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?

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until October 6 if not October 8, the final exhibition game. 

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

Carson Wentz By the Numbers: Not much precedent for this success

The way Carson Wentz is playing, we may have to make this a regular feature.

Generally, when an Eagles quarterback plays lights out, we pull out the [Insert Name Here] By the Numbers.

We did it for Nick Foles after his seven-touchdown game against the Raiders, we did it for Sam Bradford a couple times late last year, we did it for Michael Vick a couple times during his hot 2010 season.

With Wentz? This might have to happen every week.

He's been that good.

So here is this week's Carson Wentz By the Numbers. Don't be surprised if you see it again very soon.

• Wentz is the first rookie in NFL history to have a game in which he completed 74 percent of his passes with 300 yards, two or more touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also only the fourth Eagle to have such a game. Randall Cunningham did it against the Giants in 1988, Donovan did it four times (in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007) and Nick Foles did it against the Raiders with his historic seven-TD game in 2013.

• Wentz is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more passes with no interceptions in each of his first three career games.

• Wentz’s 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles was the longest touchdown pass by an Eagles rookie since John Reaves' 77-yarder to Harold Carmichael against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in 1972.

• Wentz is only the second quarterback in NFL history to be 3-0 three games into his rookie year. The other one is former Eagle and current Cowboy Mark Sanchez, who opened his career in 2009 with wins over the Texans, Patriots and Titans. Sanchez then lost six of his next seven starts.

• Wentz is the fourth quarterback to win his first three NFL starts (not necessarily as rookies). That list includes Wentz, Sanchez, 35-year-old Dieter Brock of the Rams in 1985 (who had played a decade in the CFL) and Marc Bulger of the Rams in 2002 (in his third NFL season).

• Among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes in their career, Wentz now has the second-highest passer rating in NFL history at 103.8. He trails only Aaron Rodgers’ 104.0 figure. The only other quarterback over 100 is Russell Wilson, at 101.1.

• Wentz’s 125.9 passer rating Sunday against the Steelers is highest ever by an Eagles rookie. The previous high was A.J. Feeley’s 114.0 mark against Tampa in 2001. But Feeley didn’t start that game. So the previous high by a rookie Eagles starter was John Reaves’ 105.7 rating against the Browns in 1972.

• Wentz has already tied Mike Boryla’s franchise record for most wins by a rookie quarterback. Boryla won three games in 1974. Since then, Eagles rookie quarterbacks were a combined 5-21.  

• Wentz’s 102 pass attempts without an interception are the most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three games. Second-most are Dak Prescott’s current streak of 99 attempts. The record before Wentz and Prescott came along was 86 by Chad Hutchinson of the Cowboys in 2002.

• It was widely reported that Wentz had broken the NFL record for most pass attempts without an interception to begin a career at 102. But he actually has the second-longest streak. Tom Brady began his career with 147 attempts without an interception before getting picked off by safety Eric Brown of the Broncos in his seventh career game.  

• Wentz's 103.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history by a quarterback three games into his rookie year. His trails only Greg Cook of the Bengals (111.9 in 1969) and Marcus Mariota of the Titans (110.3 last year). Robert Griffin III (103.5 with the Redskins in 2012) and Jacky Lee (102.5 with the Oilers in 1960) are the only other quarterbacks over 100 after Week 3 of their rookie season (based on a minimum of 50 attempts).

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