Eagles Net Dolphins, Keep Slim Playoff Hopes Alive

Eagles Net Dolphins, Keep Slim Playoff Hopes Alive

It began like almost any other Birds game in 2011 -- with a hilarious mistake.

The Eagles' opening drive fizzled out around midfield, forcing a punt. Chas Henry took the snap, then stepped forward into his kick, only to have a white jersey crash into his leg for the block. Until Nate Allen was able to fall on the pigskin, it was all the way back at the Philadelphia 15-yard line. Three plays later, Matt Moore connected with Brandon Marshall in the corner of the end zone, with Nnamdi Asomugha showcasing his increasingly unimpressive ball skills nearby.

And just like that, the threat was over. Despite an underwhelming performance by the Eagles' offense, which managed to rack up 239 total yards, a 24-point burst in the second quarter provided more than enough cushion to get past the Miami Dolphins, who remarkably were even more inefficient. A safety in the fourth quarter sealed the 26-10 victory, moving Philadelphia up to 5-8, and lurking in the shadows of the NFC East.

Despite holding the Miami offense to 204 yards and forcing three turnovers, we don't want to give the defense too much credit. The Dolphins lost two offensive lineman during the course of the game, including former first overall pick and Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long. Protection breakdowns became commonplace, and before long, Moore was knocked out of the game as well.

Any fourth-quarter comebacks were going to be led by J.P. Losman, who did not prove to be up for the task.

The Eagles wound up finishing the game with nine sacks. Jason Babin had three, bumping him up to 15 on the season, surpassing his personal best. Trent Cole added two, putting him at nine -- one away from his fourth double-digit total in five seasons. Rookies Brian Rolle, Casey Matthews, and Philip Hunt all had the first sacks of their professional careers, Hunt's responsible for adding two points to the scoreboard.

Babin also stripped Moore, his third forced fumble of the season. Asante Samuel also knocked a ball free from Davone Bess, and dove on it for his own recovery as well. Kurt Coleman added an interception on an errant pass by Moore, which the safety returned to the two yard-line.

The turnovers were the difference. The Eagles posted 17 points off of the possession changes, swinging the momentum once and for all in the second quarter. Little more than a minute and a half after punching in his first score, LeSean McCoy carried the rock across the goal line for his second TD of the game following Coleman's INT. Shady now stands one rushing touchdown from tying Steve Van Buren's franchise record 16, as well as one TD behind the total mark.

McCoy otherwise did not have a very strong game though. He wound up carrying a whopping 27 times, but somehow only gained 38 yards. The Dolphins D was successful at clogging running lanes, but far too often McCoy danced and ran backwards, apparently taking those Barry Sanders comparisons to heart. Seriously, roughly half of his attempts seemed to result in a loss of yards.

Michael Vick wasn't much better in his return to action. Number seven went 15-for-30 for 208 yards, a TD, and a pick. He only ran twice for nine yards, but as usual, he took a ton of shots. He didn't quite seem 100-percent, slow to get up on a few, but remained in the huddle for the entire game.

In other words, if you were looking for an afternoon that would inspire confidence in a miracle post-season run, this probably won't do it. After all their injuries, Miami was working at a major disadvantage, and after all, they are just the Dolphins. It's not like the Eagles went out and beat a great team this afternoon.

But a win is a win at this point. Unless you're rooting for draft positioning. In that case, sort of a bummer, eh?

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski lead Sharks past rival LA Kings, 3-2
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in overtime to lead Oilers past Panthers 4-3
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."