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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

The Sixers are above .500 for the first time since November of 2013, but the difference is this time it appears the success will last. Eric Fisher also examines Ben Simmons’ fast start, the Jahlil Okafor (pictured) situation and the Sixers’ upcoming West Coast trip.

Almost any NFL team can beat any other NFL team on any given Sunday (or Monday … or Thursday). The NFL’s off-the-field problems are pushed to the sidelines every week by entertaining games with unpredictable outcomes. That’s why we keep watching.

Nick Foles threw two interceptions and the first-team offense sputtered during a 34-28 loss to the Bears in the Eagles’ preseason opener. But backup QB Mark Sanchez looked good and rookie Josh Huff returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown.

Archive for the ‘Eagles’ Category

Patriots won’t go away

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 31 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory one year ago would have generated pride and joy regardless of the opponent. The fact that the win came against the Patriots made it that much sweeter.

The Patriots. The cheaters. The evil empire. The same Patriots that beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Not only was it the same franchise, but the quarterback and the sourpuss coach were still the same. Revenge was indeed sweet.

The Eagles could have beaten Little Flower High School, an all-girls Catholic School in Philadelphia (for those who don’t know), in the Super Bowl, and Eagles fans would have partied in the streets. Beating the Patriots was the cherry on top of the sundae.

An added bonus was the feeling that the Eagles were driving the final nails into the coffin of the Patriots’ dynasty. The Patriots had escaped the previous year, improbably rallying from a 25-point third-quarter deficit in Super Bowl LI to beat the Falcons in overtime. When Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell harmlessly to the ground in the end zone on the final play of Super Bowl LII, it felt as if Nick Foles and the Eagles, with the magic of the Philly Special, had squeezed the last breath out of the New England beast.

But the Patriots are back. (And the Eagles are not.)

At a sendoff rally for the Super Bowl, Tom Brady led the crowd in a “We’re still here!” chant. The chant was lame. But it was accurate.

The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the ninth time in the last 18 seasons. They are back in the Super Bowl for the third straight season, something they hadn’t accomplished before during their remarkable run. This is their fourth Super Bowl in the last five seasons.

Maybe everyone should have known better. As long as Brady lines up at quarterback and Bill Belichick paces the sidelines, the Patriots will be a threat to win the Super Bowl.

Brady is 41 years old. Belichick is 66 years old, twice as old as Rams head coach Sean McVay. If the Patriots win on Sunday, Belichick would become the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl. More importantly, he would tie George Halas and Curly Lambeau for the most NFL championships in history, and they weren’t competing against 31 other teams.

We can hate on Brady and Bill Belichick, but we also can’t deny there isn’t a touch of envy mixed in with the hatred. Cheating can’t account for all five of their Super Bowl titles.

Sometimes you just have to give the devil his due. (Some would say literally, in this case.)

The Patriots seem to find a way to win when they need it the most. They proved that in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons. They proved it again this season with two victories over the Chiefs. They posted a 43-40 victory over the Chiefs in October on Monday Night Football, but that paled in importance to their 37-31 overtime triumph in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

What’s so frustrating is that the Eagles seemed to have slain that beast in Super Bowl LII. For once, the Patriots couldn’t get the job done. It was the Eagles who prevailed in the big moments.

Like the monsters in horror movies, however, the Patriots rose from the seemingly dead. This is Super Bowl IX for the Belichick-Brady Patriots. And who would bet against them return for a 10th Super Bowl next season?

Even if the Rams win on Sunday, there shouldn’t be any dancing on the Patriots’ graves.

We should know better by now.

Victory slips through Birds’ grasp

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 13 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

After doing very little since the opening 11 minutes of the game, the magic appeared to be back in the air for the Eagles.

Nick Foles, the leading man in unbelievable riches-to-rags-to-even-greater-riches story, was leading the Eagles to another improbable winning drive. With only two first downs during the second half, the Eagles quickly picked up a pair of first downs and advanced the ball to the Saints 27-yard line.

Squeezing in another play before the 2-minute warning, Foles found Alshon Jeffery open on the left side. But the ball went right through the big man’s hands – perhaps the best hands on the team – and right into the waiting arms of cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

“That last play, that’s on me,” said Jeffery, who added that the play will stay with him the entire offseason.

The Eagles’ flickering hopes were then extinguished when the Saints converted on yet another third down, this time third-and-9, to prevent the Birds from getting the ball back.

Saints 20, Eagles 14. The season is over. The fairy tale is over. The dream of repeating as Super Bowl champions is over.

“It’s tough. It’s tough,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “There’s no more football for 2018.”

The 2018 season continues for the Saints, who will host the Rams in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday (3 p.m.) after rallying from an early 14-point deficit against the Eagles.

End of the line?

But there won’t be any more football this season for the Eagles. And there might not be any more football in an Eagles uniform for several players who have been integral parts of the Eagles’ recent success. That list includes defensive end Brandon Graham, left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and, of course, Foles.

“We hate this feeling right now,” Jeffery said.

Foles wouldn’t say Sunday was his final game in Eagles green, but he spoke about how much he’ll missing playing with the same group of teammates.

“That’s the hardest part about this,” Foles said. “It stops.”

Foles also thanked Eagles fans for their support and talked about how much he’s enjoyed playing in Philadelphia, saying “The city means so much to me and my family, and it always will.”

It’s likely that Foles will be starting for another team next season. But his teammates won’t forget what he’s done for them during his time with the Birds.

“I love and respect that guy so much,” center Jason Kelce said. “… He’s one of the guys you’ll always remember.”

Fast start

It appeared that Foles, Peters, Graham & Company were going to get another chance to wear Eagles green again next Sunday when they raced out to a 14-0 lead Sunday. Eager to put a 48-7 embarrassment at the Superdome behind them, the Eagles built a 14-0 lead before the Saints even had a first down.

The Saints seemed intent on reminding the Eagles of the Nov. 18 humiliation, which dropped them to 4-6 and left their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, by throwing deep on the game’s first play from scrimmage. But Cre’von LeBlanc intercepted Drew Brees’ deep throw down the middle for Ted Ginn Jr., doubling Brees’ total for interceptions thrown at home this season.

The Eagles quickly moved the ball past midfield, and then Foles placed a beautiful throw in Jordan Matthews’ arms for a 37-yard touchdown with 10:41 remaining in the first quarter. After the defense forced a three-and-out on the Saints’ second possession, Foles engineered a 75-yard drive, with Foles reaching over the goal line from the 1 for a 14-0 lead with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter. Foles was already 8 of 9 for 113 yards, with his eight completions spread around seven receivers.

“The first two drivers were great,” Foles said.

But the momentum changed early in the second quarter. The Eagles appeared to have forced another three-and-out, but the Saints pulled off a successful fake punt on fourth-and-1 from their own 30, with Taysom Hill picking up four yards. To make matters worse, Fletcher Cox was injured on that play.

One play later, Brees connected with Michael Thomas (12 receptions for 171 yards, TD) for a 42-yard gain down to the Eagles 24. Another moment of truth came on fourth-and-goal at the 2, but the Saints decided to go for the touchdown instead of kicking a field goal, and Brees found Keith Kirkwood in the left side of the end zone against Josh Hawkins.

Hawkins was in the game because Rasul Douglas was on the sidelines with an ankle injury. In addition to the injury that limited Cox’s playing time, right guard Brandon Brooks left the game in the first quarter with a torn Achilles tendon.

“That’s kind of been our season, fighting through injuries,” Pederson said.

The pattern the rest of the game involved the Saints controlling the ball, with the Eagles defense giving up big plays on third down, and the Eagles offense unable to generate anything positive.

“We just couldn’t get off the field defensively on third down,” Pederson said.

That was never more evident than on the Saints’ first possession of the second half. After the Eagles went three-and-out, the Saints put together an 18-play, 92-yard drive to take the lead, 17-14. The third-down conversions included a 20-yard pass to Thomas on third-and-16 from the Eagles 32. Fittingly, Thomas caught a 2-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score.

Magic resurfaces?

Another field goal gave the Saints a 20-14 with 10:28 remaining, but the Eagles received renewed life when Wil Lutz missed a 52-yard attempt with 2:58 remaining.

All of a sudden, memories of last Sunday’s double-doink by Cody Parkey resurfaced. Against the Bears, the winning touchdown drive came before the missed field goal, but who says the script has to be exactly the same very week?

“It just felt like that magic was going to continue,” Pederson said.

The Eagles hadn’t moved the ball with any success for more than three quarters, but, with Foles at the helm, the improbable becomes the routine. After an incompletion on first down, Foles recognized the blitz and found Zach Ertz for a 16-yard gain to advance the ball into Saints territory. A roughing-the-passer penalty advanced the ball to the 27.

After Sproles was limited to no gain on first down, the Eagles decided to run a play before the two-minute warning. Foles dashed off a quick pass to Jeffery, who was open … and that’s where the magic ended.

Jeffery was left lying on the field for nearly a full minute. When he got to the sideline, his face was full of shock and sadness.

“I told him to keep his head up,” Pederson said. “Don’t let one play define you.”

This year’s Eagles will be defined not by one play, but by their resilience. It would have been easy to pack it in after the 48-7 loss to the Saints, and the Saints certainly didn’t expect to see the Eagles again this season. But the Eagles fought back to win five of their next six games to reach the playoffs, and then beat the Bears on the road to earn another trip to the Superdome.

The Eagles won’t be going back to the Super Bowl, but it’s not because they didn’t give it their best effort.

“We went out there and gave it everything we had,” Foles said.

And that’s a fitting way to remember this Eagles team.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie