Eagles

First impressions: Julian Edelman's circus catch highlights Patriots' amazing comeback

First impressions: Julian Edelman's circus catch highlights Patriots' amazing comeback

HOUSTON -- Here are some quick-hit impressions from the Patriots' incredible 34-28, come-from-behind victory in overtime over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI (see game story):

• David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Jermanie Kearse … Julian Edelman. The Patriots finally had a circus catch go their way in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and it could not have come at a better time. After a 20-yard completion to Danny Amendola, a 14-yard reception by James White and then a 7-yard catch by White, the Patriots were suddenly at the goal line after being sparked by Edelman's ridiculous grab. Brady handed to White, who had the game of his life, for an easy touchdown, and a two-point conversion to Amendola tied it. 

• Are you kidding me? The Patriots were down 21-0 in the first half. They were down 28-3 at one point. The largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points.

• In overtime, Brady was masterful. He hit White for three catches that went for 13 yards. He hit Amendola for a 14-yard gain. Chris Hogan picked up 19. Edelman got 15 more. Brady threw incomplete to Martellus Bennett, but a pass-interference call put the Patriots at the one-yard line. After an incompletion on a fade to Bennett, Brady pitched to James White for the game-winning touchdown. 

• White has been criticized throughout his pro career for an inability to fight through contact, criticism that has been brought to his attention, but he lowered his shoulder and dove for the goal line to give the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

• Dont'a Hightower, Trey Flowers and Chris Long came up with enormous plays to help give the Patriots an opportunity to come back. Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, and Alan Branch fell on the football to prematurely put a stop to Atlanta's first drive of the final quarter. An Amendola touchdown made it a one-score game, 28-20. 

• During the subsequent Falcons drive, Flowers sacked Ryan and Chris Long drew a hold to knock the Falcons out of field-goal range. Atlanta punted, which led to Brady's game-tying drive and Edelman's remarkable catch.

• Tom Brady picked a bad time to throw his first-ever pick-six. Late in the second quarter, he dropped back to pass and attempted to hit Danny Amendola on a slant. The only problem was Falcons corner Robert Alford was reading Brady's eyes and undercut the route. Once Alford picked it, he had only Brady to beat for an 82-yard touchdown that made the score 21-0. Brady appeared to try to keep calm as he made his way to the bench, but eventually he chucked the pictures he was shown from the previous drive. 

• Brady looked off throughout much of the second quarter after completing six of eight attempts for 68 yards in the first quarter. He was also sacked twice in the first 15 minutes, as the Falcons front proved it could give the Patriots problems even if sack leader Vic Beasley wasn't creating pressure.

• In the second quarter, the Falcons made an obvious attempt to take away Brady's favorite target Edelman, which seemed to help rattle the Patriots' quarterback. Edelman was bracketed by linebacker Deion Jones and a corner at times, and on a third down in the middle of the second quarter, there were three Atlanta defenders in Edelman's vicinity. On that play, Brady was forced to go to James White, who was stopped short of a first down.

• Facing consistent pressure, and with his No. 1 receiver taken away, Brady struggled. On his final offensive drive of the half, Brady missed a wide-open Edelman for a long gain, threw three yards behind Chris Hogan, was off-target to Edelman over the middle, and his screen to Bennett on third down went for a loss of three. The Patriots got a field goal from the series, but even after running their typica effective uptempo offense, it was clear the Patriots had issues to iron out at halftime if they were to make the game competitive. 

• The young interior of the Patriots' offensive line had a difficult time with Falcons games up front throughout the first half. Oftentimes, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn's defense didn't need to bring extra bodies to pressure Brady. Shaq Mason was responsible for two quarterback hits and a sack in the first half, Joe Thuney appeared to be responsible for two pressures and a run-stuff, while David Andrews seemed to be the responsible party for two more run-stuffs. Left tackle Nate Solder was also responsible for a hit.

• LeGarrette Blount's fumble at the Falcons' 29-yard line early in the second quarter, recovered by Alford, was a momentum killer that eventually led to the first Falcons scoring drive. On that scoring drive, Matt Ryan worked his connection with Julio Jones for catches of 19 and 23 yards. On the touchdown play, Eric Rowe motioned to the middle of the field when Jones did. When Devin McCourty tried to push Rowe back out to the left boundary, Rowe barely moved. Ryan handed to Freeman at the five-yard line, and Freeman cut to the left side that Rowe had vacated and there was no one there to stop him. 

• The Falcons' offense had its way with the Patriots in the first half. Ryan completed 7 of 8 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown to tight end Austin Hooper, who beat Patrick Chung. Freeman ran for 71 yards on six carries, using his tremendous vision to cut back and find open running lanes against the Patriots' defense. Stretch-run plays, a staple of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense, were particularly effective for Freeman, who exploded into openings when he found them and refused to be tackled easily.

•  As the Patriots attempted to come back, they broke out several gadget plays: Edelman attempted a pass to Dion Lewis that went incomplete; they tried an onside kick after White's touchdown in the third quarter that was unsuccessful, and they worked a trick return to start the fourth quarter, where Edelman faked a catch to draw the Falcons' coverage unit while Chung fielded it about 30 yards away near the sideline, but Atlanta was not fooled.

•  The Patriots threatened to take a chunk out of Atlanta's 28-9 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Brady was sacked twice by Grady Jarrett — his second and third of the day, tying him for a Super Bowl record since 1982 — to thwart the drive and force a field goal. Jarrett beat Marcus Cannon for one sack and then got by Mason for his second.

For complete Super Bowl LI coverage, see CSNNE.com.

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

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Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. — Quinton Dunbar takes pride in the way Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray makes every member of the secondary prepare as though he's starting.

"When you get in, you are expected to play like a starter," Dunbar said.

That approach has come in handy this season. Already 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman, fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Stefan McClure have gone down with injuries, and second-year safety Su'a Cravens left the team to contemplate retirement.

It's possible Breeland, who sprained his left knee Sunday against San Francisco, and Norman, who has been out with a broken rib, play Monday night.

If they can't go, Washington will lean heavily on Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and rookies Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau and Joshua Holsey against quarterback Carson Wentz and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

"It'll be a great challenge because he's playing extremely well," Gruden said.

"Our guys will have to step up. That's just the way it is. There's a lot of teams around the National Football League this time of year that are dealing with key injuries at certain positions and we just had a couple of them at the corner spot. Fabian, Dunbar, they'll have to step up and play well (along with) Holsey, Fuller."

Breeland began the 49ers game as the top cornerback with Norman out and took a block at the knee from offensive lineman Joe Staley. Gruden said Breeland escaped serious MCL damage and is a quick healer, so he could be ready to face the 5-1 Eagles.

Norman will ramp up his running and exercise this week, and Gruden said "there's a chance" he plays Monday.

The news isn't so good for rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who could miss three weeks or more with a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, and kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose right hip rotator muscle strain will force the Redskins to work out free agent kickers this week.

Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Washington hasn't yet had to look for external help because it has four 2016 or 2017 draft picks on the roster and able to take on extended roles.

"We are as strong as our weakest link and we always talk about not having the drop-offs," said Fuller, a 2016 third-round pick. "Anybody who is in there, we trust to make plays."

The Redskins have had no choice but to trust their young players, including Dunbar, a 25-year-old converted receiver. Injuries to D.J. Swearinger and Nicholson on Sunday almost forced Fuller to move from cornerback to safety where he saw no snaps at practice, and Moreau had to take over on the outside when Breeland was hurt in the second half.

Moreau, a third-round pick who missed the start of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, said players follow Swearinger's lead to be ready for any situation.

"We got dogs," Moreau said. "We all trust each other. We all feed off of him, and we know that."

Of all the young defensive backs, no one has made a bigger leap than Dunbar, who was a receiver at Florida. Gruden joked that Dunbar isn't "really smart enough to know the magnitude of the situation he's in" and just goes out and plays.

Dunbar said after what he went through growing up that football's a pleasure for him and he doesn't blink. But he has made incredible strides since shifting to cornerback.

"Mentally I'm a thousand times better," Dunbar said. "I always had the physical attributes, man. It was more mental for me -- just breaking down the offenses, learning what's coming and stuff like that."

That'll come in handy against Wentz as the 3-2 Redskins try to close the gap and keep this a competitive division race.

From the coverage to the pass rush, Washington's defense must be better against Wentz than it was in a 30-17 loss in Week 1.

"We've got to figure out a way to contain Wentz," Gruden said. "He killed us with the off-schedule plays, and he's been doing that consistently throughout the year. That's why they're 5-1. It's a big game for us. We know that."

Roob's Random Points, part 1: Eagles' power ranking, playoffs, I-95 traffic tips

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Roob's Random Points, part 1: Eagles' power ranking, playoffs, I-95 traffic tips

Are the Eagles the best team in football? Parking in Northern Liberties? Carson craziness? And Modern Baseball's final shows?

You can find it all in Part 1 of this week's 25 Random Points! Look for Part 2 at some Random time in the near future!
 
1. Watching football all day Sunday, it was impossible to ignore the reality that the Eagles are as good as anybody out there. One after another, the teams you wondered where the Eagles stacked up against lost. The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers and then lost meekly to the Vikings. The Falcons, once unbeatable in Atlanta, lost at home to the Dolphins. The undefeated Chiefs lost at home to the Steelers. The Broncos, who come to the Linc in a couple weeks, lost at home to the winless Giants. The Redskins barely hung on at home against the winless 49ers. And meanwhile, the Eagles just keep on winning. If I had to rank the 32 teams right now, the Eagles would be at No. 1. I'm sure the Chiefs would have something to say about that based on a head-to-head win and an identical 5-1 record. But as far as where everybody is today? You can make a compelling case that the Eagles are the best team in football. Yep.
 
2. A big theme on Twitter since Thursday night has been fans saying, "Calm down, don't get carried away, settle down, it's only six weeks." You know what? This team hasn't done anything since 2008 and they're now 5-1 with four straight wins, a hot quarterback and the best run defense in the NFL. There's nothing wrong with getting excited!
 
3. Of all the areas he's improved, Carson Wentz's interception ratio is the most dramatic and most important. He's seeing the field better but more than anything he's just not forcing throws like he did last year. With three INTs in 207 attempts, he's got the sixth-best INT ratio in the NFL out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks (1.45 per 100 attempts). This after ranking 17th out of 36 last year (2.31). Based on all 281 QBs in NFL history who've thrown 750 passes, Wentz now has the eighth-best career INT ratio at 2.09.
 
4. I'm crushed that they shut down the giant free parking lot behind the Acme across the street from the Piazza where Germantown Avenue hits 2nd Street. There is now officially nowhere to park in Northern Liberties.
 
5. Once the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention, Philly's streak of consecutive seasons without a team advancing in a postseason series increased to 21. That goes back to a 76ers team led by Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday eliminating the Bulls in an Eastern Conference first-round series on May 10, 2012. That streak includes six Phillies seasons and five 76ers, Flyers and Eagles seasons. Not only is that streak about to be smashed to smithereens, I also wouldn't be surprised at all if all four teams advance in a postseason series over the next year.
 
6. Speaking of the Smithereens, they are without a doubt one of the most underrated American rock bands of the last quarter century. Here's my Smithereens Top 10: 1. Strangers when we Meet, 2. Behind the Wall of Sleep, 3. A Girl Like You, 4. Only a Memory, 5. Blue Period, 6. Yesterday Girl, 7. Top of the Pops, 8. Time Won't Let Me, 9. Drown in my own Tears, 10. House we used to Live In.
 
7. The Eagles are only the 10th team since 1970 with 750 or more rushing yards gained and fewer than 400 rushing yards allowed after six weeks.
 
8. Wentz's current streak of eight straight games with one or more touchdown passes and one or fewer interceptions is the longest by an Eagles quarterback since Randall Cunningham had a 12-game streak in 1990.
 
9. If he throws three touchdowns Monday night, Wentz will become the first Eagles QB to throw three TD passes in three straight games in 64 years — since Bobby Thomason in 1953 (three at Pittsburgh, four vs. the Giants, three vs. the Colts). Only one QB has thrown more than one TD pass against the Redskins this year. Wentz. Of course.
 
10. Attending one of Modern Baseball's final three shows over the weekend was a genuinely moving experience. Modern Baseball — or MoBo, as they're affectionately known because MoBa looks stupid — is a beloved Philadelphia pop-punk band whose lyrics by co-songwriters Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald are deeply personal and resonate in a powerful way with the 17-to-22-year-olds who make up most of their massive world-wide audience. MoBo over the past seven years made a completely unexpected and meteoric rise from playing basements at Drexel to 20,000-seat arenas opening for Brand New. But the band is going on hiatus — perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent — because, as Ewald wrote on the band's Facebook page, "The project we started as a source of joy and positive expression had become something that was slowly eating away at our mental health and our friendships." But I'll tell you what … seeing 1,500 fist-pumping, body-surfing kids at Union Transfer joyously singing along to literally every word to every song Friday night really makes you realize just how much this band meant to so many people. A powerful, profound experience.
 
11. I once sat on a flight next to the manager of a Hard Rock Café. He had a great quote: "We're not a restaurant. We're a T-shirt store that also sells hamburgers."
 
12. LeGarrette Blount played in his 100th career regular-season game on the final day of last year with the Patriots. Thanks to the wonders of the Pro-Football Reference, we can compare his rushing average in all his games since No. 100 with every other running back since 1950. The result? Blount's rushing average of 5.6 after his 100th career game is the highest by any NFL running back in Game 101-on since Doak Walker averaged 6.2 yards from 1953 through 1955.
 
12½. Pro Tip: When there's an accident on 95 South near Center City, take the 2nd Street ramp off 95 and then turn left on Market and get back on 95 South. Even if you haven't passed the accident, the ramp is so long — 9-10ths of a mile — it will get you past a ton of blocked traffic before dropping you back on 95 South.