Steve Mason Makes a Statement in First Win with Flyers

Steve Mason Makes a Statement in First Win with Flyers

Tempting as it might be to peek at the standings following
their 4-2 win over Rangers on Tuesday, the reality is the Flyers still have a
lot of ground to make up and precious little time left to do it. Turns out knocking
off the eighth seed with a week and a half to go will only get you so far.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any positives to take away
from the end result.

New York had come out on top in 10 of the previous 11
meetings, so that needed to be broken up of course. If nothing else the Flyers may
have helped cost the Rags their playoff spot, but that much remains to be seen.

The continued growth of several young players is a good sign
for the future as well. Phantoms call-ups Erik Gustafsson (goals in consecutive
games), Oliver Lauridsen (career-high 19:59 of ice time), and Brandon Manning
(first NHL point) all stepped up for a skeleton-crew defense, while Sean
Couturier’s 22 minutes (most among Flyers forwards) was some of the best all-around
hockey the sophomore has played all season.

Then there is Steve Mason. Already doing his very best to
create a goalie controversy – first with his mere existence, then later by
proclaiming he intends to overtake Ilya Bryzgalov on the depth chart –
Mason hasn’t done anything between the pipes to silence the gossip.

Mason’s 38 saves were a season-high for a Flyers netminder,
eight of those coming against the New York power play, as he was finally able to notch his first win in Orange & Black. You might even go so far as to say he
stole one in his Wells Fargo Center debut, coming up with a number of highlight-reel
stops in what was a tight contest throughout.

In four appearances for the Flyers, Mason is posting a .941
save percentage and 1.82 goals against average. As solid as he’s looked though,
none of the previous three outings announced his arrival as loudly or with as
much force as this.

Message received.

To be fair, Bryzgalov has responded to the possibility of a
competition. In his two games since Mason received his first start, Bryz picked up
the W in Montreal on Monday, and only surrendered a pair of breakaway goals in
a 2-1 loss to Ottawa over the weekend – hardly a final that could be blamed on the goaltender.

Actually, it’s almost funny. As the Flyers’ blue-line depth
becomes more and more depleted due to injury – Bruno Gervais was the latest lost
for the season, while Kent Huskins is among the wounded with a concussion as well
– defensive breakdowns and crippling turnovers are suddenly, rather noticeably reduced.

Not to take anything away from Mason, but I’m not sure how many times we’ve
seen him truly hung out to dry yet.

Regardless, we can’t discount what Mason has done so far,
either. It’s a small sample size, and thus it doesn’t necessarily equate to a
sign of things to come for the 24 year old. The idea that the Flyers will be in
a position to completely evaluate their backup goaltender after having him in house for
three weeks is crazy.

This much can probably be said safely however: Bryzgalov, or
whoever the other goalie happens to be next season, will have a legit
competition on their hands if Mason continues to have anything to say about it.
So far it’s looking like he just might.

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Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”