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.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”