entered the game tied for the third best power play in the league cashed in twice on seven chances on Sunday.

“We knew going in that their power play was really good,” Laviolette said. “Their players have a lot of time together and cohesiveness and they’re pretty set in what they do. They bring pucks to the net and when they do that, things can happen. That was a difference in the game tonight.”

Winning goalie Steve Mason has started 10 of the last 11 games. He made 30 saves Sunday to improve his record to 8-8-3.

“This is the situation I want to be in, so it’s a workload that all summer you prepare for even when I was not getting the work load I wanted,” Mason said. “You prepare for it and now that it’s here I’m making the most of it.”

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

Sources: Phillies close to signing reliever Joaquin Benoit

WASHINGTON – It looks as if the Phillies will have some action at the winter meetings.

The team is close to signing veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit, sources tell CSNPhilly.com. The winter meetings officially begin on Monday. The signing is expected to be announced before the meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, is a veteran of 15 seasons in the majors. He is coming off a strong 2016 season in which he pitched in 51 games for Seattle and Toronto and recorded a 2.81 ERA.

Benoit began the 2016 season with the Mariners and had a 5.18 ERA in 26 games. He was traded to Toronto in July and gave up just one run in 23 2/3 innings over 25 games, but did not pitch in the postseason after suffering a torn calf muscle in late September.

The right-hander has pitched for six teams in his career and has a lifetime 3.79 ERA in 712 games.

Entering the offseason, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said he wanted to improve the bullpen. He opened the offseason by trading for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and last week claimed lefty David Rollins off waivers from Texas. Now, Klentak is poised to add Benoit.

Benoit has mostly pitched in a setup role in his career, but he does have closer experience. It is unclear what role he’d pitch in for the Phillies. The Phils have Jeanmar Gomez and Hector Neris returning to the back of their bullpen in 2017. Benoit could complement that pair or the Phillies could choose to trade Gomez or Neris.

Neris pitched in 79 games in 2016 and had a 2.58 ERA, so the Phillies would only deal him if they were to get a strong package of talent in return.