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?

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

No. 24 Penn State at Purdue: Nittany Lions seek 1st road win

Penn State (5-2, 3-1) vs. Purdue (3-4, 1-3)
Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday, noon, ABC/ESPN2

Scouting Penn State
The Lions upended the Buckeyes, 24-21, when safety Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and cornerback Grant Haley returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The Lions, who rallied from a 21-7 deficit after three quarters, earned their third straight victory.

Allen and Haley were named Big Ten co-Special Teams Players of the Week, and linebacker Brandon Bell, who had a career-high 19 tackles in the game, earned the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Running back Saquon Barkley has rushed for 681 yards, fifth most in the Big Ten, and is tied for the conference lead in touchdowns with nine.

Scouting Purdue
Purdue fell to Nebraska last week in the debut of Boilermakers interim coach Gerad Parker, who replaced the fired Darrell Hazell on Oct. 16. Quarterback David Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yardage (2,065) and total offense (300.7 yards per game), and has thrown 14 touchdown passes (albeit with 11 interceptions).

The Boilermakers are, however, last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (120.3), total defense (441.0), turnover margin (minus-8) and red-zone offense (15 for 23, 11 touchdowns) and next to last in rushing defense (249.0) and passing efficiency.

The Lions lead 13-3-1 and have won the last seven meetings, the most recent a 45-21 victory in 2013.

Storyline to watch
This is the ultimate trap game for PSU, and the Lions’ approach to it will say a lot about their leadership and maturity. They have also dropped their last four road games dating back to last season, including both this fall. Their last victory away from home came last Oct. 24, against Maryland in Baltimore.

What’s at stake
The Lions can become bowl-eligible with a victory.

Penn State 35, Purdue 21

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.