Freefalling: Eagles Competitive, Lose to Dallas Anyway

Freefalling: Eagles Competitive, Lose to Dallas Anyway

The Eagles set a season high on Sunday with 33 points. Nick
Foles played the best game of his young, professional career, finishing with a
96.6 passer rating. Bryce Brown scored two touchdowns and eclipsed 160 yards
rushing for the second week in a row. Brandon Graham had 1.5 sacks, four QB
hits, and two tackles for loss. Heck, Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards for
a touchdown!

In the end, Tony Romo was still taking a knee, as the Birds
lost a game to the Dallas Cowboys anyway by a 38-33 final.

Despite the sad state of the Eagles’ organization, which
dropped to 3-9 on the year – solidifying their first losing season since 2005 –
they actually gave us an entertaining game on a national stage, never trailing until
late in the fourth quarter. They finally surrendered the advantage with 5:35
remaining on Romo’s third touchdown pass of the night, his second to Dez Bryant.

Then, as things tend to do this season, disaster struck.
Brown’s magnificent effort was once again marred by a turnover, this of the
most costly variety. The rookie back was stripped by Josh Brent on his way to
the ground, the loose ball being scooped up by Morris Claiborne, who returned
it 50 yards for the decisive score.

Brown finished with 24 carries for 169 yards – good for 7.0
yards per carry – plus the two scores, and added four receptions for 14 yards.
The kid clearly has a ton of talent, but it turns out ball security is kind of
important. Let’s hold our horses before we anoint the guy.

That being said, Brown is not on the hook for the loss here.
Once again, Philly’s defense was completely ineffective.

Here is a sampling of the raw numbers. Dallas converted on 9
of 14 third downs – in fact they punted a total of three times. Dallas committed
zero turnovers. Romo completed 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards. He was sacked
twice. Jason Witten had six catches for 108 receiving yards, Bryant had six for
98. Dallas won the time of possession battle by an estimated 33 to 27.

The Eagles’ secondary in particular was embarrassed. I hardly
remember a ball hitting the turf in the second half. Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie especially wanted no part of tackling the Cowboys receivers,
giving a questionable effort on Miles Austin’s 27-yard catch and run in the
third quarter, then later letting Bryant carry him across the goal line for the
go-ahead score in the fourth.

The Cowboys’ running game was more effective than the
numbers indicate as well. Dallas backs carried 30 times for 109 yards, though
DeMarco Murray ran backwards for 11 on his last touch. He finished with 23
rushes for 83 and a score.

If there was a silver lining here, it was Foles, who gave
the Philly faithful some hope the quarterback of the future may be on the
roster after all. Foles completed 22 of 34 attempts for 251 yards and a
touchdown, and perhaps most important, zero picks and just one sack. The scoring play went to Riley
Cooper, a perfect 15-yard strike on a go route to the end zone, which the
third-year receiver hauled in with one hand.

The stats probably don’t do the performance justice. Behind
a patchwork offensive line, with his two most dangerous weapons out of the
lineup, Foles made smart decisions, was mechanically sound, faced the pressure,
and threw good balls. The Eagles were also more efficient in the red zone overall, converting for six on all three trips. It was one game, and the Cowboys’ D have been hammered by
injuries, too, but it was definitely progress.

We can’t say the same for the Eagles as a whole, now losers
of their eighth in a row, which is an amazing number even for one of the worst
clubs in the NFL. Then again, we weren’t really expecting much, were we?

It hurt a little more to lose this game to Dallas, one in
which it looked like the Birds were primed to steal from the opening kickoff.
Yet at the end of the day, they remain on the path toward one of the top picks
in April’s draft. A win would have been nice, but nobody is going to care a
month from now, let alone in a few days.

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Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers, in dire need of a confidence boost, found one at the Barclays Center.

Trailing 2-0 in the second period on Sunday night, the Flyers stormed back to beat the Islanders in overtime, 3-2, and stop some serious bleeding.

Claude Giroux netted the game-winner, his first marker in 13 games.

On Saturday, the Flyers’ return from five days off was unceremonious to say the least, as they lost badly to the Devils, 4-1, after entering their NHL mandated bye week losers in 11 of the last 14 games.

So this was a game they desperately had to have and got it.

The Flyers (23-19-6) picked up just their fourth win since Dec. 17, improving to 4-9-3 since rattling off 10 straight victories, a streak that seems like ages ago.

Speaking of streaks, the Flyers snapped a nine-game losing slide on the road in which they had been outscored, 36-12.

The Islanders (19-17-9) had their three-game winning streak halted. On Tuesday, New York fired its head coach Jack Capuano.

Notable goals
Shayne Gostisbehere converted a nifty wraparound pass to Giroux, who finished the winner.

Ivan Provorov made it all possible with a beautiful play to tie the game at 2-2 less than two minutes into the final stanza. The rookie defenseman took a pass at the blue line and patiently maneuvered by two Islanders before unleashing a shot from the circle that got past Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss off the skate of his own defenseman Adam Pelech.

It marked Provorov’s first goal since he scored two against the Blackhawks on Dec. 3.

Wayne Simmonds kept another game from unraveling when he beat Greiss with 5:50 left in the second stanza. Simmonds gathered a loose puck off the skate of Brayden Schenn and fired it home to trim the deficit to 2-1 and give him his team-leading 19th marker.

"It was a bouncing puck and [Radko Gudas] made a great play and kept it in,” Simmonds said at second intermission. “There were a couple more bounces and I just picked it up and shot it far side and it went in.”

In the first period, Islanders leading scorer John Tavares got things started with a takeaway that resulted in Steve Mason under siege. Tavares, who stripped an Andrew MacDonald pass to Jakub Voracek, went in uncontested on Mason, who denied the shot and follow attempt from Anders Lee. With the puck still loose in the crease and Mason on his side, Ivan Provorov knocked it out but right to Nick Leddy for a clean wrist shot and goal with 6:35 remaining in the opening stanza.

At 4:47 of the second period, Mason was unable to control a rebound and New York took advantage. Alan Quine came in and fluttered the puck over Mason’s shoulders to give the Islanders a 2-0 advantage.

No goal
The Flyers had 33 seconds of 5-on-3 action early in the second period, when they put the puck on Greiss, who couldn’t secure it. It created a mad jumble of bodies at the net but somehow the puck never crossed the goal line. The play was ruled no goal and later confirmed by official review.

The Flyers failed to score later at 5-on-4 and the Islanders used the momentum to extend their lead moments later on Quine’s tally.

Goalie report
Mason, who had not won since Dec. 21, made 36 saves.

He entered with a 4.03 goals-against average over his last 10 appearances but made a number of timely stops, including four in one wild sequence of a New York power play during the third period. He also turned away a Tavares breakaway in the extra session.

Coming off back-to-back shutouts in which he made 55 total saves, Greiss stopped 44 shots. He went to a full split to rob Sean Couturier midway through the second period and stoned Provorov in overtime before allowing the winner.

Power play
The man advantage, which went 0 for 6 on Saturday and was 0 for its last 11 coming in, went 0 for 3.

The Islanders finished 0 for 2.

Penalty kill
Lacking discipline in their first game back from the bye week, the Flyers were forced to go on the penalty kill seven times Saturday, allowing two goals.

On Sunday, the Flyers didn’t allow New York a power play until the final stanza. The Flyers finished 2 for 2 on the PK.

The Islanders stopped all three Flyers power plays.

Hits
Brayden Schenn skated to the bench hunched over after colliding with Josh Bailey in open ice during the second period. Schenn was OK and returned his next shift.

The Islanders outhit the Flyers, 23-12.

Scratches
For the Flyers: Forward Dale Weise, and defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, all healthy.

Defenseman Brandon Manning returned to the lineup after two straight healthy scratches.

For the Islanders: Forwards Andrew Ladd (upper-body injury) and Stephen Gionta (healthy), and defenseman Scott Mayfield (healthy).

Next up
The Flyers follow their back-to-back with another such set. First up are the Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden before the Flyers come home Thursday to face the Maple Leafs, who currently trail the Flyers by a point for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.