Giant Disappointment: Mistakes Cost Eagles Another Fourth Quarter Lead

Giant Disappointment: Mistakes Cost Eagles Another Fourth Quarter Lead

What can you say after this one? The New York Giants end their six-game losing streak against Philadelphia, defeating the Eagles 29-16.

Mistakes doomed the Birds yet again. Dropped passes killed a drive and resulted in a turnover. Missed tackles extended drives, and resulted in a huge touchdown. Mental lapses and untimely penalties led to one momentum-stealing play after another. A questionable coaching decision also proved costly.

Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy -- that's been the theme for the 2011 Eagles through the first three games, and it's already cost them dearly in two of them. This team could easily be sitting pretty at 3-0. Instead they are at 1-2, and staring at an uphill climb just to get back into the playoff picture, their starting quarterback possibly out for several weeks.

For the second week in a row, Vick failed to complete a game, and this time, it looks like he could miss a considerable amount of time. Today it was a broken right hand -- his non-throwing hand -- that sidelined him in the second half. The injury appeared to occur when DT Chris Canty pushed him to the turf after the ball was thrown.

Vick did re-enter the game briefly after the injury, but eventually the decision was made to pull him permanently. Mike Kafka replaced him when the Eagles were down two, and promptly threw an interception deep down the right sideline on his very first snap.

Kafka did not look nearly as good in relief as he did last week, but he was far from the primary reason the Eagles fell short. They simply left too many plays on the field.

The Giants scored touchdowns on two big plays to go ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.

First, Casey Matthews failed to recognize a play-action pass from his new outside linebacker position, allowing RB Brandon Jacobs to slip out of the backfield unchecked for a 40-yard catch and run to go up seven.

Later, Kurt Coleman would fail to wrap up WR Victor Cruz on a simple, short out pattern. Instead of the play ending for minimal gain, Cruz escaped up the sideline, made Nnamdi Asomugha whiff on a tackle, and bounced for 74 yards to give New York a commanding 14-point lead.

The Birds managed to get back into the game, largely in thanks to LeSean McCoy, their lone bright spot on the afternoon. McCoy carried 24 times for 128 yards and a touchdown, much of that coming in the first half.

The offense was out of sync though. They were forced to settle for field goals far too often, with Alex Henery putting three though the uprights. One of the attempts came after the Eagles attempted four plays from the Giants goal line, but were somehow unable to punch any of them in the end zone.

Vick was also intercepted in the opening quarter when Steve Smith tipped a catchable ball in the air, and DeSean Jackson added a key drop on third down in the third quarter.

Yet the biggest blunder of all though may have come from the sidelines, when Andy Reid opted to go for it on fourth down in a questionable situation.

After pulling ahead by two, the Eagles were faced with 4th and 1 on New York's 43 yard line and under 12 minutes remaining. They could have punted and made the Giants drive the length of the field, but instead McCoy was stuffed in the backfield, giving Eli Manning and company a short field.

Seven plays later, Eli hooked up with Cruz again, this time out-jumping Asomugha and Jarrad Page to haul in a 24-yard touchdown passes, and give their team the lead for good. They completed a two-point conversion to go up 22-16 after a Philadelphia penalty gave them a second chance.

Following Kafka's first pick, the Giants drove again, but would have settled for three. However, penalties reared their ugly head once more, as the Eagles jumped offsides on the kick. New York would then finish their march down the field, with RB Ahmad Bradshaw taking an 18-yard screen pass to the house to seal the deal.

Again, what can you say? The natural instinct is to blast the familiar problem areas, but the issue has been with consistency moreso than individuals. Nnamdi Asomugha made poor plays on touchdown passes as much as Casey Matthews and Kurt Coleman did. DeSean Jackson and Steve Smith dropped crucial passes as much as the offensive line failed to get enough push in short yardage or Mike Kafka threw interceptions.

This is a team that, pardon the reference, is shooting itself in the foot. They're not bad. In fact, in many aspects, they look quite good. The Eagles simply aren't playing 60 minutes of quality football.

And now they are 1-2.

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!

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.