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...?

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 4 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."