Eagles-Dolphins: The Beat Goes On

Eagles-Dolphins: The Beat Goes On

Doomsday is on the horizon. One more loss, and the Eagles are mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Will the clock strike zero on their dreams today in Miami?

Even Michael Vick may not be able to save us now.

The Dolphins are only 4-8, same as the Birds, but trending in the opposite direction. Miami has one of the hottest teams in football, winning four of their last five, and losing by no more than three points in any of their last seven. On the flip side, Philadelphia has dropped four of their last five, and were crushed in their last two. If you are a strong believer in momentum as a decisive factor, the Eagles have no chance.

The big change for the Fins is they started winning the turnover battle. Through the first five weeks, they had a differential of -7. Since then, they are +3, playing a much smarter brand of football.

Matt Moore replaced Berks County native Chad Henne at quarterback when the starter suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4, a change that may have been for the better. Moore doesn't post huge yardage totals, but he manages the game. He's thrown nine touchdowns to just two interceptions in his last seven starts, including a pair of three-touchdown afternoons.

The Dolphins were also able to locate their running game, which was missing in action earlier in the season. Reggie Bush, Miami's big free-agent splash this summer, has been picking it up, and had his first 100-yard rushing day of the season in last week's win over Oakland. With two more carries, he'll establish a career-high in attempts in arguably his best season to date.

It's not an explosive offense, but it's enough to keep them in games because nothing comes easy against their defense. The Dolphins are fifth in the NFL, allowing 18.3 points per game. They are fifth against the run, and while their weakness is in the secondary, they have a solid pass rush anchored by Penn State product Cam Wake.

But don't shut the book on the Eagles' season just yet. They do have one particular advantage that should not go overlooked. Their last game was on Thursday, giving them three extra days to prepare for the Dolphins. It's similar to a bye week, and we all know Andy Reid's record after a week off. Considering what's on the line, it would be a surprise to see his team come out flat.

Although a win may not necessarily wind up helping the Birds. They need lots of help from Dallas and New York, and even though both seem willing to pitch in, all either one of them needs to do is reach nine wins regardless of what the Eagles do. Dallas needs two, and the Giants need three -- but they play each other twice. That's tough.

So maybe you're even rooting for a Philly loss today, improving April's draft position, and worsening the situation for a certain head coach. One way or the other, the season marches forward.

Injury Report
The Eagles have everybody available today. Jeremy Maclin was downgraded to questionable yesterday, but Reuben Frank tweets the wide receiver will play. Likewise, the Dolphins have no significant injuries.

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.  

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award, and the first Eagle to win the award since Jeremy Maclin in Week 9 of the 2014 season.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.