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Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

Like a deeply scarred lover, the Cavaliers seem thrilled that LeBron James deems them worthy of his attention again. But this courtship isn’t about the Cavs or winning a title for Cleveland. It’s all about LeBron.

Jeremy Maclin catches eight passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, performing better than returning former teammate DeSean Jackson, but the Eagles literally have to fight to the finish to hold off the visiting Redskins, 37-34, to improve to 3-0.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on Pat Quinn’s legacy, Peter Forsberg entering the Hockey Hall of Fame and Mo’ne Davis writing her memoir.

Archive for October, 2016

Cowboys Lee-ve Birds feeling blue

Posted by Eric Fisher On October - 30 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

This one hurts.

And it may hurt for a long time.

The Eagles let a 10-point lead slip away during the fourth quarter Sunday night as they lost to the host Cowboys in overtime, 29-23.

Instead of being tied for the NFC East Division lead, the Eagles (4-3) trail the Cowboys (6-1) by two games. They are tied with the Giants (4-3) and, sort of, the Redskins (4-3-1). The Eagles must win next Sunday against the Giants to avoid dropping to 0-3 in the division.

The Eagles shouldn’t have to worry about the Giants and Redskins. They were in complete control of Sunday night’s game after Caleb Sturgis kicked a 34-yard field goal, set up by Josh Huff’s 53-yard kickoff return, to increase the Eagles’ lead to 23-13 with 14:09 remaining in regulation.

They forced the Cowboys into a 3-and-out on the ensuing possession, and, after the punt, had excellent field position at their own 41-yard line.

Questionable decisions

And then what had been a wonderful night for the Eagles started falling apart.

Rookie Wendell Smallwood, on his first carry of the game, fumbled. The Cowboys recovered at the Eagles 38. Head coach Doug Pederson’s decision to give Smallwood his first carry of the game at this crucial juncture is certainly open to question.

The Eagles defense rose to the occasion, as it had for most of the game. The defense forced another 3-and-out, so the Cowboys had to settle for Dan Bailey’s 49-yard field goal with 11:34 remaining.

Powered by veteran running back Darren Sproles (15 carries for 86 yards), who saw extensive action while Ryan Mathews carried just four times, the Eagles appeared on their way to increasing their advantage on their next possession. Sproles broke loose for a 13-yard run to kick-start the drive one play after Carson Wentz (32 of 43, 202 yards) caught a break when cornerback Orlando Scandrick dropped an interception. After a brief break, Sproles returned to the game with a pair of runs that pushed the ball into Cowboys territory.

The Eagles advanced to the Dallas 30, well within Sturgis’ field-goal range. But they went to the Sproles well one too many times. Linebacker Sean Lee dropped Sproles for a 6-yard loss, pushing the Eagles back to the 36.

Instead of sending Sturgis out to kick a field goal, Pederson elected to punt. The field goal attempt would have been 54 yards, one less yard than the career-long 55-yarder Sturgis made as time expired in the first half to give the Eagles a 13-10 lead. The punt netted just 26 yards, giving the Cowboys the ball at their own 10 with 6:22 remaining.

The fourth quarter was about to go from bad to worse.

Prescott finds his rhythm

Rookie Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who had been kept under wraps until this point, found his rhythm on this drive. He completed four passes to three different receivers – shaking off a holding call that wiped out a 60-yard run by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and pushed the Cowboys back 10 yards – to reach Eagles territory.

And then Prescott (19 of 39, 287 yards) experienced a moment strikingly similar to what happened to Wentz a few minutes earlier. Pressured by safety Malcolm Jenkins, Prescott made an ill-advised throw to avoid a sack. Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin attempted to make a diving interception, but the ball slipped through his arms and hit the ground before he gained possession.

One play later after the ball slipped through McKelvin’s arms, the game slipped further from the Eagles’ grasp. Prescott found Dez Bryant (4 receptions, 113 yards) in the left side of the end zone for a 22-yard, game-tying touchdown.

After the Eagles and Cowboys traded 3-and-outs, any hopes of the Eagles mounting a game-winning drive in the final minute were extinguished by an offensive pass interference penalty on Dorial Green-Beckham and a blitz by Lee that dropped Wentz for a 6-yard loss.

The Eagles punted.

They never touched the ball again.

Playing keep-away

The Cowboys won the coin toss before overtime (the Eagles made the wrong choice) and chose to start on offense. Twelve plays and 75 yards later, the Cowboys won the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to a wide-open Jason Witten. It was the veteran tight end’s second catch of the game and his first touchdown this season.

Overtime ends if the first team on offense scores a touchdown. That rule may have been why Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett elected to go for a first down on 4th-and-inches at the 28 instead of kicking a field goal. On the fourth-down play, Prescott was stopped initially, but the pile was pushed forward enough for a first down.

Elliott (22 carries for 96 yards), who had been kept relatively under wraps for most of the game, gained 12 yards up the middle to reach the 14. He was stopped for no gain on the next play, but caught a flair pass to the left for 10 yards.

The Cowboys had been stymied inside the 10 twice by the Eagles, settling for a field goal on one possession and being turned away completely when linebacker Jordan Hicks intercepted a pass in the end zone on the Cowboys’ final possession of the first half.

This time, though, the Cowboys would not be denied. Safeties Rodney McLeod and Jenkins got tangled up, leaving Witten wide open. Prescott had to scramble to escape the rush, but he had no problem finding Witten once he ran to his left to bide time.

Wasted opportunity

The Eagles wasted a fine performance by Wentz and an excellent effort by Sproles. A fine effort by the defense, which kept Prescott off-balance and contained Elliott for most of the game, was also wasted.

Most importantly, the Eagles wasted an opportunity to move into a first-place tie in the NFC East.

They may not have a similar opportunity again this season.

And that’s why the hurt from Sunday’s overtime loss to the Cowboys may be felt for a long time.

Heel Turns: Too much of a good thing?

Posted by Achilles Heel On October - 29 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelThe bitter rivalry continues Sunday night.

There will be excitement. There will be pain.

No, the Greek God of Wrestling isn’t referring to the Eagles-Cowboys clash Sunday night. He’s referring to WWE’s Hell in a Cell, which takes place Sunday (8 p.m., preshow at 7 p.m.) on WWE Network.

Three matches at Hell in a Cell will take place inside the hell in a cell cage, which, for the uninitiated, also includes a roof of metal and chain link fencing. In Achilles Heel’s mind, that’s too many of the same type of match. Having three hell in a cell matches removes the uniqueness of this type of match, which should be reserved for the culmination of only the bitterest feuds. (This is the same reason I always criticize TNA’s Lockdown, which features steel cage matches for the entire card.)

There are only so many different types of spots you can do in a hell in a cell. The last thing WWE should want is for the hell in a cell match to become routine.

Having said that, there is plenty to look forward to at Hell in a Cell. Kevin Owens defends the WWE Universal Championship against Seth Rollins inside hell in a cell. Both Owens and Rollins should excel in this environment. Expect Owens to retain, possibly with Chris Jericho getting involved in the finish.

Sasha Banks defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Charlotte (now being listed on wwe.com as Charlotte Flair) in a hell in a cell match. This is the first women’s hell in a cell match, so it’s a historic match. Expect Sasha to retain the title.

The third hell in a cell match pits United States champion Roman Reigns against former champion Rusev, who has been tremendous during the buildup to this match. Of all of the wrestlers involved in the ill-fated League of Nations, Rusev has done the best job of restoring his former credibility. He actually has caused fans to cheer for Reigns, which is quite an accomplishment for a heel these days. Reigns should win, but, if WWE wants to do a title switch, this match would make the most sense – unless Jericho costs Owens his title against Rollins. This should be an extremely physical match.

There are two other title matches at Hell in a Cell. The New Day defend the RAW Tag Team Championship against the mismatched team of Sheamus and Cesaro. The Greek God of Wrestling thinks we may see a title change in this match.

The other title match pits T.J. Perkins against challenger Brian Kendrick for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match. A title change is also possible here. It would be a nice reward for Kendrick for a terrific career.

Two other matches include Enzo Amore and Big Cass against Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and Bayley vs. Dana Brooke. Bayley should defeat Brooke. The outcome of the tag team match may depend on what happens in the tag team title match. It doesn’t make sense to bury Gallows and Anderson with another loss; however, if Sheamus and Cesaro take the tag team titles from New Day, an Amore and Big Cass victory may make more sense.

There will be a six-man cruiserweight match during the Hell in a Cell kickoff show. Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado and Sin Cara will oppose Drew Gulak, Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari. This should be a fun, hard-hitting match.

Hell in a Cell should be an enjoyable event. If you’re looking for something a little less physical and with less bitterness and hatred, watch the Eagles-Cowboys game.

*****

ORTON TURN? The Greek God of Wrestling isn’t quite sure what to make of Randy Orton delivering an RKO to Kane, costing the Big Red Machine his match with Bray Wyatt on Smackdown. Later in the show, Orton said, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Could Orton be joining the Wyatt Family? Having Orton join Luke Harper as a henchman would make the Wyatt Family incredibly dangerous and powerful. On the hand, Achilles Heel has a suspicion that Orton is merely going undercover, infiltrating the Wyatt Family before getting revenge.

*****

TIME TO PLAY THE GAME: Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series on Nov. 20 in Toronto is official. The only thing that bothers me about this match is it sometimes seems as if the match is being used to promote WWE’s video game instead of the other way around.

*****

TNA TURMOIL: Bobby Lashley will get a return match against TNA World champion Eddie Edwards, and Cody and Brandi Rhodes defeated Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis-Bennett in a battle of married couples, but the real action in TNA took place away from the arena, as the lawsuit between Billy Corgan and Dixie Carter continues.

*****

SABRE PART OF CHIKARA CARD: CHIKARA will make its final 2016 appearances in Philadelphia next Saturday (Nov. 5) with a day-night doubleheader at The Wrestle Factory, located at 4711 Wingate Street.

At “Counting Backwards” in the afternoon (2 p.m.), heralded independent wrestlers Zack Sabre Jr. will square off with Juan Francisco de Coronado. Other matches include Drew Gulak battling Lucas Calhoun, and the team of Dasher Hatfield and Heidi Lovelace facing Icarus and Mark Angelosetti, Hatfield’s former tag team partner.

In the evening (7 p.m.) at “Like Phantoms, Forever,” Hallowicked will defend the Grand Championship against Ophidian. Princess Kimberlee takes on Max Smashmaster, and there are a whole bunch of matches involving various ants – Missile Assault Ant, Bullet Ant, Soldier Ant and Fire Ant.

*****

WWE INVADES JERSEY: There will be plenty of opportunities to see WWE and WWE stars in New Jersey during the next few days. On Sunday (Oct. 30), Jimmy and Jey Uso will appear at iPlay America in Freehold from 9 a.m.-noon. Meanwhile, you can meet Smackdown Women’s champion Becky Lynch on Sunday (10 a.m.-noon) at Adventureland Store in Voorhees. Advance purchase of tickets for admission, autographs and photo opportunities is recommended for both appearances.

If you’re looking to see WWE stars in the ring, there will be a card Sunday (5 p.m.) with the Smackdown crew at PPL Center in Allentown. That should end in time to watch the Eagles game or the main portion of Hell in a Cell. On Monday, the Smackdown crew will be at Sun National Bank Center (7:30 p.m.) in Trenton.

If you’re willing to drive a little further, WWE World champion A.J. Styles will be at the Cricket Wireless Store in Passaic from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Smackdown is later that night in Newark.

*****

CLASSIC PARTNERS: The first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic wrapped up with victories by the team of Kota Ibushi and T.J. Perkins, replacing the injured Hideo Itami, and the team of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa posting victories.

Gargano and Ciampa will face NXT Tag Team champions The Revival (Scott Dawson, Dash Wilder) in the quarterfinals. In other quarterfinal matches, Ibushi and Perkins will battle the new team of Sanity. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong will square off with TM-61, and No Way Jose and Rich Swann will battle the Authors of Pain. The tournament final will be Nov. 19 at NXT Takeover: Toronto.

*****

GETTING HIS KICKS: A match between NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura and Austin Aries was stopped recently after Nakamura kicked Aries in the face. Aries tweeted out a shot of his swollen eye the next day. It was gross. Really gross.

*****

KING OF THE RING: The Undertaker was in Cleveland for the Cavaliers’ home opener. Before the Cavaliers got their championship rings, many of them posed for photographs with Undertaker.

*****

HARDCORE CAGE MATCH: House of Hardcore 22 on Dec. 16 at 2300 Arena in Philadelphia will feature House of Hardcore’s first steel cage match, a battle between Tommy Dreamer and “Broken” Matt Hardy. Other matches include John Hennigan (formerly John Morrison) vs. Fenix, Tony Nese vs. Lio Rush and Sami Callihan vs. Brian Cage.

Pirates' Jose Osuna throws out 3 Phillies