Eagles finally win at home, move into first place in the NFC East

Eagles finally win at home, move into first place in the NFC East

412 days had passed since the Eagles last won at Lincoln Financial Field—10 games and over a full calendar year. The Birds finally gave the home crowd a reason to cheer on Sunday though, their 24-16 victory over Washington ending the losing streak and catapulting Philadelphia into first place in the NFC East.

The Eagles’ record improved to 6-5, already two wins more than they had in all of 2012. They’re above .500 for the first time since Week 1 of this season. Best of all, they now own a half-game lead over idle Dallas for tops in the division.

Similar to their first meeting against Washington, the Eagles raced out to a big lead, going up 24-0 through 36 minutes of action. In fact, the Birds took a shutout into the fourth quarter until Robert Griffin III began mounting a desperate comeback.

Griffin sprung Washington’s offense with a 62-yard catch-and-run to fullback Darrel Young, a fortuitous play that was broken open by a collision between Patrick Chung and Trent Cole down the field. Griffin later found wide receiver Aldrick Robinson for a 41-yard score, an underthrown pass that Roc Carmichael failed to turn around and defend. A pair of two-point conversion made it a one-possession game.

Yet it would prove too little, too late for Washington. Their final drive would start at their own 4-yard line following a 70-yard punt from Donnie Jones. Griffin moved his offense into scoring position, but foolishly heaved a prayer that was intercepted by Brandon Boykin in no-man’s land in the game’s final minute.

RG3 never looked like himself. Washington had just eight net passing yards through three quarters, as Griffin seemed hesitant to throw the football. Much of the time, he was taking off or eating sacks, and even once he started to let loose in the fourth quarter, he missed several throws.

Griffin completed less than 50 percent of passes (17/35) for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He was sacked four times, including a strip by Connor Barwin that was recovered by Fletcher Cox.

The Eagles also contained Alfred Morris, the NFL's third-leading rusher entering the week. Morris finished with 93 yards on 22 carries.

It was the seventh week in a row the Eagles’ defense held their opponent to 21 points or less, the ninth time in 11 games. It was all the more impressive considering the trio of starters that was out for the Birds. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Earl Wolff were all inactive due to injuries.

Philly's offense got the job done as well, led of course by Nick Foles who still has yet to throw an interception this season. Foles connected on 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards. He also ran a whopping nine times for 47 yards and a touchdown. He may not be fast, but he takes what the defense is willing to give him.

Gritty performance for LeSean McCoy too, who went down late in the second half with an apparent hamstring injury. It didn’t appear to slow him any after halftime, as Shady finished with 150 total yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns. The All-Pro back had his second strong game in a row, and eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the season.

DeSean Jackson led Eagles receivers with four receptions for 82 yards on four targets. The two-time Pro Bowler is just 15 yards from surpassing the 1,000-yard milestone himself.

Overall, it was another great team performance for the Birds, their winning streak now at a season-high three games. Now they’ll have a bye week for some dinged-up players to get healthy.

It’s not always pretty, but you have to feel good about the fact that this team is getting the job done. Everything seems to be firing on all cylinders, and a playoff berth seems like an increasingly real possibility for this squad. The way they’re playing right now, they could really make some noise.

We've moved past them simply getting in. The question is becoming how far can they go?

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points (at the time of this posting), and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

Editor's Note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

The improvements have been obvious for the 76ers this season. Just months removed from a franchise-worst 10-72 record, the Sixers have begun to see return on their rebuild with rookie Joel Embiid leading the charge.
 
December will be a big month for the team as it looks to rise in the Eastern Conference. Attending an upcoming game won’t come attached with big ticket prices, either. With several marquee opponents headed to Wells Fargo Center over the next four weeks, including the Lakers, Celtics and Raptors, fans can find relatively inexpensive ticket prices on the resale market all month long.
 
On TicketIQ, a ticket search engine that pools tickets and data from over 90 percent of the resale market, the average resale price for 76ers tickets in December is just $58. That makes December among the cheapest months to see the Sixers this season.

 
With the Lakers in town for a December 16 game, it will be the only 76ers home game this month that commands an average resale price above $100. On TicketIQ, 76ers vs Lakers tickets own a $112 average and the most inexpensive are listed from $27 each. It will be the Lakers’ sole visit to Philadelphia this season.
 
The Celtics will be the Sixers’ second most expensive opponent this month, but their December 3 visit is currently averaging nearly half the price the Lakers are seeing when they’re in town two weeks later. As it stands now the average resale price for tickets against the Celtics is $69 with a get-in price of $13.
 
The Nets, Pelicans and Raptors are all generating similar demand for their respective stops in Philadelphia later this month. With all three teams visiting over a six-day period between December 14 and 20, no game will average over $55 on the secondary market. Tickets start from as low as $7 each to when Anthony Davis and the Pelicans come to town on the 20th.
 
For those fans with interest in attending the most inexpensive games at Wells Fargo Center this month, the struggling Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets will serve as the most affordable opponents to see in action in December. The Magic play the Sixers on Friday night, where last-minute 76ers vs. Magic tickets are averaging $43. Their next home game against the Nuggets have an average resale price of just $35.