Collapses, Meltdowns, and Choke Jobs: 2011 Eagles Roll On

Collapses, Meltdowns, and Choke Jobs: 2011 Eagles Roll On

Copy and paste the last two recaps, and just change the names of the opponent and players, because it's the same story. The Eagles blew a fourth quarter lead for the third week in a row, this time after going ahead by as much as 20 points, and lose to the San Francisco 49ers 24-23, dropping Philadelphia to 1-3 for the season.

As much as the defense is responsible for coughing up yet another game, once again the Birds failed themselves in every phase of the action. Alex Henery missed two field goals, either of which would have created a slight cushion on the scoreboard, and Jeremy Maclin fumbled the football as the offense was driving late in the game, destroying any hopes of a comeback.

There were few brightspots in this one.

Michael Vick survived for an entire 60 minutes, setting a career mark with 416 yards passing. He was much more efficient in general than he has been in recent weeks, finishing 30-for-46 with two touchdowns and one interception. He also carried eight times for 75 yards, and added another trademark moment to his highlight reel on the TD pass to Clay Harbor in the first quarter that made it a 7-3 game.

DeSean Jackson added six receptions for 171 yards, though there was another big drop.

Jason Babin had himself a day on the other side of the ball, sacking QB Alex Smith three times. He made one of the key plays late in the second quarter, stripping Smith and giving the Eagles excellent field position, which they would capitalize on with a shovel pass to LeSean McCoy to take a 20-3 halftime lead into the locker room.

The Eagles also blocked a David Akers field goal attempt in the third quarter, which they converted into three of their own, growing the score to its widest margin at 23-3.

And that's right about where the fun ends.

Twice Eagles drives stalled during the fourth quarter in part because of holding penalties. When Henery was called upon in both instances, he botched attempts of 39 and 33 yards. Two fumbles also proved costly -- Ronnie Brown's bizarre lateral at the goal line, and DE Justin Smith's strip of Maclin from behind, which was the final nail in the coffin.

The defense didn't have any answers either. RB Frank Gore got it going during the second half, finishing with 127 yards on 15 carries and putting six on the scoreboard. Jamar Chaney couldn't keep up with TE Vernon Davis on another Frisco scoring play, a consistent issue for this unit going all the way back to the merger it seems. And Juan Castillo dialed up an ill-timed blitz that left a wide-open WR Josh Morgan waltz into the end zone.

Frankly, I'm tired of tapping away about the same issues week after week. Four quarters. 60 minutes. Sloppy. Inconsistent. It's all of that, but at some point, it's more.

The 49ers are not that good, and the Eagles clearly have more talent -- just like they arguably have more talent than either the Falcons or Giants. The difference at the moment, as far as I can tell, is those are better teams.

Right now, much as it pains me to admit it, the Eagles aren't any better than the 49ers -- or anybody else. The only positive is there is still time to turn the ship around, but we're starting to run out of evidence that they can or will.

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Today's lineup: Jorge Alfaro makes second straight start

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is making his second straight start after Saturday's 10-8 win.

Alfaro, the Phillies' top catching prospect, has gone 0 for 11 with a walk in his three career starts, all coming in the last two weeks since he was called up. Alfaro was acquired in the Cole Hamels trade last July and is 1 for 13 with a walk in five games. 

The 23-year-old will catch Jake Thompson in a game that means a lot more to the Mets (1:10/CSN).

Giving Alfaro playing time allows Phillies fans the chance to get a glimpse of the future. Roman Quinn has received plentiful playing time after was called up in the mid-September and Alfaro, like Quinn, is trying to leave an impression on the Phillies' brass before spring training.

Quinn is not in the lineup on Sunday as Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche man the corner outfield spots. Freddy Galvis moved up to second in the lineup after staying in the bottom half of the lineup in recent games.

Ryan Howard will bat fifth, playing likely his final game at Citi Field with the Phillies. While he has batted just .203 in 52 career games at Citi Field, he alos has 11 home runs there after smashing 12 homers at Shea Stadium, the Mets' previous stadium.

Here's the full lineup that will oppose Robert Gsellman and the Mets.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cody Asche, LF
7. Aaron Altherr, RF
8. Jorge Alfaro, C
9. Jake Thompson, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

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