Wrap It Up: Birds Migrate Into Offseason on Four-Game Winning Streak

Wrap It Up: Birds Migrate Into Offseason on Four-Game Winning Streak

The Eagles were able to weather an uneven offensive performance through three quarters before blowing the game open with 21 unanswered points in the fourth to defeat the hapless Redskins 34-10. The win moves Philadelphia to 8-8, and by all appearances, the players and coaches who return next season will have momentum on their side.

Yawn.

Surprise, surprise, a meaningless football game between two teams already eliminated from postseason contention proved to be a snoozer, and that'll do it for the Eagles this season.

The game got off to a slow start, with plenty of punting to go around. The contest featured nine punts in all, but oddly enough, it was a kick that helped get the scoring going. Former Eagle Sav Rocca gave his old mates a gift when he shanked his first attempt, giving the Birds the ball in Washington territory. Alex Henery gave Philly the early three-point lead, one of his two field goals on the day.

The Eagles finally got it going in the second, but again it was the Redskins' special teams contributing to the scoring. Graham Gano was setting up for a 36-yard field goal, but Derek Landri bowled his way into the backfield and stuffed the kick. It was the biggest play in a day full of them for Landri, who was an absolute terror to block, as he typical has been when given the opportunity.

From there, Michael Vick did the rest, leading his most efficient drive of the day up to that point. Vick went 6-for-6, and capping the 65-yard drive with a 6-yard pitch and catch to Chad Hall. Putting his team ahead 10-0, an elated Hall lept into the stands -- with the help of the fans in the front row of course.

Vick tried to return the favor to Washington late in the first half, running himself into a Brian Orakpo sack that resulted in a fumble. However, the Eagles literally couldn't give their opponent points. Starting inside the red zone, and at one point getting all the way down to the PHI 4, a costly unsportsmanlike penalty moved the ball off the goal line, and botched clock management led to no points at all.

The Redskins threatened in the third quarter. Their running game was starting to get going, and they were moving the ball. A well-timed screen pass caught the Eagles in a blitz, and a hobbled Roy Helu scampered 47 yards into the end zone uncontested to pull his club within three.

The Birds and Skins traded field goals, but the Eagles finally came to life in the end. Vick found DeSean Jackson on a 62-yard bomb -- a beautiful lead throw that DJac was able to run underneath -- and a few possessions later, they capped a 70-yard drive with a four-yard TD to Brent Celek on the tight end screen, a play and its variations that were effective throughout the day.

Dion Lewis added a score in garbage time on a nine-yard run, the first of his career. With LeSean McCoy inactive, Lewis finished with a team-high 58 rushing yards on 12 carries, most of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Vick was 24-39 for 335 yards and three touchdowns, but he had the fumble and an interception. He heated up as the game wore on, but they'll need better from him next season. Jeremy Maclin caught eight passes for 105 yards, while Jackson and Celek each had 86 yards to go with their respective scores.

The defense got the job done, albeit against a punch-less Redskins offense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had another strong showing filling in for Asante Samuel, including a deflected pass intercepted by Nate Allen. Much of the secondary's success was predicated on the pressure up front, with Landri, Brian Rolle, and Trent Cole hustling the quarterback all day. Cole had the only sack.

The lack of turnovers were surprising though against a Rex Grossman-led offense. Washington also had success running the football, with rookie Evan Royster out of Penn State going over 100 yards. Mike Patterson, one of the defense's top run defenders, was also inactive however; that, and the fact that the Skins aren't working with much, made it difficult to gauge their performance overall.

And with that, we officially enter offseason mode. Unfortunately, we have plenty of time ahead to dissect the big decisions that are on the way, and the ones that need to be made. For tonight, the Eagles got back to .500 with four straight wins, and we are left to ask what could have been.

What could have been...?

Temple's Brown returns to form, but defensive lapse costly in loss

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Temple's Brown returns to form, but defensive lapse costly in loss

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Josh Brown began looking like his old self on Wednesday night.

Temple’s senior guard missed the Owls' first six games while recovering from surgery he had on his Achilles tendon in May. He returned to the court one week ago in the Owls’ win at St. Joe’s. 

Brown showed some signs of rust in his first two games. He had four points and an assist against the Hawks in 14 minutes of action. On Saturday against Penn, Brown played 11 minutes and scored five points.

In Wednesday’s 66-63 loss to George Washington at the Liacouras Center, Brown played a season-high 24 minutes. He scored 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting and added one assist and made some key plays for the Owls down the stretch in the close loss (see Instant Replay).

“He played great,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He didn’t play great against Penn. Tonight, he was ready to go. He did some really good things for us. It’s nice to have. It’s a nice comfort.”

Brown helped Temple close a large deficit late in the game. He hit a three-point shot from the corner on the fast break with 5:28 left to bring the Owls within three. He hit another three-point shot at the top of the key with 2:44 left to bring Temple within six. 

Less than a minute later, he assisted on a Daniel Dingle three, which made the score 61-58. On Temple’s next defensive possession, Brown grabbed a rebound before Dingle hit another three on the other end of the court to tie the game at 61 with 1:31 left.

With the Owls trailing by three on the game’s final possession, Brown almost drew a foul behind the three-point line before finding Dingle for another open look that hit the back of the rim.

“When I was out there, I was just trying to be in the moment, be in the now,” Brown said. “That’s what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. When you do that, you’re focused, and when the shot comes, your preparation takes over.”

Despite his clutch play on the offensive end, Brown was critical of a mental lapse on defense during the game’s most crucial moment. After playing tight defense for almost all of the shot clock, Brown let George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh slip to the corner and put up a three-point shot with one second on the shot clock.

Cavanaugh’s three-point attempt with 8.2 seconds left in the game proved to be the game-winner on Wednesday night.

“I lost focus for a little bit,” Brown said. “I helped off for a slight second and that’s all he needed. I give props to that guy for hitting a tough shot, but I could’ve just stayed and not even helped.”

Wednesday’s loss ended a five-game winning streak for Temple, now 6-3 on the season. With defenses focusing on junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who scored 12 points against the Colonials, Brown will be looked at to steady the Owls' offense.

Brown was the only Temple player besides Enechionyia to score more than one basket in the first half as the Owls went into the break trailing 31-25.

“Him being out there, he adds intensity to the game,” Dingle said. “When he goes in the game, the energy goes up. Defensively and offensively he’s a general out there.”

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.