The 700 Level's 10 least-favorite Philly losses (and 25 favorite wins) of 2013

The 700 Level's 10 least-favorite Philly losses (and 25 favorite wins) of 2013

It wasn't long ago that our year-end lists of best and worst Philly games of the year were chock full of things like playoff clinchers, post-season upsets, and crushing losses when a championship legitimately seemed in reach. Sad to say, the stakes for sports in the city of Philadelphia were a lot lower in 2013, a calendar year in which none of our professional teams reached the second season, or even came particularly close to doing so.

Still, even in a year with no playoffs (March Madness aside), there were plenty of highs and lows to experience in the City of Brotherly Love--miracle comebacks, fluky beast performances, inspiring wins that made it all worthwhile and gut-punching losses that made you wonder why you even bother. You don't need the post-season to remind you of everything you love and hate about being a Philly sports fan.

That said...you can probably slot Sunday's game against the Cowboys in at #1 on either list pretty automatically, depending on what happens. But until then, here are The 700 Level's top 25 wins and bottom ten losses of the 2013 Philly sports season.

[Top 25 favorite wins post here]

WORST LOSSES:

10. Aaric Murray hangs 48 on Temple, Dec. 18

Lynn Greer is no longer the all-time record holder for the most points scored in a game at the Liacouras Center. That record now belongs to -- of all people -- La Salle/West Virginia/Texas Southern's Aaric Murray. Murray dropped 48 last Wednesday night as Texas Southern beat Temple, 90-89, at the Apollo. He finished 20 of 28 from the field as his team shot an absurd 59 percent. Murray's 48 points not only broke the building record, but also the all-time record for the most points ever scored by a single player in one game against Temple. To date, no one has scored more in a Division I game this season. Here's some perspective: Temple shot 56 percent from the floor and scored 89 points and lost to a team from the SWAC at home. The Owls have gotten progressively worse defensively every year since Lavoy Allen left, and all that bad team defense culminated in an embarrassing outcome last Wednesday night. If the other team has one guy -- maybe make the four other guys beat you. It worked for the other seven schools that beat TSU. Temple, on the other hand, finds itself in the company of Howard, Wiley and Norfolk State. --N.M.

9. Eagles lose to the Andy Reid-led Chiefs, Sep. 19

Every year when the schedule comes out, Eagles fans circle the dates with the Cowboys and/or Giants, but this year there was another big game on the slate. Departed head coach Andy Reid returned to town with the Kansas City Chiefs eight short months after his firing, and much to Philly’s chagrin, Big Red ended up taking a Gatorade shower. The Birds turned the ball over five times en route to a painful 26-16 loss that had Reid kissing members of the local media and everything—seriously. A sickening sight to behold, not to mention a brutal game no matter the opponent. --A.K.

8. Penguins 5, Flyers 4, Mar. 7

Yep, you guessed it--another one of those kooky Flyers/Penguins games. Except this time, it was the good guys who blew the lead and the evil Pittsburgh hockey empire that came out on top, and it was painful to watch. The Flyers couldn’t be stopped as they put up four goals – two by Jake Voracek and one each by Kimmo Timonen and Zac Rinaldo – to take a 4-1 lead into the game’s first intermission, forcing the Penguins to sub goalie Tomas Vokoun for starer Marc-Andre Fleury to start the second period. The second period was much of the same, except it was the Flyers on the other end of the whitewashing this time. The Pens got a trio of goals and before the Flyers knew it, their lead was gone and the game was tied at 4 heading into the third period. Ilya Bryzgalov took a seat to start the third and Brian Boucher – yes, that Brian Boucher – started the third stanza in net for the Flyers and promptly gave up a go-ahead goal to Chris Kunitz just 18 seconds into the period. The Orange and Black never recovered and fell 5-4. It was an embarrassing loss where the Flyers just stopped playing after the first period when they had a big lead. If you’re still wondering why the Flyers missed the playoffs last season, this game is a telling example of why. --G.P.

7. Halladay-led Phils lose 14-2 to the Marlins, May 5

The toughest part of a very tough season for Phillies fans was watching a Roy Halladay who was very obviously not the same guy who had repped for us as one of the most feared pitchers in baseball for his first two seasons in Philadelphia. His velocity was way down, his command was way off, and his general aura of invincibility had all but disappeared. It all came to a head in a May start against the Marlins--a team Doc had traditionally made fish food out of--in which our one-time ace gave up nine runs in three innings, seven of which were driven in by Adeiny Hechavarria, a light-hitting shortstop prospect who'd go on to slug .298 for the season. We may not have admitted it at the time, but we were pretty much all out of excuses--after an incredible, 15-plus-year, Hall-of-Fame-caliber career, the Doctor was finally out. --A.U.

6. Temple's epic collapse vs. No. 15 UCF, Nov. 16

The football Owls didn't just blow late leads in 2013; they turned the process into an art form. They lost on a semi-Hail Mary to FCS Fordham, failed to convert a late 4th-and-1 at Rutgers before giving up a 33-yard game-winning bomb over the top, and blew a 21-0 halftime lead against UConn. They lost four games by a combined nine points. But it never got any worse than the UCF game. Up 36-29 with 2:04 to play, Temple allowed UCF to march 134 yards, complete 5 of 5 passing attempts and score the game's final 10 points. This J.J. Worton diving, one-handed, 30-yard touchdown that tied the game would have been in the running for catch of the year if not for Auburn's miraculous finish against Georgia the week before its miraculous finish against Alabama. Temple lost, 39-36. UCF will meet Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Temple finished 2-10. N.M.

5. Jrue Holiday goes 2-24 in a Bobcats loss, Apr. 3

You know it's a bad night from the field when even Deadspin is posting video montages of all your FG misses. It's always depressing when you lose to the Bobcats, but Jrue made it historic by taking 24 shots on the night and hitting just two of them--a night of gunning futility that not even the likes of Evan Turner have ever matched. The really incredible thing about it was that the Sixers still ended up losing just 88-83, meaning that if only two of those 22 misses had been converted, the game could have turned out totally differently. At least if Charlotte had managed to blow us out, we could have emotionally divested ourselves from whether or not Jrue's shots were falling, but cruel as the game was, we had to hang on every missed layup, every clanged jumper, every errant floater. It was just one of the many indignities inflicted upon Philly fans in the most brutal Sixers season of recent memory. --A.U.

4. 18-inning loss to the Diamondbacks, Aug. 24

Remember Casper Wells? How about John McDonald? No? Well if you do remember them it's probably because both position players ended up making a pitching appearance in the Phillies 18-inning loss to the Diamondbacks this summer which also happened to be the longest game by time in Phillies history. Wells' night was the most memorable with an 0-7 at the plate in addition to letting up 5 runs on the mound. We'll let Casper's dad have the final word on this one, “I looked at the box score, I almost died. That had to be the worst one-game performance by a baseball player ever.” --E.C.

3. Union consecutive 2-2 draws against FC Dallas & Real Salt Lake, June 29 & July 3

OK, so they weren't exactly "losses," but they sure felt like it. At home against FC Dallas, the Union were just six days removed from an emphatic 3-0 win over New York. Amobi Okugo started things off well with an early goal, before the Union gave one back before the half. PPL Park was euphoric in the 87th minute, when rookie Aaron Wheeler headed home what looked like the game-winner. Then things got wild. Sheanon Williams cleared a ball off the goal line in stoppage time to cement the win. Or so we thought. Minutes later, the Union allowed a long free kick, and then the defense and goalie Zac MacMath made an absolute mess of a loose ball, with MacMath screaming for a foul instead of pulling down the ball. Blas Perez poked it home to tie the game and give the Union one point instead of three.

Four days later, the Union went on the road to powerful Real Salt Lake, a team that eventually reached the MLS Cup Final. Sebastien Le Toux stunned the crowd with an early goal, and RSL took until the 75th minute to tie it up. Just one minute later, Conor Casey shook things up again with a goal that looked like it would give the Union a huge win in a stadium where few earn points. But in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the RSL was awarded a penalty kick, and Javier Morales banged it in off the post to finish the game in a 2-2 draw. --S.M.

2. Eagles back-to-back futility against Cowboys and Giants, Oct. 20 & 27

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a point in the Eagles’ season where serious doubts were beginning to spring up about the viability of Chip Kelly’s offense in the NFL. In back-to-back weeks against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, Nick Foles, Mike Vick and Matt Barkley managed to lead the Eagles to a combined three points. That’s zero offensive touchdowns in 120 minutes. The loss to Dallas was particularly hard, as Foles played the worst game of his pro career, and the Birds missed on their early bid for first place in the NFC East. --A.K.

1. Flyers lose 7-0 to Capitals, Emery starts fight, Nov. 1

Where to even begin here? There’s so much to tackle with this one. The Caps led 1-0 after a rather uneventful period where the only thing of note that happened was that Steve Downie got his face broken in a fight in his first game back as Flyer, an omen of things to come. The Flyers gave up five third period goals and Ray Emery replaced Steve Mason in net. All tolled, it was 6-0 Capitals after 40 minutes. Just over five minutes into the third, Washington kicked the extra point and led 7- 0. After the ensuing faceoff, all hell broke loose when Wayne Simmonds squared off with Washington’s Tom Wilson. While that was going on, Emery raced down the ice and challenged Washington netminder Braden Holtby to a fight. Holtby resisted but Emery didn’t take no for an answer and pummeled Holtby into submission. Brayden Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier found themselves in simultaneous fights and Lecavalier wound up with a facial injury that forced him to miss a game and wear a guard on his helmet for an elongated period.

The Caps won 7-0 but that isn’t what people where talking about afterward. Things were so ugly that even Wheel of Fortune’s Pat Sajak chimed in on twitter. He was greeted with responses like this, this and this (Very NSFW language). Love you, Philadelphia. --G.P.

[Top 25 favorite wins post here]

Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

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Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

Midfielder Derrick Jones has made Union history.

On Wednesday, the club announced Jones, 19, has been signed to the Union first team as a Homegrown Player. Currently playing with the Union’s USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel, Jones is the first Union Academy graduate to make the move from Union Academy to Union first team.

“Derrick’s progression through our system has been quicker than anticipated and it’s evident that he is ready for the next step of his career,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in the team’s official release. “This is a testament to Derrick’s commitment to his trade, and it should be considered a tremendous accomplishment to become the first player to come through our Academy, to Bethlehem Steel, and finally to the first team.”

Jones, who moved to Philadelphia in 2012 from Bantana, Ghana, and worked his way through the Union Academy before joining the Steel in 2016, made his Union debut in a friendly match against Crystal Palace on July 13 at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The 6-foot-3 rangy midfielder, who doesn’t have a set position, showed well playing the entire second half, presenting his on-the-ball poise at the attacking mid position.

“Derrick has now set the benchmark for every player in our youth system,” Stewart said. “That there is a pathway to the professional level, and that it is achievable if you remain committed to your goals.”

Jones is the first Union homegrown signing since 2012. Homegrown status means the player avoids being submitted into the MLS SuperDraft. The Union Academy has been around since 2013 and is located at the YSC Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 

“I’m delighted that Derrick is our first and that the work of our staff has come to fruition in this way,” Academy director Tommy Wilson said. “This is a proud moment for Derrick and his family. I would like to congratulate them and everyone else who has played a part in his development.”

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Phillies can be forgiven to some extent for their failure to get consistent production out of their corner outfielders this season. After all, they've been without one of their projected starters since spring training.

The good news is Aaron Altherr is on the verge of returning after missing almost four months with a wrist injury. The 25-year-old reached the final stop of his rehab tour through the Phillies' minor league system Tuesday, going 1 for 3 with a double in a 4-2 victory for the Triple A Ironpigs.

Needless to say, Altherr is feeling better.

"It's going good," Altherr said of his recovery. "It gets a little tight every now and then. Just gotta loosen it up. I'm good to go."

Altherr suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist attempting a diving catch in a Grapefruit League game back in March. The injury was expected to keep the righthander out four-to-six months, possibly even ending his season.

If the current rehab assignment is any indication, it turns out he's about ready to rejoin the Phillies. Through 12 minor league games, which includes stints at Reading, Clearwater and in the Gulf Coast League, Altherr is 13 for 34 (.351) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. He's also walked seven times to six strikeouts and stolen two bases. Yet while clearly enjoying himself, he feels as though he's ready to rejoin the big club.

"It's been fun," Altherr said. "Was just down to (Double A) Reading, good crowd there. It's gonna be another good crowd up here (in Lehigh Valley) I'm sure. I always enjoy going to these places and seeing people again, so it's definitely fun.

"Mentally and physically, I think I'm ready to go. My timing is there. I'm just ready to go and get after it and play some games up there."

As for what he could bring to MLB's 29th-ranked offense, which too often this season has seen little impact from its corner outfielders, Altherr will do what he can to provide a spark for the Phillies.

"I hope so," Altherr said. "I'm not gonna try to do too much though. I'm just gonna go up there and do what I know I can do and hopefully help out the team any way I can."

A ninth-round draft pick in 2009, Altherr got his first serious look with the Phillies last year, batting .241 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 39 games. It wasn't nearly enough to anoint the German-born prospect as part of the franchise's rebuilding effort, but the organization was hoping to use 2016 to evaluate his potential as an everyday player.

"I wouldn't say missed opportunity," Altherr said about the poor timing of his injury. "Things like this happen. I'll get back stronger than ever and show what I can do. It is what it is. I've worked hard every day and tried to get back as fast as I could."

He's right, of course. It's not like all is lost in that sense. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel have had their moments, but none has cemented his role moving forward. Outside of likely September call-up Nick Williams posting quality numbers at Triple A, there isn't exactly a long line of players knocking down the door for one of those two spots.

"There's always going to be competition no matter where you are in life, so I definitely don't really think about it too much," Altherr said. "I just have to go out there and control what I can control and play the way I know I can play."

Altherr's opportunity is coming any day now. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete who also happens to be a plus-defender could bring a lot to the mix for the Phillies right now. It may be too late to find out this year if he has a long and bright future with the club, but he could certainly provide some excitement down the stretch.

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

Jim Schwartz: Eagles' defense 'rather attack than read'

For all his talk about schemes and technical minutiae, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s coaching philosophy is pretty simple.

“In a nutshell, we want to allow less points than our offense scores," Schwartz said. "Rankings, stats — the only thing that matters in this league is wins and losses. I’ll take a 42-41 game; I might not sleep well afterwards, but I’ll take it. I’d rather have that than a 7-3 game that you lose.”

That said, Schwartz emphasized his defense’s attack-first mindset after the second day of Eagles training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday (see Day 2 observations).

“We want to be an attack defense,” he said. “We want to put pressure on the quarterback.”

While Schwartz has preferred that style throughout his coaching career, he’s always cognizant of his personnel and what sort of approach best suits them. For the Eagles, he feels that a defense in which the front four is putting pressure on the quarterback and the linebackers and defensive backs are playing aggressively is the perfect system (see story).

“I think [this defense] fits the guys really well here,” Schwartz said. “And I think if you’d ask them, they’d rather attack than read. It puts us in a little better position to rush the passer, it puts us in a little better position to set hard edges. It’s been our philosophy. And I think if you ask offensive coordinators, they’d tell you the same thing — if you can get there with four, you have a big advantage as a defense.”

Schwartz talked extensively about how he’s altered his defense depending on the strengths and weaknesses of his players. Looking at defensive ends in particular, Schwartz explained his ends don’t all line up in an identical “Wide 9” alignment. Rather, he noted that the positioning and technique for the pairings of Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Antwan Odom during his time as defensive coordinator in Tennessee (2001-08) varied considerably from that of Cliff Avril and Ziggy Ansah when he coached Detroit (2009-13), and Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes in Buffalo (2014).

“We try to match the talent that we have to the techniques that we’re asking guys to play,” Schwartz said. “And even here, some of the stuff that Brandon [Graham] is doing is a little different than what Vinny [Curry] is doing.”

As for the Eagles’ biggest offseason decision, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Schwartz is very confident in Cox’s ability to thrive in his defense.

“[Cox] fits our scheme," he said. "I think we have some things for him that should fit him well. He’s a tough matchup; he’s a tough matchup vs. guards, he’s a tough matchup vs. some tackles, and I like some of the stuff that they did with him here last year, moved him around a little bit … it’s our job to create matchups for him.”

Even though Schwartz loves to discuss the details that make his defenses succeed, he understands it’s his job to clearly teach his schemes so that his players are able to react and, of course, attack, instead of thinking excessively on the field.

“We want to put guys in good positions, communicate well, play what fits them, all those things are important to us,” he said. “We’re not trying to set a record for being difficult.”