Game 26: Flyers Up in Buffalo to Meet Mr. Miller

Game 26: Flyers Up in Buffalo to Meet Mr. Miller

Having now been to Buffalo once, for several hours of the football equivalent of getting pushed down a flight of stairs, I can safely say I won't be back there anytime soon, and likely never again by choice. We had a great time at Niagara Falls for a few hours and spent the majority of the weekend in Toronto (very cool), coming into Buffalo just for the Eagles-Bills game before flying out 2 hours later. The only two landmarks we visited were Ralph Wilson Stadium and the airport.

Tonight, the Flyers are doing presumably the other fun thing to do up there—going to a Sabres game. They'll have familiar face Ville Leino, who continues to be the Jayson Werth of hockey, notching just a pair of goals and seven assists after signing a big multiyear deal during the free agency frenzy this past summer. Leino may not be pulling his weight just yet, but the Sabres aren't without firepower, and they're hanging the middle of a very competitive Northeast Division. Just seven points separate first place Boston from last place Montreal, the latter being aided by 6 OTLs.

Thomas Vanek is once again the Sabres' leading goal scorer, netting 12 so far. He's tied with Jason Pominville for the team lead in points with 27.

Goalies
Ilya Bryzgalov will face Ryan Miller in goal, which is interesting for two reasons. One, it's likely that the Flyers will try to be all up in Miller's crease, if not closer, as part of their game plan. We know he's particularly sensitive to this from previous meetings with the Flyers, but a pair of high-profile crease runnings have recently made news with the Buffalo netminder on the receiving end. In his first game back after missing eight games due to a collision with Milan Lucic, Miller was slammed by Jordin Tootoo of the Predators on Saturday. Tootoo was suspended. (Guess how many games!)

Miller was chased from the net in the teams' previous meeting this season. Are the Flyers in his head, or will he show some of what gained him accolades as one of the best in the game?

The other reason the goaltending matchup is interesting is that the Flyers play a big game with the Penguins at home tomorrow. Does Lavvy already have a plan as to which goalie will go tomorrow if all goes well tonight? If all does not? Tough situation for picking and choosing, because the long layoff this week has kept both goalies off the ice for days.

Fireworks?
A bitter playoff series this past spring enlivened some bad blood between these two clubs, and though both have seen some turnover, it'd be no surprise if there were some fireworks in a nationally televised game tonight (Versus, 7:30).

Who steps up for the Flyers tonight?

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

There were Carson Wentz and Ben Simmons fans at the debate last night

I'm not sure if they could win nationally, but there is absolutely no doubt that a Wentz-Simmons ticket would dominate the Delaware Valley.

An intrepid Philadelphia sports fan was up at the Presidential Debate last night at Hofstra University and made a sign showing his support... for the Eagles and Sixers.

I don't know though, I'm pretty sure Simmons was born in Australia.

Pinpoint touch passes show Carson Wentz has a killer changeup, too

Pinpoint touch passes show Carson Wentz has a killer changeup, too

Now the kid has a changeup, too.

A couple of the most impressive passes Carson Wentz threw Sunday weren’t fired to the receiver. They didn’t show off Wentz’s rocket-launcher right arm.

They were touch passes. Lobs. Looping things of beauty that floated high into the air above the coverage and settled softly into the hands of a receiver on the run.

Wentz, the Eagles’ 23-year-old wunderkind of a quarterback, displayed remarkable touch on a couple of his biggest passes in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Steelers at the Linc on Sunday.

It’s just the latest evolution in the development of the remarkable young Eagles quarterback.

He doesn’t just fire it. He floats it, too.

“It is a challenging thing,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Because in practice, if you’re not working on those types of throws, it just doesn't happen.

“It’s sort of a math problem in your head as a quarterback because you have a receiver that's running away from you at full speed and you are trying to put a touch pass on a 20-, 25-yard throw and so you have to judge it just right.

“That's a lot harder to do than just zipping it right at your target.”

On the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles, Wentz stood in the pocket, looked to his left and started scrambling to the right when he spotted Sproles racing down the right sideline with a step on Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier.

In full stride, running to his right, Wentz threw across his body and lobbed the ball from the Eagles’ 25-yard line to a point near the 50-yard line. Sproles caught the ball without breaking stride and did the rest, eventually scoring a TD that turned a 10-point lead into a 17-point lead early in the third quarter.

In the third quarter, Wentz connected similarly with tight end Brent Celek on a 24-yard gain, this time lobbing the ball above linebacker Vince Williams and in front of safety Sean Davis for a first down inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard line to set up another touchdown.

After three games, Wentz is 3-0 with five touchdown passes, no interceptions, 65 percent completions and a 103.7 passer rating. He's the first quarterback in NFL history to open his career with three wins without an interception.

A lot of young quarterbacks want to fire every ball as hard as possible. But Wentz’s ability to change up and lob the football to his receivers makes him even more dangerous. Kind of like a young fastball pitcher who suddenly shows up in spring training with a killer changeup.

“It can be hard because you are so geared on throwing everything fast and hard,” Pederson said. “That throw to Celek was a thing of beauty. The week before, the Monday night (game), to Jordan Matthews, the little touch pass was great. The little floater to Darren for the long touchdown run was another one that was a touch pass with accuracy.

“Those are hard throws to make. Having been in that position before, those are hard. The guy is running away from you and you are trying to put air on a throw but still judge the distance and the speed of the receiver. Those are tough things to do. He really has a good feel for that and it just makes him an all-around solid quarterback.

“That’s just who he is and (shows) his ability to make really all the throws.”