It's Dallas Night: The Two Keys to the Eagles Winning the Game

It's Dallas Night: The Two Keys to the Eagles Winning the Game

When the Eagles are on defense...

What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? DeMarco Murray's breakthrough aside, the Cowboys are still facing legitimate questions with regard to their running game. Similarly, the Eagles limited Redskins running backs to just 28 yards on the ground two weeks ago, but that hasn't convinced anybody Juan Castillo suddenly figured it out. So what's it going to be?

Probably a little bit of column A, little bit of column B. With all due deference to Murray, who looks like a legitimate talent, the Dallas interior is a weakness. It's the type of problem that doesn't often correct itself overnight, or with a simple change at running back. That said, stopping the Redskins -- who basically imploded -- doesn't necessarily mean the Eagles have righted the ship either, and they won't be able to over-commit with so many talented receivers on the field.

The Eagles will probably look strong at the point of attack for stretches, but there will inevitably be a handful of plays where Murray gets loose in the secondary. When that happens, the key will be holding him to nine yards, not 90.

When the Eagles are on offense...

As was mentioned a few weeks back, the bigger concern for the Eagles arguably has been the performance on offense, particularly their ability to finish drives with six. They may be racking up yards at a historic pace, but it's only translated into 24.2 points per game -- and they haven't actually scored more than 24 since Week 2.

There is a good chance the Birds won't be able to lean on their most consistent option in LeSean McCoy either. The Cowboys defense is allowing the fewest yards per game in the NFL, and as we saw earlier this season against the second-ranked 49ers, that usually equates to a pass-heavy attack from Andy Reid.

The problem is that's how the Eagles get themselves into trouble sometimes. Mike Vick has already committed more turnovers this season than he did in all of 2010, losing three fumbles and tossing eight interceptions so far, and Dallas certainly has the horses to get after him. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will try to turn the game into a chess match, moving his pieces around the board to give the quarterback different looks in an attempt to disguise their blitzes and confuse Vick.

If they aren't going to be able pound the rock, there still needs to be an emphasis on ball security. As we saw last week, the Eagles can combat the pressure with short drops where Vick gets the ball out of his hands quickly. The offense will have opportunities to take their shots, but if they swing for the fences on every possession, they could be playing right into the Cowboys' hands.

Prediction:

Whichever team wins this game tonight will go on to win the division.

The Giants have a rough road ahead of them, and the Redskins are crumbling. The NFC East is right there for the taking.

It's easy to see how the Cowboys could rise to the top, a favorable schedule in front of them, a potential star breaking out at running back, and a defense that can stop the run and rush the quarterback.

But the Eagles could answer a lot of questions about their identity tonight. Can they at least contain a running back who is capable of hanging 250 on a defense? Can they turn piles and piles of yards into points instead of giveaways? Because those are things they need to do if there is any hope of this team making the playoffs.

That, and beat Dallas.

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 - the last previous time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a massive one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.