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]

Eagles' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

Eagles' QB-rich support system for Carson Wentz paying dividends

In the wake of the Sam Bradford trade, the Eagles' announcement a week before the opener that Carson Wentz would start Week 1 was met with some skepticism and overwhelmingly tempered expectations.

But it looks like the kid can play.

And the Eagles aren’t just looking smart for drafting and playing Wentz. They’re also looking pretty smart for filling their coaching staff and quarterback room with decades of quarterback experience.

“It's a tight room,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

It’s also a knowledgeable one.

Pederson is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is a former NFL quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo is a former college quarterback and NFL quarterbacks coach. And backup Chase Daniel has been in the league since 2009 and in Pederson’s offense since 2013.

If Wentz has a question, he has plenty of guys to ask. And it seems like this support system, which at one time looked like overkill, might be one of the keys that has allowed the rookie to take the NFL by storm.

“There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt,” the veteran backup Daniel said. “Obviously, he’s a very bright young mind, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the coaching in the quarterback room has played a good part into his maturation and his bringing along so fast. There’s no doubt about it.”

Through three games, Wentz has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's the first rookie in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first three games of a career. Oh yeah, and the Eagles are 3-0.

It’s hard to believe that about a month ago, Wentz was gearing up for a redshirt year as the third quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Daniel. Now, he isn’t just the future franchise quarterback. He is the franchise quarterback.

And Wentz gives his quarterback-heavy coaching staff plenty of credit.

“It’s huge having them,” Wentz said. “I could never say enough how much they understand the game. They get it. They know what it’s like. As a former quarterback, they know what I’m going through and how I’m seeing things, so it’s been huge.”

The Eagles were clearly smitten with Wentz from the time they saw him in Alabama for the Senior Bowl. Eventually, de facto GM Howie Roseman was able to maneuver to the No. 2 pick to draft Wentz.

But Wentz went No. 2 and not No. 1, so it’s almost impossible to not peek over at Los Angeles and see how first overall pick Jared Goff is doing. So far, he isn’t doing much of anything. It doesn’t mean that eventually Goff won’t be a good quarterback, but through three games, he’s been inactive once and hasn’t yet played. The Rams are sticking with Case Keenum for now.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling compared the support system for Goff with the Rams and Wentz's with the Eagles. We’ll take a deeper look into what he started:

Rams
• Head coach Jeff Fisher: Defensive coach

• OC Rob Boras: Never a QB coach; coached tight ends in NFL from 2004-15

• QB Coach Chris Weinke: Former NFL QB for seven seasons; was highly-thought of QB draft guru with IMG academy for four years

• Vet QB Case Keenum: In league since 2012; best QB he's played with is Matt Schaub

Eagles
• Head coach Doug Pederson: 12 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Philly; OC in KC

• OC Frank Reich: 14 years as NFL QB; QB coach in Indy with Peyton Manning in 2009-10; QB coach and OC in San Diego

• QB Coach: John DeFilippo: College QB; QBs coach at Fordham, Columbia; QBs coach with Raiders, Jets, OC with Browns

• Vet QB Chase Daniel: In league since 2009; learned under Drew Brees; has been in Pederson's offense since 2013

It’s very possible if Wentz becomes a great quarterback that other teams copy the Eagles’ quarterback-heavy approach.

But it’s not just about getting a bunch of smart people and a talented rookie in the same room. Everything else has to work. The rookie has to be a diligent learner and all of the teachers have to check their egos and work together.

“I let John (DeFilippo), I let the quarterback coach run the meeting,” Pederson said. “If I interject, I interject. The way it works is I send my message through Frank (Reich), Frank through the position coaches. At the same time, if I want to interject something, I will interject. Just making sure there's one voice in the meeting room and they are not hearing three different answers from three different people, the message is the same.”

Practice squad quarterback Aaron Murray, who joined the team a couple weeks ago, thinks the quarterback room has “definitely” helped Wentz achieve his early success. While he is just a practice-squader, go ahead and add Murray — who was in the offense for two years in Kansas City — to the list of quarterback minds happy to help Wentz.

Murray, a fifth-rounder out of Georgia in 2014, has been impressed with Wentz’s ability to pick up protections and schemes at a young age. He compared him to Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in that regard. While Murray, along with everyone else, is happy to give Wentz tips, he tries to not overload him.

“You still want him to just go out there and play,” he said.

Murray is the newcomer to the room, but he’s been impressed with the dynamic so far. He’s not the only one. It looks like this quarterback experiment might just work.

“It’s awesome. It’s great,” Daniel said. “Everyone has a say in there and everyone in the room, it’s pretty crazy, everyone in the room, really except Carson, has been around it, has been in it and played. Obviously, he’s played, but been around for a while. He’s just a sponge, he’s just taking it all in.

“Maybe some stuff he doesn’t need to take in. Maybe some stuff he wants to do his own way, which is great. You want your own personality out there. But yeah, he’s been great. It’s been great for us too as players. We have almost a 2-to-1 coach-to-player ratio. It’s been great. Everyone has little tidbits here and there and we roll.”

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Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

Pete Mackanin unloads on Phillies' bullpen after latest collapse

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies’ bullpen continued its ugly, late-season collapse on Tuesday night. It was tagged for six runs in a 7-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves rallied for the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning (see Instant Replay).
 
The loss came two days after the bullpen gave up 14 earned runs in four innings in a 17-0 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday and it left manager Pete Mackanin more than a little bit frustrated.
 
“The bullpen has just not been doing the job,” Mackanin said.
 
Jerad Eickhoff gave up just one run (on a solo homer by Freddie Freeman) over four walk-free innings to open the game. He was up 6-1 after four innings when the rains came and stopped the game for an hour and 53 minutes.
 
With Eickhoff bounced by the weather, Mackanin had to go to his bullpen. He used four relievers — Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez and David Hernandez — and all gave up runs.
 
Phillies relievers have pitched 77 1/3 innings this month and allowed 69 earned runs for an ERA of 8.03. So that’s one more thing Matt Klentak has to fix this winter, along with the offense that Mackanin wants to see addressed (see story).
 
Ultimately, Hernandez took the loss when he gave up three hits and a run in the bottom of the eighth. The other run in the inning was charged to Rodriguez.
 
As unbelievable as it may sound with rosters being expanded in September, the Phillies played this game shorthanded.
 
They did not have reliever Edubray Ramos. He had a sore elbow, Mackanin said.
 
They did not have outfielder Peter Bourjos, who had gone home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
 
They also did not have outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who is out with a concussion.
 
Not having Bourjos or Goeddel forced Mackanin to use Darin Ruf in left field after Roman Quinn went out with an oblique injury in the sixth inning. Ruf failed to make a catch on a long fly ball by Tyler Flowers to the gap in left-center. The non-play extended the eighth inning and fueled the Braves’ comeback.
 
“It should have been caught,” Mackanin said. “If Quinn's out there, he catches it. He wasn't out there.”
 
Hernandez was the only free agent that the Phillies signed to a major-league contract this winter. The Phillies signed him with an eye toward using him as the closer. But Hernandez struggled much of the season and slipped into the middle innings while Ramos, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez rose to high-leverage roles.
 
Gomez lost the closer’s job last week and Mackanin was saving Neris to close out this game. That meant Hernandez had to pitch the eighth. He couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up the game-tying hit to Mallex Smith and the go-ahead hit to Emilio Bonafacio.
 
“Neris was going to close for us,” Mackanin said. “I thought about using him with two outs in the eighth. But, at some point, somebody else has to do a (bleeping) job. Somebody else has to (bleeping) step up. In two games now, every reliever I brought in has given up a (bleeping) run. That's unheard of.”
 
The bullpen’s unraveling threw cold (rain) water on Eickhoff’s solid start and Ryan Howard’s big night. Howard belted his 24th homer, a grand slam in the first inning, to highlight a 14-hit attack and help the Phils jump to a 6-0 lead.
 
“Eickhoff looked like he was having one of his best games and then the rain came. So that was our first disappointment,” Mackanin said. "Other than that, Howie swung the bat great. Hit that grand slam. We got 14 hits, but we stranded 12 runners. We have to keep adding on.”
 
Quinn had three of the Phillies’ 14 hits then added to his collection of injuries with the oblique strain that bounced him from the game in the sixth. He hurt himself taking a swing.
 
Oblique injuries generally keep a player sidelined for at least three weeks, so Quinn’s season is likely over. He missed six weeks with a similar injury at Double A Reading this summer. The 23-year-old outfielder came up from the minors on Sept. 11 and has been auditioning for a spot on next season’s opening day roster.
 
“It looks like it,” Mackanin said when asked if Quinn was done for what remains of the season.
 
Injuries have been a consistent hurdle for Quinn ever since he was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. He has missed significant time with a ruptured Achilles tendon, a wrist injury that required surgery, a torn quad muscle and an oblique strain. Now he has another one.
 
“It’s the same one I hurt before,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating.”
 
Right now, just about everything is frustrating with this team. Good thing there are only five games left.

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