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.


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...?

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 (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 fade away 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 guy’s 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) Olajuawon 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).