It Ain't Over Yet: Eagles Hold On to Lead, Keep Playoff Hopes Intact

It Ain't Over Yet: Eagles Hold On to Lead, Keep Playoff Hopes Intact

And the nightmare ends... at least for a couple weeks.

The Eagles jumped all over Redskins during the first half of Sunday's game in our nation's capital, scoring on four consecutive drives to amass a 20-point lead. They wouldn't score again the rest of the afternoon, but the defense played surprisingly well, doing just enough to withstand a John Beck-led fourth quarter comeback. With their 20-13 victory, the Birds head into the bye week with a 2-4 record, and for the time being have put themselves back in the postseason conversation.

Juan Castillo's defense set the tone early on, a huge departure from recent weeks. Kurt Coleman intercepted Rex Grossman on Washington's first drive, one of the safety's three picks in the game. Michael Vick led the offense on an 82-yard drive, capped with a 7-yard touchdown on a tight end screen to Brent Celek -- who by the way had a big role in the game plan.

Following a three-and-out, the Eagles marched right down the field again, and would eventually find themselves on the goal line. They would not be denied today though, as LeSean McCoy took the handoff and bounced it outside for an easy six, capping a 72-yard possession.

Philadelphia would stall in the red zone on their next two series, but Alex Henery picked up a pair of field goals to extend the lead to 20. However, those finishes proved to be a sign of things to come.

The Eagles could not score in the second half. They moved the ball inside the 20-yard line on their opening possession, but Vick's pass intended for Celek was deflected, and collected by O.J. Atogwe on the 1. Vick was then nicked up on the next series, and Vince Young promptly threw an INT in relief. Vick returned and the offense moved into scoring position, but failed to convert a 4th and 2 from the Skins 32, an area many teams might have opted to go for three. Finally, a pair of drives ended with punts.

Thankfully the defense was up to the task. Grossman was pulled after throwing his fourth interception of the game, and replaced by Beck, a career backup. Ryan Torain managed just 22 yards on 10 carries, as the defense held Washington to a paltry 42 yards on the ground. The pass rush is clearly missing something without Trent Cole, but Mike Patterson and Darryl Tapp each came up with a timely sack.

It was a solid effort all around that indicates they may be starting to gel on the other side of the ball. Coleman obviously played at a high level, and Nate Allen added a pick of his own in his second consecutive strong performance, perhaps solidifying the defensive backfield finally. They did allow 94 yards receiving to tight ends, but most of those came on screens and short swings rather than down the field.

Meanwhile, the offense continues to give an uneven effort, even if there was a lot to like here. LeSean McCoy carried 28 times in a contest where the Birds dominated the time of possession, racking up 126 yards and the score. Maclin was the top receiver with five catches for 101 yards, while Vick had a steady day with 237 yards in the air and another 54 on the ground.

Most importantly, they protected the ball. After turning it over 14 times over the previous four games, it was only the two picks today -- one of which was Young. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot in the red zone, coming away with touchdowns on two of five trips. That needs to get turned around, as we're not sure this defense will hold some of their more offensive-minded opponents to 13 points.

But for today, a win is a win, and there were plenty of positives to take away from this. They protected the ball. They played defense. They limited bone-headed mistakes. Now the Eagles have the bye to continue fixing the things that are still broke, get some key players healthy, and gear up to make the postseason run we all expected.

Yes, a postseason run. If they play more like they did today, that dream is not so far-fetched.

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

Cold can't keep Joel Embiid away from first Sixers practice

STOCKTON, N.J. — Joel Embiid awoke Tuesday morning and was still feeling ill from a cold and virus he has been battling since last Friday. He had been coughing, experiencing a bloody nose and even vomiting, but all those symptoms could not stop him from a day he has been eyeing for over two years: his first NBA practice.

Embiid had stayed back in Philadelphia on Monday night while the Sixers traveled to training camp at Stockton University in South Jersey. On Tuesday, he decided to leave the city and join the team on campus.

“I woke up this morning and I was like, ‘I waited too long for this time, so I’ve got to go and try to do some work in there,’” Embiid said.

Embiid had been sidelined by foot injuries since the Sixers drafted him third overall in 2014. Tuesday marked his first NBA practice, and he is eyeing his first preseason game next Tuesday against the Celtics.

Embiid was not expected to be part of training camp Tuesday because of his illness. He surprised the team when he arrived while practice was underway. The Sixers' medical staff cleared him before he took the court.

“He forced himself into practice today,” head coach Brett Brown said. “He said, ‘I feel good, I want to go.’ With the time that he has put in the last few years, he meant it. You respected that instruction.”

Embiid is following a minutes restriction during training camp, which currently is 25 minutes for the morning session and 20 minutes for the evening session. His previous physical restrictions have been lifted and the team is monitoring him for workload and time on the court.

“I step back and figure out how do I want to spend my money?” Brown said. “If we’ve got X amount of time, where do I feel like he can make the most improvement? Where do I feel like he’s going to have the best chance to get on the court and play minutes, as we expect against the Celtics?”

Tuesday morning’s session focused on the defensive end. While Embiid had trouble breathing at points and tired quickly, he made an effort to give 100 percent on the court. The only lags in Embiid’s game Brown noticed were attributed to his illness, not because of his foot.

“I don’t think he’s missed a beat from a great month of September,” Brown said.

The Sixers sensed the enthusiasm from Embiid. Regardless of his restrictions, his energy was felt among the team.

“When he did get in, he played well,” Ben Simmons said. “He’s a big inside presence. He got a lot of boards and crashed the offensive glass.”

Added Jahlil Okafor: "He’s excited to be here. Obviously, he’s had a couple tough years with his injuries that he couldn’t control. But he’s finally here and he’s taking advantage of that."

The Sixers will hold training camp through Friday at Stockton University. Embiid is looking to push past any symptoms to be on the court as much as he can.

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Nerlens Noel's complaints only damage Sixers' trade leverage

Silence is golden.

It's a phrase uttered often by parents and teachers. It can also be an effective phrase when dealing with negotiations.

I'm not revealing a big secret by saying the Sixers have a logjam in their frontcourt. At some point, something has to give.

Nerlens Noel, a key component of the aforementioned logjam, doubled down on his quotes from over the weekend about the Sixers' "silly" frontcourt situation.

"I don't see a way it can work," Noel said on Monday. "It's just a logjam. You have three young, talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night."

Uh-oh.

Bryan Colangelo acknowledged that teams have been trying to "poach" a big man off him. He's been adamant in saying that he's not shopping any of his bigs. For leverage purposes, that's wise.

Any leverage Colangelo may have accrued through his media tour this summer took a hit. With the health of Joel Embiid still a question mark, it's important that the Sixers take a wait-and-see approach to their situation. Noel may have just put a damper on that plan.

I'm not advocating for the trade of Noel and keeping Jahlil Okafor. In fact, I've said that if Embiid proves he's healthy, I'd move both Noel and Okafor if the value was appropriate.

There can be arguments made for keeping Noel over the other two centers. His athleticism and rim protection skills fit Brett Brown's system and the way the NBA is trending. And it's important to note that Noel isn't wrong. It won't benefit him to take a cut in minutes. It won't help Okafor either. It's not the most pleasant situation to be sure. He has every right to be unhappy, but getting the media involved doesn't benefit Noel or the Sixers.

Anyone in any job should have the right to speak out if they feel they're being slighted, but sometimes you have to "play the game." If Noel were a poker player, he just revealed his hand. He should've shown up, said the right things and allowed Colangelo to negotiate a deal.

The best parallel is what the Eagles and Sam Bradford went through this offseason. Bradford was unhappy the Eagles traded valuable draft picks to acquire Carson Wentz. Understandable, but when he threw his rattle down and sat out part of camp, it helped nobody. The Broncos tried to lowball Howie Roseman, figuring Roseman had no leverage with Bradford's intent to get traded out of town. Roseman stood his ground and the Eagles were able to hold the Vikings hostage when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury.

It's not something you hope for by any means, but these things happen. Players get hurt and teams are left scrambling to find a replacement. Take a look at the Chris Bosh situation with the Miami Heat. Bosh, who's had a tremendous career, will likely never play again because of issues with blood clots. The Heat are likely not a match for the Sixers given defensive-minded center Hassan Whiteside's new contract, but the point is that you never know what will happen between now and opening night.

For Bradford, it was resolved just a week before the season started. If Noel follows suit with Bradford, perhaps there will be a similar solution.

"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around. It's just a tough situation. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner."

Well, Nerlens, you said too much already.