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.

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).