Posting Up: Briere Pipes in Game Winner for Flyers in Overtime

Posting Up: Briere Pipes in Game Winner for Flyers in Overtime

The post to Carolina goaltender Cam Ward’s right rang out
not once, but twice in denial of the Flyers’ advances, its shrill “ping”
erasing a pair of golden opportunities in the first period. Ward’s luck would not
carry the day however.

Danny Briere’s snipe found cold steel yet again in overtime,
only the Flyers finally got the benefit of the bounce. The puck hit the
netminder from behind off of the rebound, then finally crossed the goal line to
give Philadelphia the 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes – and the two points.

Briere rushed up the left boards carrying an outlet pass
from Nick Grossmann, but Hurricanes Jay Harrison was back to cut off his path
to the net. No problem for Danny, who hit the brakes and made his way to the
slot. Briere’s agility proved too much for Harrison, who was perhaps screened
ever so slightly by teammate Jussi Jokinen joining the play. Whatever the case,
Briere got off the clean snap shot, and the puck’s journey ended in Carolina’s
net.

It’s a good thing, too. Nobody was looking forward to the
prospect of another shootout to settle up.

While the finish was certainly exciting, the Flyers had to
play one of their most complete games of the season to fend off the Canes. The
offense put 32 shots on Ward, getting goals from Brayden Schenn (2), Matt Read
(5 – team high), and Jakub Voracek (3) in regulation. Despite allowing three
goals, they also gave a nice, physical defensive effort, scoring twice as many
hits (32 to 16) and almost twice as many blocked shots (20 to 11), with Luke
Schenn leading the charge (8 and 6).

The Hurricanes opened up the scoring just 17 seconds into
the tilt. Sean Couturier lost a faceoff in the Flyers’ zone, and Joe Corvo
immediately sent a blast on Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryz seemed fooled by the puck’s trajectory,
kicking a rebound right in front of his net. Jiri Tlusty skated in unattended
and found twine with relative ease.

The Flyers answered later in the period with Brayden Schenn’s
sweet redirection of Kimmo Timonen’s launch to knot the score at one a piece.
You’ve got to see this one.

Then they took the lead coming out of the first intermission,
capitalizing on a big mistake by the Hurricanes. Eric Staal came away with
possession of the puck following a battle in his zone, but tried to make a
quick dish up the ice before he was out of trouble. Mike Knuble was in perfect
position, deflecting the disc back to center ice, setting up this walk in the
park for Read. Too easy.

A questionable call midway through the frame resulted in
some 4-on-4 hockey, setting up a frantic back-and-forth. Impressive youngster
Jeff Skinner came away with a bouncing puck in the Flyers’ zone and fired a
quick shot on Bryzgalov. He recovered his own rebound, and with two fewer men
on the ice, found plenty of room to skate. Skinner got back in front, wheeled
around and fired the puck over the netminder’s shoulder on the short side to
make it a 2-2 game.

Aside from breakaways, Bryz has been very consistent, but we
have seen him get beat over his left shoulder like that before.

Voracek returned fire a mere 15 seconds later though.
Brayden Schenn simply skated the biscuit into the Carolina zone, then fed it to
the middle for a hungry Voracek, who slammed it home. We’ve seen Voracek make
plays with his speed before, and that was certainly the case here, but the
Hurricanes’ vulnerability defensively was on full display as well. They’ve got
to get a better effort than this.

Carolina was able to force overtime via a dirty goal in the
third. The Flyers were simply unable to clear the puck, and the Hurricanes just
kept on ripping shots from the point. One of them was bound to go eventually,
and it did when Corvo’s hammer from the blue line hit Kurtis Foster up front –
part of a massive tangle of bodies in front of the net – and fluttered past a
blind goalie. Bryz had no chance.

Otherwise Bryzgalov played well yet again, making some great
saves in the process. There was a healthy contribution from the offense, and
the Flyers were flat out the more physical team on the ice in this one. They
deserved the win.

That puts Philadelphia’s record at 5-6-1 with 11 points for
the season. 7 of those points have come in their last four games. You can feel
the momentum growing.

Notes

Hurricanes center Tim Wallace was given a game misconduct and ejected for a boarding penalty on Tye McGinn early in the first period. McGinn slipped a little, and Wallace ended up hitting him up high, sending the rookie's skull into the glass. McGinn would stay on the ice for awhile, but returned to the game quickly and show no ill effects.

We'll see if any discipline is coming for Wallace. The collision was unquestionably a penalty, but there did not appear to be a malicious intent. Again, McGinn slipped, so Wallace likely did not expect his target to be in such a prone position.

The Flyers only wound up with about two-and-a-half minutes of 5-on-4 time out of the possible five. Braydon Coburn received a minor when he tried to come to his teammate's aid, and Mike Knuble picked up an interference toward the end of the advantage.

Philladelphia's power play conversion rate is down to 18.4% for the season.

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

CINCINNATI – Normally upbeat and positive, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz gave a terse answer, at least by his standards.

After the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (see Instant Replay), a game that was probably the worst of his young career, Wentz was asked about his proclivity for overthrowing his targets.

“Bad throw,” Wentz said blankly. “Just like last week.”

Those bad throws have been coming more and more frequently in recent weeks for the second-overall pick. After throwing one interception in his first five games, he’s thrown 10 in his last seven, including his first three-interception day on Sunday. A common thread has been overthrows.

When head coach and former QBs coach Doug Pederson was asked about those high throws from his prized quarterback, he said, “It’s strictly mechanics.” Pederson elaborated, saying they need to get Wentz off his back foot and stepping into throws. And then there were batted passes too.

“There were opportunities, obviously,” Pederson said. “Again, he's a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning those things up.”

There might be a problem, though.

Wentz doesn’t seem to think there’s anything to clean up.

After Sunday’s embarrassing loss, the rookie said his mechanics feel the same now as they did when the Eagles started the season with three consecutive wins, before he had ever thrown a pick in the NFL.

“I don't think it's the mechanics,” Wentz said. “You make mistakes. Things happen, and that's just the bottom line.”

Is there anything that could be affecting his mechanics?

“I don't think so,” Wentz said. “You throw the ball 60 times, you're going to miss some. That kind of happens.”

Wentz seemed hesitant to take blame for his shaky play on Sunday (see breakdown of Wentz's performance), but he is right. Sixty passing attempts is an awful lot. In fact, it’s a record for an Eagles rookie and it’s the second most passing attempts a rookie quarterback has ever thrown in a game (Chris Weinke threw 63 in 2001).  

The reason for that, at least partially, on Sunday was the Eagles’ never got going offensively and their defense was porous at best, which led to the Bengals’ taking a 19-0 lead into halftime (see 10 observations from the loss). They had to try to throw their way back into the game.

“You never want your quarterback to throw 60 times, coming from behind,” Pederson said. “We put ourselves in a bind early in the football game. It’s going to be a learning lesson for him, obviously. We have to take a hard look at it. But by no means, the fact that he stood in there and still led the football team. He took some shots, but still stood in there and just shows you the kind of character and the toughness we have.”

For Wentz, who was once though to be the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, the last couple months have been understandably difficult.

In the first four games of the season, he had a passer rating over 100 three times. He hasn't broken 100 since then and his 58.2 rating on Sunday was the second-worst of the season, behind his 52.4 in a winning effort against the Vikings.

“You just can't get down,” Wentz said. “You've got to stay optimistic. Obviously, the results are tough as of late. We're kind of on a skid. Like I've been saying, this is a good group of guys, a good locker room. Guys are in it until the end.”

It’s important to remember that, initially, Wentz wasn’t drafted to play this season. The original plan was to have him sit this season, but he was thrust into action after the Eagles traded away Sam Bradford.

Ultimately, Wentz will be judged for his play in years to come. For now, though, he and the Eagles have to try to find a way to fix this.

How do they do it?

“Obviously, we're on a skid,” Wentz said. “There's nothing really to change. We've just got to lock in and we've got to be more disciplined. At the same time, you don't get down. That's what I've been saying. This locker room, guys aren't going to get down. We've just got to be better with our discipline and just keep attacking. Obviously, we're in a tough spot, but we've just got to take it one game at a time.”

Eagles' defense's 'frustrating' lack of impact plays behind team's slide

Eagles' defense's 'frustrating' lack of impact plays behind team's slide

CINCINNATI -- It wasn’t all that long ago that the Eagles were proud owners of one of the NFL’s finest defenses.

Just a few weeks ago.

Coming out of that Atlanta win that elevated the Eagles to 5-4 and left them in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, the defense ranked sixth in the NFL in yards allowed, fourth in points allowed, fifth in sacks, fourth in takeaways and fifth on third down.

Pick a category, they were exceptional.

Pick a category, they’re not anymore.

The once-dominating defense continued an alarming downward spiral Sunday, allowing an undermanned Bengals team to score on its first six possessions on the way to a demoralizing 32-14 win over the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium (see Instant Replay).

“Our goal is to get into the playoffs and give ourselves a shot to get to our ultimate goal of the Super Bowl,” cornerback Leodis McKelvin said. “As you can see right now, it’s not happening.”

Any hope the Eagles had of reaching the playoffs has evaporated. After their third straight loss and seventh in their last nine games, they’re officially playing out the string.

And not doing it very well (see 10 observations).

Six of their last seven opponents have scored 26 or more points. The last three quarterbacks they’ve faced have combined for five touchdown passes, no interceptions, 932 passing yards, zero sack yards and a 71 percent completion percentage.

Worst of all, they’ve allowed points on 17 of 27 meaningful drives over the last three weeks in losses to the Seahawks, Packers and Bengals.

“It’s very disappointing,” Fletcher Cox said after his eighth straight game without a sack.  “As an organization and as a team, it’s very disappointing.

“Today was not one of our days. We’ve got to get off the field on third down, we’ve got to minimize the penalties, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get our offense the ball back.”

We knew the offense would be a work in progress. Young and banged up. But the defense — especially the defensive line — was supposed to be the strength of this team. An elite unit.

Instead, they’ve been terrible. And getting worse.

“We had a bunch of goals this year,” Brandon Graham said. “We’re prideful men, and we don’t like to go out like this.”

How does a defense go from one of the best of the league the first half of the season to one of the worst the second half?

By allowing a historic number of third-down conversions (22-for-43 the last three weeks), by not forcing turnovers (three straight games without an interception), by not getting pressure (one sack for zero yards the last three games, no sacks the last two games), and by committing penalties at a near-record pace.

“It’s frustrating, man,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “Past couple weeks have been frustrating. To not get off on third down when that’s something we do well? And the past couple weeks to not get it done? It sucks. 

“We’re mad at ourselves. We got them into these 3rd-and-long situations but it’s one thing or another, and they convert it. Frustrating.”

During their current three-game losing streak, the Eagles have no interceptions and one sack. 

Their top playmakers – Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Hicks, Cox – have been largely ineffective.

They Eagles did force a couple fumbles Sunday long after the game had been decided, but nobody on this defense has made a meaningful impact play since Leodis McKelvin picked off Matthew Ryan in the Falcons game.

A month ago.

“If you don’t make those plays, it keeps the drive moving, you can’t get off the field on third down, you can’t get turnovers, you can’t get sacks … all the things that made us us good all season,” Carroll said.

“That’s what we hung our hat on and the past couple weeks we haven’t been able to get them and you see when we don’t get them what an offense can do. 

“We have to get back to what we do, and that’s getting turnovers, getting after the quarterback and getting off the field on third down.”

On the heels of brilliance from Wilson and Rodgers, Dalton completed 23 of 31 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, a 130.0 passer rating.

The Bengals even ran for 80 yards as the Eagles allowed 400 or more yards for the third time in a row, something that’s only happened twice previously in franchise history.

“You all see it out there,” McKelvin said. “We can’t expect to win when we have those type of mistakes and not executing plays. We can’t go backwards. On both sides, we can’t go backwards. We can’t go backwards as a defense, we can’t go backwards as an offense. We’ve got to make those plays.”

This is the first time in 33 years the Eagles have had a three-game stretch in which the defense totalled just one combined sack and interception. 

It’s really hard to be that ineffective.

“It is uncharacteristic of us,” McLeod said. “Have to credit teams sometimes, but a lot of times we’ve shot ourselves in the foot in a lot of ways, not doing the things we need to do defensively to win games. 

“Most of the time early in the year we got turnovers, we got stops, and helped the team win. We’ve just got to find ways — myself included — to help us out any way we can.”

The Eagles have lost three straight games by double digits after opening the season with three straight wins by double digits.

They’re clearly not headed in the right direction, and the defense is leading that charge.

First six weeks? They allowed 12.5 points per game, and the Eagles were 4-2.

Last six weeks? They’ve allowed 26.2 points per game, and the Eagles are 1-5.

“It felt like we were playing pretty well on first down and getting killed on third down,” Hicks said. “In third-and-long situations, those are situations where usually we win. We didn’t win them today. 

“Credit the offenses we’ve played, they’ve taken care of the ball, but we’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers, setting our offense up and getting them field position. 

“That’s what defense is all about. Being aggressive and getting the ball back for your offense, and we haven’t been able to do that.

“We made some plays (at the end), but it’s too little too late. We’ve got to come out from the start and play with that type of intensity.”

It doesn’t look like the Eagles have quit. They’ve just stopped making plays.

At every position.

“It’s not lack of effort, we just have to self-evaluate ourselves and get back to the way we were playing before and figure it out,” McLeod said.

“I believe we’re going to stay together. It’s just disappointing because we work so hard and to fall short of what we ultimately want to do, it’s hard as a player.”