Preseason Report: Eagles Defeat Pittsburgh in Entertaining Preseason Game... Really!

Preseason Report: Eagles Defeat Pittsburgh in Entertaining Preseason Game... Really!

The Good

Making a Good First Impression

Most of the rookies were impressive in their first NFL action, but none more so than Nick Foles. Normally when the starters come out of a preseason game, you can tune out and feel comfortable knowing you're not going to miss too much. With the Steelers leading the Eagles 13-0 going into the locker room on Thursday night, that was pretty much my mindset the rest of the game. Watch the second half casually, you can always go back and review it again later for your notes.

Wrong. Foles turned this into one of the most exciting Eagles preseason games I can remember.

The third-round pick entered the game in the third quarter, looking fairly crisp for two series, but to no avail. Apparently the third time is the charm for Foles. Following a Steelers punt, Foles dropped back on first down and scanned the field. With pressure in his face, he escaped the pocket, but was composed enough to keep his head up. It paid off with his first NFL touchdown pass.

Foles found Damaris Johnson wide open 45 yards away and connected, with Johnson running the rest of the way to complete the 70-yard scoring play. Following another punt, on his very next pass Foles went deep again, this time hitting Mardy Gilyard at the pylon for a 44-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Eagles led 14-13. The action went back and forth the rest of the night until Alex Henery drilled a 51-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining to steal a 24-23 victory.

Foles stole the show, but the class of 2012 was on full display. While only credited with a tackle assist, Fletcher Cox looked strong, forcing a couple of runs to go east-west. Mychal Kendricks wasn't tested vertically, but showed tremendous instincts and wound up with four solo tackles. Vinny Curry looked strong against the run going against Pittsburgh's twos, notching five tackles. Brandon Boykin added a 46-yard kick return. And Dion Lewis may have some serious competition from Bryce Brown, who looks quick and powerful, finishing with 33 yards on three carries and two receptions for 16.

Opposing Quarterbacks, Beware

The Eagles were without Jason Babin and Trent Cole on Thursday night, a duo on the edges that combined for 29 sacks a season ago. No matter. The front four had little trouble getting pressure on Steelers quarterbacks, particularly defensive ends Philip Hunt, Brandon Graham, and Darryl Tapp. The three of them combined for 3.5 sacks, and generally harassed the passer any time he stood in the pocket for longer than two seconds.

It's worth noting the Steelers were starting a rookie left tackle, who Hunt abused for two sacks and a strip on his own. Regardless, those guys got the job done.

Wrapping Up

One more thing I liked about the defense was there weren't a ton of missed tackles by the first teamers. No doubt we could go back and find a couple, but generally speaking, when a defender had a clean shot at the ball carrier, he either brought him to the turf, or corralled him until the rest of the unit swarmed. There are obviously still a few kinks to work out, but that much was a good sign.

The Bad

I Don't Even Have Dish

Thanks to thunderstorms in the area, there was a roughly 10-minute interruption to my feed of the game, so I missed two series in their entirety -- including Vick's second act. What I saw of his first trip wasn't the worst. He checked down for a short gain on first down, then had to eat the ball on third. The Eagles were in max protection on the sack, but Pittsburgh didn't blitz, and it appeared Vick couldn't find anybody open.

I can't speak for his next outing, but obviously Vick injured his thumb on center Jason Kelce's helmet. X-rays are negative, which is positive, but that (injury) more than anything else is what we don't need to see from Vick.

This Run

I could drive my car through that hole. Went 33 yards, setting up Pittsburgh's first touchdown.

Still?

Three plays later, the Steelers scored easily when either Nnamdi Asomugha, Jaiquawn Jarrett, or Brian Rolle inexplicably failed to cover a receiver at the goal line. There was another long passing play earlier where it appeared Jarrett was left all alone by the sidelines to cover two receivers. There were a lot of excuses for confusion in the secondary last season, but it won't stand this year. Of course, this is what preseason is for, but they have to clean it up.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).