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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Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”