Birds D Soars... But Westbrook Could Miss Week 4

Birds D Soars... But Westbrook Could Miss Week 4

Averaging 37 points of offense couldn't last long... Not with the Steelers and Bears on the early schedule. But the Eagles did outlast Pittsburgh in a definitive "under" game, winning 15-6 on the strength of an amazing performance by Jim Johnson's defense. The win came with a sobering price though. Brian Westbrook suffered an ankle strain when he landed akwardly on a teammate. He did not return, and we got word during the equally akward reunion of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick on the NBC pregame show that he might not be ready in time for next week's game.

Donovan McNabb also came out briefly, but after a quick trip to the training room, he came back to the sideline and annoounced to the crowd he'd be returning to field by pointing his finger in the air. Linc faithful goes nuts. Also injured in the game was FB Tony Hunt, who got knocked silly and is said to have a concussion. Fortunately, the defense didn't need to be spotted many points today.

Both of the Steelers' scoring drives came in the first half, and each yielded only a field goal. The pressure on Big Ben was more than he could handle, and the Eagles sacked him and Byron Leftwich niiiine tiiiimes. Leftwich had to spell Roethlisberger for the game's final two minutes after Big Ben hurt his hand while being sacked (for the eighth time). Big Ben should be OK, but the injuries are mounting early for him, and he has to be hurting after today.

Willie Parker was held completely in check, gaining just 20 yards on 13 carries. Unbelievable. The Steelers receivers also proved to be less than dangerous, with tight end Heath Miller leading them in production with 63 yards and no scores. It's hard to blame the wideouts though; the Eagles front four and blitzing personel were in the backfield quite a few times before Big Ben even got set. If he wasn't being sacked, he was running for his life. 

One of the two most memorable plays of the game was the Eagles once again getting to a quarterback in his own end zone. Just like last week with Tony Romo, Roethlisberger was pressured into what looked like some combination of a fumble and an intentional grounding. Safety. We'll take the ball back too.


The other play was vintage Brian Dawkins. The safety endured a long week of undue questioning related to whether he still had it. He was burned a few times last week, but as Kulp pointed out, there are few safeties in the league that can blanket TO and Jason Witten in single coverage. Dawk took it like a man, said he needed to play better, but that he was nowhere near finished with this game. Then today, he came out and proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Just one possession after Big Ben coughed up the safety, BDawk sped around the end, and then literally flew to drop the Steelers QB and force a fumble. Roethlisberger was trying to step up to avoid the pressure, and Dawkins had little time to close the gap between them. So he just Superman'd it, getting his body completely horizontal. No doubt this guy still has it.

Despite the short week, Jim Johnson made adjustments and kept the Steelers guessing all game. Asante Samuel had an amazing interception, one that most corners wouldn't have made. That's two picks already this season.

The offense didn't look great, but they managed to win. Without Westbrook, who scored five times in the first two games, lighting up the scoreboard wasn't as easy. But after wondering what went wrong in a great game with the Cowboys, it's a good time to just sit back and enjoy the 2-1 record.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.