Eagles Take Step Backwards, Lose to Falcons

Eagles Take Step Backwards, Lose to Falcons

If Juan Castillo's dismissal was supposed to light a fire in the locker room, then it was unsuccessful. If it was intended to correct problems on defense, Todd Bowles appeared to have the exact opposite effect.

After holding opponents to 18.8 points per game through six weeks, the Eagles' defense gave up 30 on Sunday. After losing fourth-quarter leads in consecutive games, and seven times over the past two seasons, they surrendered six scoring drives on the first six possessions.

They were a no-show up until the final minutes, or just long enough to tell the remaining home crowd, "Thanks for coming."

Matt Ryan was a surgeon, hitting on 22 of 29 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, while Julio Jones caught five balls for 123 yards, including a 63-yard score. The duo led the undefeated Atlanta Falcons to a 30-17 victory, dropping the Eagles to 3-4.

The game was not nearly as close as the scoreboard would indicate though.
The Falcons were ahead 14-0 in the opening period, 24-7 at the half, and 30-10 at one point in the fourth quarter. They were unstoppable in the early goings, converting on seven straight third downs, ultimately reaching the end zone on their first three possessions.

The Eagles won the coin toss and deferred, sending Atlanta on a methodical, 18-play march that chewed almost nine minutes of clock. Following an ugly three-and-out, the Falcons made the most of excellent field position around midfield. The Eagles matched with six of their own, but Ryan quickly came back with the deep strike to Jones.

Atlanta also went 66 yards in under three minutes to sneak a field goal before halftime.

With the league's 30th-ranked scoring offense entering the week, the Eagles predictably were not up for a shootout -- least of all in wet, windy conditions. By the time the defense finally forced their first punt of the afternoon, it was going to take a Michael Vick miracle to steal a W.

He didn't have it him. Vick was 21 of 35 with a TD and zero turnovers, but only averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, and was under an increasing amount of pressure late in the game. LeSean McCoy was stifled for much of the day as well, carrying 16 times for 45 yards, but added rushing and receiving scores.

It was far from a quality performance by the offense, but dropped in a hole at the very start, it was almost an impossible situation. The Eagles only had three meaningful possessions in the first half, and by then they were already trailing by 17.

It turns out Bowles didn't work like some magic pill that promises to transform any defense into Gang Green in just two weeks or your money back. It was only one game, but they actually regressed, even looked like they had quit by the end. It was enough to make anybody wonder if firing Castillo backfired.

That's not good for Reid, who went into the bye with some major issues on offense, and some troubling trends on defense, but appears to have exited the bye with the same issues on offense, and wholesale problems on defense.

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

The treasure trove that is Joel Embiid's social media presence unearthed another jewel on Saturday evening.

The Sixers' big man took to Instagram to post a picture of himself chatting with local folk legend Sam Hinkie. As if that wasn't enough, check out the captions he wrote at the bottom.

THE GOAT #HeDiedForOurSins #TrustTheProcess

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Let us break this down.

"THE GOAT" - As in Greatest Of All Time, not an actual goat you would find at your local petting zoo.

"#HeDiedForOurSins" - St. Sam, patron saint of analytical basketball martyrdom.

"#TrustTheProcess" - The rallying cry of the masses.

Sure, they may have taken away Sam, but they'll never take away JoJo's social media platforms. Never!

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

ap-cj-sapong-union.jpg
Associated Press

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

MONTREAL  -- Didier Drogba broke out with a hat trick to lead the Montreal Impact to a 5-1 victory over the Union on Saturday night.

The 38-year-old Ivorian striker hadn't scored since May 28. He returned last week after missing three games with a thigh injury.

Ignacio Piatti returned after sitting out a one-game suspension to score a goal and add two assists. Recent signing Matteo Mancuso, who went in for Drogba in the 79th minute, got his first MLS goal in added time.

Montreal improved to 7-5-8.

Chris Pontius scored for Philadelphia (8-7-6).

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The good news for the Phillies on Saturday was that it finally seems All-Star Odubel Herrera's bat is returning to its typical, productive form.

The centerfielder had his second straight three-hit game Saturday as he continued to pull out of his slump, though it wasn’t enough to keep the Phillies from losing 7-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).

Yet Herrera’s suddenly hot bat gave the Phillies some reason to feel good on a day when another player who the organization believes can be a foundation player backslid. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-9) took the loss as he allowed six runs and six hits in four-plus innings.

The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

“When he’s at his best, he has control of all his pitches,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s lost his control and he needs to a find a way to get it back.”

However, Herrera improved to 6 for 9 in the series by going 3 for 4 with a triple, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He had been 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games before coming to Pittsburgh, a skid that dropped his batting average to .281 from .300.

“It was getting pretty ugly for about a week there, so it feels good to get some hits,” Herrera said. “That’s my job, to get hits, be successful and help the team win. I really don’t go into too many slumps, so it’s hard to try to fight your way through it and stay positive. When I get a hit, I am happy.”

Herrera is now hitting .290 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 98 games.

There had been a school of thought that making his first All-Star Game appearance July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego might have had an effect on the 24-year-old. The schedule for the players during the festivities is basically non-stop for two days and then Herrera had to fly across the country to rejoin the Phillies in Philadelphia for the second half of the season.

“I was concerned it might have an effect on him,” Mackanin said. “It was the first time he had participated in an even of that magnitude and it can be hard to refocus after that.”

Herrera, though, said he is not sure how much being an All-Star played into his cold spell.

“Maybe it did,” Herrera said. “It was a busy couple of days there. I don’t know what to compare it to because I hadn’t been before. Obviously, I didn’t have the same chance to rest as a lot of other players, so it could have had an effect. However, playing in the All-Star Game was a great experience and I am glad I had a chance to be there.”

If Herrera plays like he has the last two games, Herrera figures to appear in more Midsummer Classics before his career is through.

“He has the ability to win a batting title,” Mackanin said. “He’s that good of a hitter. He’s a smart hitter. When pitchers start adjusting to him, he adjusts back. I only see him getting better.

“Then you throw in that he played a heckuva center field and it’s just an impressive total package."