From Comcast SportsNetNEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are having fun again. They hope it's a sign of things to come in the second half of the season.Michael Vick kept picking himself up off the Superdome turf, the recipient of an awful beating.The Philadelphia Eagles are down -- and nearly out.Brees threw two touchdown passes, extending his NFL record streak to 51 games, and Patrick Robinson returned an interception 99 yards for a score to lead the Saints past the reeling Eagles 28-13 Monday night.New Orleans (3-5), which bounced back from a dismal 34-14 loss at Denver, also got a 22-yard touchdown run from Chris Ivory."There are defining moments throughout a season," Brees said. "Big plays, big wins, that kind of bring you together and let you see a vision of what you can be, what you can accomplish. Here we are the midway point. It's gone by fast."This," he added, "is the type of momentum we want going into the second half of the season."The Eagles (3-5) lost their fourth straight, which is sure to keep the heat on Vick and embattled coach Andy Reid. Vick threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the third quarter, but that was about the only highlight for the visiting team.The elusive Vick was sacked seven times."It's very frustrating," Vick said. "These are games that we have the opportunity to win, or get back in the game. At this point, everything has to be dead on. You can't miss, and you almost have to be perfect on every drive."Philadelphia was far from perfect, but sure had plenty of chances. Four times, the Eagles were staring at first-and-goal, but only managed two field goals by Alex Henery. In fact, they were outscored in those situations, with Robinson going the other way for a touchdown just when it looked like Philadelphia was on the verge of scoring.Rubbing salt in the wound, Philadelphia squandered a chance to get back in the game with a brilliant trick play on a kickoff return. Riley Cooper laid flat in the end zone, unseen by the Saints, then popped up to take a cross-field lateral from Brandon Boykin.Cooper streaked down the sideline for an apparent touchdown. Only one problem -- Boykin's lateral was actually a forward pass by about a yard, ruining the play with a penalty. Cooper stood with his hands on his hips, in disbelief, as the officials brought it back.Philadelphia finished with 447 yards -- the eighth straight team to put up more than 400 yards on the Saints. That was already the longest streak of 400-yard games given up by a defense since at least 1950, and maybe in the history of the NFL, putting New Orleans on pace to shatter the record for most yards allowed in a season.But New Orleans came through where it mattered most, giving up a season low in points. Their previous best was a 31-24 victory over San Diego."The most important stat at the end of the day is points," Brees said. "Our defense came up with some huge plays tonight. If we can hold teams to 13 points, we're going to win a lot of games."Philadelphia's last gasp was a fourth-down pass that Vick threw away in the back of the end zone with 7 seconds left, apparently more concerned about avoiding another pick than tacking on a meaningless TD.Brees kept his record touchdown streak going, hooking up with Marques Colston on a 1-yard scoring pass and Jimmy Graham from 6 yards out.The Saints quarterback finished 21 of 27 for 239 yards, a big improvement on his 22-of-42 showing against the Broncos. Brees also got plenty of help from the running game, which came into the league ranked last in the league.Ivory, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram combined for 136 yards, each breaking off double-digit gains. Ivory, the Saints' leading rusher two years ago but playing for the first time this year, provided a much-needed boost to the backfield.Meanwhile, the embattled Saints defense kept the heat on Vick, and the brutal beating made it tough for No. 7 to establish any rhythm. He finished 22 of 41 for 272 yards and really couldn't be blamed for Robinson's interception, which went off the hands of tight end Brent Celek.Cameron Jordan had three sacks, matching his total for the season, while Will Smith took down Vick twice -- also matching his sack total through the first seven games.Reid moved quickly to snuff out any talk about replacing Vick, which has become a weekly ritual."Michael Vick will be the quarterback," the Eagles coach said.Celek had a tough night. He also lost a fumble deep at the New Orleans 8 with just over 3 minutes remaining, essentially ending any hope of a Philadelphia comeback.The Saints raced to a 21-3 halftime lead, putting the Eagles in a big hole for the second straight game. Over the last two weeks, they have been outscored 45-10 in the first and second quarters.New Orleans was on the verge of blowing it open when it took the second-half kickoff and drove deep into Philadelphia territory. But the Eagles defense came up with a big turnover, as Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Brees and fell on it at the Eagles 17. Two plays later, Vick found Jackson wide open down the right side on a deep throw, and he took it the rest of the way for a touchdown.Rookie Travaris Cadet, filling in on returns for the injured Darren Sproles, fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Philadelphia recovered again. Vick broke off a 14-yard run to the 8, but yet another sack stifled the drive. The Eagles settled for Henery's second field goal from 37 yards.Henery connected from 22 yards early in the second quarter after the Eagles squandered a chance for more. Jackson appeared caught off guard by Vick's third-down pass in the back of the end zone, doing little more than sticking out his left hand in a halfhearted attempt to make the catch.Philadelphia moved the ball effectively in the early going and looked to strike first after Brown broke off a 40-yard run to the New Orleans 5. After losing 1 yard on a run, the Eagles went to the air looking for the touchdown.Instead, it was the Saints who scored. Vick's pass in the flats deflected off Celek's hands -- right into the arms of Robinson, the right cornerback. He took off down the sideline in front of the shell-shocked Philadelphia bench, matching Darren Sharper's franchise record for longest interception return.Notes: Graham, who has battled an ankle injury and had a problem with drops, led the Saints with a season-high eight catches for 72 yards. ... Jackson finished with 100 yards receiving on just three catches. ... Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy had 19 carries for 119 yards, but only 18 yards came after halftime.
BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.
A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.
Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.
Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets:
Cora not happy with clubhouse laughter after another #Mets loss. Yells out, "A little respect please. They stuck it up our ---!"— David Lennon (@DPLennon) July 21, 2010
Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:
“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.
“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”
Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it?
Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different.
But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems.
There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage.
Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real.
Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.
The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.
A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.
Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.
"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.
“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."
Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE
On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...
0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.
2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.
6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.
10:00 - A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.
14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.