Nick Foles Enters the Game, Eagles Go on Being the Eagles

Nick Foles Enters the Game, Eagles Go on Being the Eagles

Prayers were finally answered for many football fans throughout
the Delaware Valley on Sunday when Michael Vick exited the Eagles’ game against
the Cowboys with a concussion midway through the second quarter, bringing on
the debut of rookie quarterback and preseason darling Nick Foles. But if you
weren’t paying attention – and judging from our comment section, quite a few of
you weren’t – you may not have noticed a huge difference in the offense’s performance.

Foles came into the game with the score tied at seven, and promptly
led the Birds on a three-and-out, his third-down pass hitting Jason Avant in the
helmet as the wide receiver slipped and hurt his hamstring. That play would become
emblematic of the evening number nine was in store for.

The Eagles went into the locker room trailing 10-7, but
Foles threw his first career touchdown pass on their opening possession of the
third quarter, a 44-yard strike to Jeremy Maclin standing all alone in the end
zone. On their next drive, Foles drove them down the field for an Alex Henery
field goal, pulling ahead 17-10.

Then the 2012 Eagles showed up.

Dallas scored on offense. Then they scored on special
teams. And then again on defense. A seven-point lead turned into a 14-point deficit in under three

The backbreaking score came on Foles’ interception to
Brandon Carr, who returned it 48 yards to the house. Foles was
attempting to hit DeSean Jackson on a slant route, but threw behind his target, the ball bouncing off of his hands and into the air amid a sea of blue
stars. The quarterback was also responsible for another score in the game's final
moments as the Eagles attempted one final desperation drive, losing the rock on
an Anthony Spencer sack-fumble, which was recovered by Jason Hatcher in the end zone
to seal a 38-23 Cowboys win. Philadelphia’s record fell to 3-6 on the season.

Foles finished the game 22 of 32 passing for 219 yards and a
pick, good for a decent 85.3 efficiency rating. He was sacked twice with the
one fumble lost. However, he did take the offense on another scoring drive late in the

By comparison, Vick was 6 of 9 for 70 yards and a score
before he was knocked out, adding seven yards on the ground.

Obviously this loss can’t be pinned on Foles, who played
fairly well behind a patchwork offensive line, especially considering the way
he was thrust into the action. Defense and special teams both contributed to
yet another Eagles collapse.

If nothing else though, Foles’ performance suggested changing
quarterbacks would accomplish little in solving this team’s problems. The
Arizona product showed poise and promise in a difficult situation, which might
make some fans feel better about the future of the franchise. But could Foles have
won this game if he started from the very beginning, or even saved the Eagles
from any losses earlier this year? Most likely no.

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In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).