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Career assists for Flyers captain Claude Giroux

Eric Fisher visits the Phillies’ pre-trade deadline yard sale and finds Ruben Amaro Jr. desperately trying to peddle overvalued items with high maintenance costs.

Although he doesn’t recall playing sports very often with his father, Eric Fisher has fond memories of watching sports with his Dad, who passed away this past Saturday.

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.

Archive for the ‘Eagles’ Category

Eagles advance — Bear-ly

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 6 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles’ fate was literally up in the air.

Cody Parkey’s 43-yard field goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining would either end the Eagles’ spirited playoff run or send them on to New Orleans.

The football caromed off the inside of the left goal post and then dropped toward the crossbar. How the football hit the crossbar would determine the Eagles’ fate.

The ball bounced off the crossbar and landed in the end zone, allowing the Eagles to rejoice. Could it end any other way for the Birds, who rallied from a 4-6 start and still needed a Bears victory over the Vikings last Sunday to qualify for the playoffs.

While the celebration went on around him, Nick Foles calmly took a knee to run out the clock on the Eagles’ 16-15 playoff triumph over the host Bears at Soldier Field, earning the defending Super Bowl champions a trip to New Orleans to meet the top-seeded Saints next Sunday (4:40 p.m.).

“We hung in there,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “It wasn’t pretty at times, but we made big plays when we needed to.”

Tate comes through

No play was bigger than Foles’ fourth-down touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 56 seconds remaining. After three failed attempts from the 2-yard line, Foles connected with Tate along the goal line at the right edge of the end zone. Tate headed inside first before breaking toward the right sideline along the goal line, an area vacated by Alshon Jeffery, who took a defender with him to the deeper part of the end zone.

“It’s really a simple play,” Foles said. “It comes down to trusting your guy to get open.”

Tate got open, but that wasn’t all that was needed for success on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. With Leonard Floyd applying pressure, Foles had to make the throw three-quarters sidearm to prevent the pass from being deflected. The pass was right on the money, and Tate, who has been a bit of a disappointment since being acquired from the Lions, hauled in the throw.

“I put the top on it,” said Tate, who caught five passes for 46 yards, “but it’s the guys who made the plays earlier in that drive who deserve all the glory.”

Before the offense could get the ball, the defense, which kept the Eagles in the game while the offense was limited to three first-half points, had to get it back. The defense forced a three-and-out one possession after the Bears scored their only touchdown of the game to take the lead. A 35-yard punt gave the Eagles excellent field position, taking over at their own 40-yard line with just under five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Foles effect

The Eagles trailed, 15-10, but everyone was confident with Foles at quarterback. No moment seems too big for the Super Bowl MVP.

“Nick is Nick,” Pederson said. “He’s going to stay calm. He’s going to stay cool. He’s going to stay collected.”

Foles’ demeanor has a ripple effect on the rest of the team, which may be one reason the team has played better since Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback.

“When he’s calm, cool and collected,” Tate said, “usually the other 10 guys are, too.”

Foles (25 of 40, 266 yards, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions) started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery (6 catches for 82 yards), who made a very successful return to Chicago, his NFL home for five seasons before joining the Eagles. Two plays later, rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who caught the Eagles’ first touchdown pass in the third quarter, broke a few tackles on a screen up the middle to pick up a first down.

As is Foles’ modus operandi, he worked in as many receivers as possible. His next pass went to Nelson Agholor for 8 yards, and then he found record-setting tight end Zach Ertz (5 catches for 52 yards) down the middle for 13 yards, advancing the ball to the Bears 14. An 11-yard pass to Jeffery after the 2-minute warning moved the ball to the 2.

But the Bears defense isn’t ranked No. 1 in the NFL for no reason. Darren Sproles was stopped for no gain on consecutive runs. A third-down pass to Jeffery at the goal line was knocked away by All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller.

“It was a crazy game,” Foles said. “That’s a tremendous team. This is a crazy place to play.”

With the Soldier Field crowd roaring, though, Foles was able to stay calm on fourth down even though the Eagles’ season was hanging in the balance.

“What I learned on these (big) stages is how to calm myself in a chaotic moment,” Foles said.

Foles calmly connected with Tate for the go-ahead touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the Eagles still seemed in good shape.

Eagles barely (bearly?) escape

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tarik Cohen returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Bears 42. One play later, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found Allen Robinson, a thorn in the Eagles’ side (10 catches for 143 yards, TD), for a 25-yard gain to the Eagles 33 with 35 seconds remaining. An 8-yard pass on the next play moved the ball to the 25. After a spike to kill the clock and another incompletion, the stage was set for ex-Eagle Parkey to decide his former teams’ fate.

Pederson called a timeout just before Parkey’s first attempt at the 43-yarder, which sailed through the uprights.

“Obviously, we’re just hoping for a miss,” Foles said.

On the second attempt, Parkey hit the left upright and crossbar before bouncing harmlessly into the end zone.

“The big thing is we say some adversity tonight in the first half,” Foles said. “I had a couple of turnovers. I think the big thing is that no one loses faith, no one stops believing, everyone just keep talking, keeps believing in one another, and we just rallied.”

Whether the Eagles rally around Foles or because of Foles doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they continue to believe in themselves and that their remarkable journey, with six wins in their past seven games, continues.

“I’m blessed to wear this jersey one more week,” Foles said. “I’m blessed to play with these guys one more week, and to be with these coaches one more week.”

What about the bruised ribs that forced Foles to leave the regular-season finale in the fourth quarter.

“It’s good,” Foles said of his rib injury. “It feels better with the win.”

Eagles enjoy familiar underdog role

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 5 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles won five of their final six games to earn an opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title during the postseason. Even so, the Eagles only made the playoffs because their first-round playoff opponent, the Bears, defeated the Vikings on the final day of the regular-season.

The Bears may regret giving the Eagles new life in their quest to become the first team in 14 years to repeat as Super Bowl champion, but they are 6½-point favorites over the Birds on Sunday (4:40 p.m.) at Soldier Field. The Eagles, of course, don’t mind being underdogs. They rallied around the underdog image last season, when they were underdogs in every one of their playoff games.

Although the Eagles’ turnaround after starting the season 4-6 has received a lot of attention, the Bears’ 9-1 record since starting the season 3-3 has been overlooked. The Bears’ only loss during the stretch came against the Giants, but it should be noted that former Eagles backup Chase Daniel was the starting quarterback in that game.

Daniel is far from the only player with an Eagles-Bears connection. Bears tight end Trey Burton was an integral part of the Philly Special in last season’s Super Bowl. Cody Parkey was the Eagles’ kicker. Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery spent five seasons with the Bears.

As far as story lines, there is none better than Nick Foles once again leading the Eagles into the playoffs after Carson Wentz was injured. Foles, whose incredible NFL journey has been well-documented, led the Eagles to three straight victories at the end of the season, including win over the Rams and Texans. Unlike at the start of last season’s playoffs, nobody should be doubting Foles.

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

How good is Nick Foles?

Foles set a franchise record two weeks ago with 471 passing yards during the Eagles’ 32-30 win over the Texans. Last week he tied an NFL record with 25 straight completions during the Eagles’ 24-0 win over the Redskins. Against the Bears’ excellent defense, it will be difficult for Foles to have a record-setting performance for a third straight week, but nobody should underestimate last season’s Super Bowl MVP.

How good is the Bears defense?

The Bears led the NFL in forced turnovers (36), interceptions (27), interception returns for a touchdown (5), the fewest average rushing yards (80), the fewest rushing touchdowns (5) and lowest passer rating (72.9). Three defensive players – linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson – were named to the All-Pro first team. Jackson, who is trying to return from an ankle injury, is going to be a game-time decision.

Who are the most underrated members of the Bears defense?

Linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan didn’t make the All-Pro team, but they are the two leading tacklers for the Bears. Smith, the eighth pick in the NFL Draft, leads the Bears with 121 tackles, including five sacks. Trevathan is second on the team with 102 tackles.

What can the Eagles do to succeed against the Bears defense?

The answer is to run the ball effectively, but that’s easier said than done. The Eagles will use Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles against a defense that has shut down marquee running backs such as the Rams’ Todd Gurley, the Bills’ LeSean McCoy and the Cardinals’ David Johnson. If the Eagles don’t establish the run, the Bears can unleash a pass rush that picked up 50 sacks this season. Perhaps a better method to slow down the pass rush might be quick passes. Nick Foles has been getting rid of the ball quickly since regaining the starting role.

What is the biggest danger for the Eagles offense?

The biggest danger is that Khalil Mack (12½ sacks) and Akeem Hicks (7½ sacks) produce pressure on Foles. A big hit or two to Foles’ bruised ribs could force Foles to get rush his passes, which would play into the hands of the Bears’ turnover-producing defense, led by Kyle Fuller’s seven interceptions.  In a worst-case scenario, Foles would be knocked out of the game, forcing the Eagles to put their fate in Nate Sudfeld’s hands.

Who will be the best defensive player on the field?

Although many might immediately answer that it’s Khalil Mack, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox might be the correct answer. Cox has 10½ sacks and has been a disruptive force despite facing nearly constant double teams. Cox has been particularly dominant during the final month of the season.

How much does the coaching familiarity matter?

Doug Pederson and Bears head coach Matt Nagy served together under Andy Reid with both the Eagles and the Chiefs. With the Chiefs, Pederson was the offensive coordinator and Nagy was the quarterbacks coach, so they worked closely together. They are both familiar with the other coach’s thought patterns and tendencies, so this matchup is a draw.

Where are the Bears vulnerable?

The Eagles might have an advantage with their defense against the Bears’ offense. Jordan Howard has rushed for 935 yards on 250 carries. Tarik Cohen provides a change of pace, running for 444 yards on 99 carries. If the Eagles can shut down the Bears’ running game and force quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to throw on obvious passing downs, the Eagles’ rejuvenated pass rush could produce sacks or turnovers. One thing to beware of is Trubisky’s ability to run. He has gained 421 yards on 68 carries, including 31 runs for first downs.

Which player can the Eagles remove as a factor?

Tarik Cohen was selected to the All-Pro team as a punt returner. If punter Cam Johnston can continue his fine season, it should neutralize Cohen’s impact on special teams by allowing him few returns and giving him little time and space to make plays.

Where do the Eagles have an obvious advantage?

The Eagles appear to have an advantage at kicker. Jake Elliott has had a better season than former Eagle Cody Parkey, who has missed seven field goals, including three from less than 40 yards. Both Parkey and Elliott have been erratic with extra points.

Prediction: Both teams’ defenses seem to have an advantage over the opposing offense. Both teams might have difficulty running the ball, but the Eagles offense is becoming more efficient with Nick Foles at quarterback. The Eagles are improving on both offense and defense, which is a good sign. On the other hand, Nick Foles is playing with bruised ribs against a punishing Bears defense. Foles gives the Eagles a chance, but the Bears defense might be too good to overcome. Bears 24, Eagles 23

Side angle of Cody Parkey's missed field goal