Receiving yards for Cowboys’ Amari Cooper during Sunday’s 29-23 win over Eagles

The Sixers have become a national joke, but I fail to find the humor. The organization should be embarrassed by the putrid product it puts out on the floor. Instead, GM Sam Hinkie is patting himself on the back for the new-and-improved Tanking 2.0.

The 76ers became the first franchise in the four major North American sports leagues to sell advertising on their uniforms. While the Sixers celebrate this “first,” Eric Fisher worries that NBA players — and fans who buy their jerseys — are going to become walking billboards.

The Phillies have acquired many pitchers, such as Vince Velasquez (pictured), the past few years, but it’s not clear that they’ve brought in quality pitchers who can anchor thea rotation or bullpen for at least several years. Eric Fisher also reminds you that Carlos Ruiz returns this week, says Tommy Joseph may have started hitting in the nick of time, and praises Aaron Altherr.

Archive for the ‘Eagles’ Category

Bounces don’t go Eagles’ way

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 9 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Despite an overwhelming edge in time of possession and total yards, the Cowboys need an overtime touchdown catch by Amari Cooper to post a 29-23 victory over the visiting Eagles, virtually ending the Birds’ hopes of winning the NFC East.


Sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. That was true for the Eagles during Sunday’s NFC East showdown with the Cowboys.

From the first play of the game to the last play of the game, the bounces didn’t go the Eagles’ way when they needed them most.

On the first play of the game, kickoff returner Jourdan Lewis fumbled, but the officials ruled he didn’t fumble. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson challenged the call. The replay revealed that Lewis fumbled, but the replay official maintained that the Eagles didn’t have a clear recovery, meaning they didn’t recover the ball right away, so the Cowboys kept possession.

On the final play of the game, with the Cowboys facing third-and-7 from the Eagles’ 15-yard line in overtime, quarterback Dak Prescott tried to connect with Amari Cooper on a slant from the left side. Cornerback Rasul Douglas deflected the ball with his left hand, but the ball popped up in the air. Cooper corralled the loose ball and took the final steps into the end zone to provide the Cowboys with a crucial 29-23 victory over the visiting Eagles.

“Literally, the ball didn’t bounce our way,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who caused the fumble on the game’s first play.

The loss leaves the Eagles (6-7) with the slimmest of hopes of winning the NFC East. They must win their final three games while the Cowboys (8-5) lose their final three games in order to capture the division. A win would have tied the Eagles with the Cowboys atop the division.

The Eagles must now focus their attention on the wild card race. The Seahawks (7-5) lead the way, with the Vikings (6-5-1) right behind them. The Vikings visit the Seahawks on Monday, so, barring a tie, one of those teams should suffer a loss. The Eagles are tied with the Redskins, who have lost four straight games, and the Panthers, who have lost five straight games.

But the Eagles can only focus on what’s in front of them on the field. They have a difficult challenge next Sunday (8:20 p.m.) when they visit the NFC West-champion Rams.

“We will never quit,” quarterback Carson Wentz said. “We’re going to keep competing our tails off and let the chips fall where they may.”

Mistakes, bad bounces will haunt Eagles

If they don’t make the playoffs, though, Sunday’s overtime loss will be among the games that haunt the Eagles. And there will be plays within the overtime loss to the Cowboys that the Eagles will have difficulty forgetting, including the game-winning touchdown.

“To lose on that play, the way it happened …,” Wentz said. “Rasul made a great play.”

Jenkins concurred, saying “I thought he played phenomenal. I feel for him. He played it exactly the way he’s supposed to.”

Douglas saved a touchdown pass to Cooper early in the second quarter with a well-timed interception. A 10-point deficit would have been more difficult to overcome, especially considering the Eagles were having difficulty moving the ball.

The Cowboys complete controlled the first half, but the Eagles escaped with only a 6-0 deficit entering halftime, and the Cowboys needed a franchise-record 62-yard field goal by Brett Maher as time expired to increase their lead to six points.

The Eagles went three-and-out for the third time in five possessions at the start of the second half. When the Cowboys kicked another field goal with 8:59 left in the third quarter – after the defense stopped Prescott at the 2-yard line – the situation looked bleak for the Eagles.

“It’s definitely frustrating with the talent we have on offense,” Wentz said. “We just didn’t execute, couldn’t sustain drives.”

The Eagles picked up one first down on their second drive of the second half, but didn’t need to go too far on their third drive. Prescott badly overthrew a wide-open Michael Gallup, and safety Corey Graham was in perfect position for the interception. He returned it to the 2-yard line, so the Eagles only needed one play, a 2-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, to reach the end zone. But a missed extra point by Jake Elliott, his first miss of the season, left the Eagles trailing 9-6.

Offenses erupt in fourth

After scoring a combined 15 points during the first quarter, the offenses busted out during the fourth quarter, combining for 31 points. Cooper caught touchdown passes of 28 and 75 yards, both down the right sideline. The 75-yard touchdown came one play after the Eagles had tied the game, 16-16, on a 3-yard pass from Wentz (22 of 32 for 228 yards, 3 TDs) to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert.

Goedert has another touchdown, a 75-yarder, called back for a marginal offensive pass interference penalty, but the Eagles managed to score on that drive anyway. Wentz found Darren Sproles open at the 3, and the veteran running back made a move to create just enough space between two Dallas defenders to reach the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown with 1:39 remaining in regulation.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson immediately called for Elliott to kick the game-tying extra point. The attempt was good, but another questionable penalty, this time on the Cowboys, could have given the Eagles the ball at the 1-yard line with an opportunity to go for a 2-point conversion. The usually aggressive Pederson decided not to take the point off the board, leaving the game tied at 23-23.

“I just elected at that point to go for the kick and tie it up,” said Pederson, who later reiterated that “I stand by my decision.”

Cowboys in control

What Pederson didn’t know at the time is the Eagles would never get the ball back. The Cowboys drove downfield on the final possession of regulation, reaching the Eagles 41, but a low snap on second down caused a 6-yard loss and Fletcher Cox sacked Prescott on third down, pushing the Cowboys out of field goal range.

In overtime, though, the Eagles defense couldn’t get off the field. The Cowboys held the ball for the entire 8:05 of overtime. That didn’t come as a complete surprise, considering that the Cowboys accumulated 576 total yards. Prescott passed for 455 yards, although he turned the ball over three times, twice on interceptions and once on a fumble. Ezekiel Elliott rushed 28 times for 113 yards, and he got the Cowboys off to a good start on their overtime possession with runs of 8 and 10 yards on their first two plays.

The most damage, though, was done by Cooper. He caught 10 passes for a career-best of 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.

“You’ve got to hate this moment,” Pederson said. “You’ve got to hate this feeling. You’ve got to hate losing.”

Not only do the Eagles have to hate losing, but they have to hate the way they lost. After the game, Jenkins was still upset about the failure to overturn the call on the game’s first play.

“That was a terrible call,” said Jenkins, who will pick up a fine for adding, “Whoever’s watching that (replay) in New York should stay off the bottle.”

Perhaps a short field on the first possession would have injected life into an Eagles offense that was nearly catatonic during the first two-and-half quarters. We’ll never know.

What we do know is that, when they needed them most, the bounces didn’t go the Eagles’ way on Sunday.

Eagles-Cowboys: Season on the line

Posted by Eric Fisher On December - 8 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles need to defeat the Cowboys on Sunday (4:25 p.m.) to make the playoffs. A win is far from a guarantee that the Eagles make the playoffs, but it’s difficult to imagine them making it without a win Sunday.

The Eagles (6-6) are tied with the Redskins in the NFC East, one game behind the Cowboys (7-5). A win Sunday would lift the Eagles into a first-place tie. A loss would drop them two games off the pace with three games remaining. A loss would also give the Cowboys, who posted a 27-20 victory in the first meeting between these teams, the first tiebreaker (head-to-head competition) if the Eagles managed to tie them for the division title.

The circumstances are very different from when these teams met four weeks ago. The Cowboys were 3-5 and owner Jerry Jones was trying to squelch rumors that head coach Jason Garrett would be fired if they lost to the Eagles. The Eagles were 4-4, but had won two of three games before the bye week, with the loss, in which the Panthers scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, being a game they should have won.

The Eagles also enter this game on a bit of a roll. They defeated the Giants and Redskins the past two weeks, winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, after getting blown out by the Saints. Can the Eagles make it three in a row against NFC East opponents?

Here are 10 questions to consider prior to and during Sunday’s game.

Why is this game important?

As it says above, the Eagles (6-6) need this win to have a realistic chance to win the NFC East. With only three games remaining, including the Rams and Texans the next two weeks, if the Eagles lose Sunday, they would have to win all three games and hope the Cowboys lose all three of their remaining games in order to win the NFC East.  A win doesn’t guarantee an NFC East title, but it at least gives the Eagles a realistic shot.

With two straight wins for the first time this season, are the Eagles hitting their stride?

That’s a little difficult to gauge. The Eagles would not have beaten the Giants two weeks ago if not for some self-inflicted wounds by the Giants. The Redskins were playing with a third-string quarterback for the final three quarters and two third-string guards during the second half on Monday.  The Eagles pulled away against the Redskins because, with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, the Redskins had difficulty moving the ball during the second half. A victory over the Cowboys would signal that the Eagles have hit their stride.

Why are some people criticizing Carson Wentz?

Wentz has had a good year, but not a great year. That was evident against the Redskins on Monday. Not only did he throw an interception at the goal line, but he twice missed open receivers for large gains. His numbers (27 of 39 attempts, 306 yards, 2 TDs) were impressive, but missed opportunities and the interception prevent a “great” rating. Keep in mind that Wentz is having a fine season after undergoing major knee surgery, but a terrific game against the Cowboys might squelch some of the criticism.

How have the Cowboys turned their season around?

The constant all season for the Cowboys has been their defense. Aside from the 28-14 Monday night loss to the Titans that preceded their first game with the Eagles, the Cowboys haven’t allowed more than 24 points all season. In their most recent game, the Cowboys held the vaunted Saints offense to 10 points. One of the keys to their defense was the decision to draft Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick. With often-injured linebacker Sean Lee sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Cowboys defense hasn’t undergone the precipitous slide it used when Lee was sidelined. Vander Esch has been terrific in Lee’s role as middle linebacker. The turnaround has come because the offense has improved. The Cowboys have committed to running the ball, yet, at the same time, they’ve improved their passing game by getting the ball to Amari Cooper, acquired in exchange for a first-round draft pick.

What is the Cowboys’ biggest advantage on Sunday?

The Cowboys’ biggest advantage is their running game. Ezekiel Elliott, who is second in the NFL with 1,150 yards rushing, ran for 151 yards in the Cowboys’ first meeting with the Eagles. The Eagles are allowing opponents 5 yards per carry this season. It won’t help that two Eagles linebackers, Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill, are playing with casts on their hands due to broken thumbs, and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is going to miss the game due a lingering calf injury. Quarterback Dak Prescott is also a threat to run.

How can the Eagles slow down the Cowboys’ rushing attack?

The first thing they can do is take the lead. Even with Monday’s opening-drive touchdown against the Redskins, the Eagles are last in the NFL with 28 first-quarter points this season. If the Eagles get an early lead and keep it, the Cowboys will be tempted to abandon their running game. If the Eagles are trailing from the beginning, the Cowboys will continue to pound the ball with Ezekiel Elliott until the Eagles prove they can stop it.

What else can the Eagles do to slow down the Cowboys?

The Eagles can keep the ball away from the Cowboys by running the ball successfully. Josh Adams had 20 carries in each of his last two games. Running the ball against the Cowboys is difficult due to linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith; however, the Eagles can’t have a repeat of the first game against the Cowboys, when the Eagles ran the ball seven times during the entire first half. Head coach Doug Pederson must maintain a commitment to the running game.

Is the Eagles’ offense “back?”

The addition of Darren Sproles against the Redskins and the development of Josh Adams as an effective and reliable runner certainly help the Eagles. Against the Redskins, receiver Golden Tate had his best game since being acquired by the Eagles, catching seven passes for 85 yards. Having three more weapons certainly benefits Carson Wentz and makes the offense better.

Can the Cowboys stop Zach Ertz?

Ertz had 14 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting between the Eagles and Cowboys this season. He has 93 catches – a franchise record – this season with four games remaining. Will the Cowboys concentrate on stopping Ertz? If so, it should create opportunities for the players mentioned in the preceding answer.

Will the Cowboys being well-rested give them an advantage?

The Cowboys will have had 10 days to rest since defeating the Saints, 13-10, on a Thursday night. The Eagles have a short week after beating the Redskins, 28-13, on Monday night. But the first time these teams played, the Cowboys were on the road after playing on Monday night while the Eagles were coming off their bye, and it was the Cowboys who won. Consequently, the extra rest may not matter.

Prediction: The Eagles have won two straight games. The Cowboys have won four straight games. The Eagles have more weapons than they had in the first meeting. They also have Lane Johnson, who missed the first Cowboys game, back at right tackle. On the other hand, the Cowboys have a clear advantage running the football. Barring a sudden increase in producing turnovers, the Eagles would have to win by scoring a lot of points. That’s unlikely against a solid Cowboys defense. Cowboys 26, Eagles 24

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Butler game-winner vs. Nets