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Eager Eagles get back to work after rare win

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Eager Eagles get back to work after rare win

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A quirky schedule meant the Philadelphia Eagles had little time to celebrate a rare win.

Less than 24 hours after Nick Foles led a remarkable 23-21 comeback victory at Tampa Bay, the Eagles (4-9) were back on the practice field for a walkthrough Monday afternoon. With a game against the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) coming up Thursday night, the Eagles couldn't bask in the glow of their first win in more than two months.

``They don't happen a whole lot, but when they do there is something very special,'' Foles said of winning. ``It's a great feeling for the team. I think the big thing is, it's a great thing for the team sticking together. We can build off of this.''

While the Eagles went back to work, at least their frustrated fans had a chance to reflect on some positives for change. The Eagles had lost eight straight games since beating the New York Giants on Sept. 30.

Foles, making his fourth start since Michael Vick sustained a concussion, made sure the losing streak didn't stretch to nine, which would've been the longest in franchise history since 1940. Foles was 32 of 51 for 381 yards with two touchdown passes and one rushing. He set the franchise's single-game rookie passing records for completions and yards.

More impressive than the statistics was the poise Foles showed in leading the team back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. His last two throws were the type of plays expected from a veteran QB.

On fourth-and-5 from the Buccaneers 23, Foles fired a perfect strike to Jason Avant in traffic over the middle. Avant was tackled at the 1, but the Eagles had no timeouts remaining and the clock was ticking. Foles quickly hurried the offense to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with 2 seconds left.

Foles then walked over to coach Andy Reid during the stoppage and told him the play he wanted to run. Reid agreed. Foles took the snap, rolled out to the right and tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin for the win.

``He was feeling it, and it's a great thing when your quarterback is in tune like that. I'm proud of the kid,'' Reid said. ``He made some big throws. It looked like he rallied the crew in there, made good decisions and made some big plays. To do that, I thought he showed great intestinal fortitude and desire and all those intangible things you look for.''

It was a huge step toward showing all of Philadelphia that he can be the quarterback of the future. Vick is close to returning to practice, but Reid already said Foles will start the rest of the way.

No matter who coaches the Eagles next year - Reid is clearly on the hot seat - Foles is auditioning for the starting job. Maclin, for one, is already convinced the lanky kid can handle the job.

``He has the potential to be a special quarterback in this league,'' Maclin said. ``And he's growing up right in front of our eyes.''

After 2 1/2 so-so games, Foles stepped up his game. He played well in a loss at Dallas last week and followed up with a sensational performance against the Buccaneers. Overall, Foles has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,174 yards, with four scores and three interceptions. His passer rating is up to 80.3, slightly higher than Vick's 79.2.

Cautious fans aren't ready to anoint Foles the long-term answer. Before Donovan McNabb held down the position for a decade, Ty Detmer, Koy Detmer and Bobby Hoying each had their chances. Each showed a glimmer of potential, but none panned out. Hoying was the biggest disappointment.

Hoying, a third-round pick like Foles, had everyone buzzing after his third career start on Nov. 30, 1997. Hoying passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 44-42 last-second win over Cincinnati.

After that game, Hoying's No. 7 jersey became the must-buy for Eagles fans for the holidays. He went just 1-9 as a starter the rest of his career and was out of the NFL three years later.

Foles appears to be on a different track.

``I've definitely grown,'' he said. ``You're going to have your ups, your downs and you just have to keep fighting. I'm a different player because every day you want to progressively get a tiny bit better and this will be a great learning experience for me.''

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Troy Brown Jr. shows room for improvement in first start as point guard

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Troy Brown Jr. shows room for improvement in first start as point guard

The Wizards' time in the Orlando bubble without Bradley Beal, John Wall and Davis Bertans has created some room for head coach Scott Brooks to try some things he would never otherwise be able to try, at least not in a game that counts. On Tuesday, he experimented with Troy Brown Jr. as his starting point guard for the first time.

Brown had played some point guard already in the seeding games, most notably against the Pacers when he closed out the fourth quarter running the show. After that game, Brooks indicated Brown would get a start at the position. Tuesday was the night.

It wasn't exactly a great showing. Brown struggled by shooting 3-for-15. He had nine points, six rebounds and three assists, a far cry from the 16.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists he averaged in the team's previous six games in Orlando.

Brown was off and it didn't help that as he began the game running the offense, the Wizards missed their first nine shots. 

"He got a learning experience. Sometimes it happens that way," Brooks said. "Didn't play well. We didn't have a good start. I'm not throwing it all on him, we just didn't have a good rhythm."

Brooks added that he won't judge Brown off of one game, but he also made it seem like there won't be a ton of opportunities for him to play point guard moving forward. They only have one more game before this season is over and next season five-time All-Star John Wall will return.

If Brown is auditioning for a larger share of the point guard duties, there are only so many that could go around long-term. Still, it didn't hurt to give him a look.

"This is time that we can experiment with that. Next year, he's probably not going to get those opportunities where he's going to be really the only playmaker on the floor," Brooks said.

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Tuesday was mostly just a reminder that Brown is young and still has a lot of work to do if he wants to play more point guard in his future. Brown was drafted in the first round of 2018 as a wing, but has said he feels most comfortable running point.

He has the ball-handling and passing skills to suggest he could someday do just that. But it takes time to find consistent success at the NBA level and point guard is a demanding position.

"Troy is special, man," point guard Ish Smith said. 'He can make plays. He's got a lot of tools. It's crazy, he's just 21. When I was 21, I was on a college campus running around trying to skip study hall. I don't know how some of these guys do it."

Brown, 21, has now had the bar set for himself. He has a better idea of how much more work is required to achieve his goal of playing point guard more often.

It will be something he can keep in mind this offseason as he works towards the 2020-21 campaign.

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Capitals and Islanders have produced legendary Stanley Cup playoff moments

Capitals and Islanders have produced legendary Stanley Cup playoff moments

The Capitals and Islanders have played seven times in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the eighth on tap starting Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto in the midst of a pandemic.

This isn’t where we thought we’d be early in the 2019-20 NHL season. It still doesn’t seem real with neutral sites and empty buildings. But this matchup is one we thought would happen last spring. One goal was all that stood between a rematch between New York and coach Barry Trotz and the team he led to the Stanley Cup the year before. 

Alas, the Capitals gave up a goal in Game 7 at home to the Carolina Hurricanes and never got the chance. The Islanders were swept right out of the postseason and we were denied a fascinating matchup between Trotz and Todd Reirden, his assistant coach in Washington for four years.

Little did we know we just had to wait a little longer. The Capitals and Islanders have history far beyond just their coaches. Some of the NHL’s most memorable moments took place in the Stanley Cup playoffs between these Metropolitan Division rivals. Here is a look back at some of the best:

April 10, 1983
The Capitals were just happy to be here. Two years after the desperate “Save the Caps” campaign kept hockey in Washington, their first playoff series came against the three-time defending champions. The Islanders kept their crown.

The plucky Caps weren’t quite ready. But they took Game 2 at famed Nassau Coliseum and were tied 1-1 at Capital Centre in Game 4 when New York, led by Mike Bossy, scored three straight times. Washington kept fighting with a Kent Houston goal at 11:34 of the third period to make it 4-3 before the champs put them away with a second Bossy goal with 2:46 to play.  

April 16, 1985
The first true Caps playoff collapse. The two teams met in the second round of the 1984 playoffs after Washington won its first playoff series. And while the Islanders’ dynasty came to an end that year, it wouldn’t be until they were dethroned by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.

The old crew still had enough to dispatch the Capitals in five games. But in 1985? No that was different. An aging New York fell behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series with overtime losses at a rocking Capital Centre. This felt different. Washington was the better team during the regular season – third-best in the NHL. 

But a pair of losses at Nassau set the stage for Game 5 at Capital Centre. For the third year in a row, the Capitals fell short. A goal in the first, a goal in the second and New York was up 2-0, the crowd was tight. That’s familiar. It all started back then and took Washington another 33 years to shake the demons. A Bobby Carpenter goal 29 seconds into the third period gave the Capitals life, but veteran goalie Billy Smith stopped 39 of 40 shots. New York only had 22. The first of many shocking playoff collapses. 

RELATED: CAPS VS. ISLANDERS GAME 1 - WHAT TO EXPECT NOW THAT THE GAMES MATTER

April 18, 1987
The Easter Epic. One of the great games in NHL history. The Capitals finally beat the Islanders in the first round in 1986 in a three-game sweep. This time they were up 3-1 in a best-of-seven first-round series and headed home to finish it off. Uh oh. “3-1” and the Caps never have mixed. They have blown that lead five times now. It’s only happened 28 times in league history.

But this was the very first. A game that began on a Saturday evening, ended at 1:56 a.m. on Easter morning. It is now the 11th longest game in league history after Tuesday night's five-overtime fiasco between Tampa Bay and Columbus. They played 68:47 of overtime into Easter morning before Pat LaFontaine’s spinning shot from just inside the blueline beat Washington goalie Bob Mason, who stood in shock in the crease for 10 seconds before dropping exhausted to a knee while the Islanders celebrated. It remains one of the sport's iconic moments. 

April 28, 1993
The Capitals and Islanders needed a break from each other after playing five years in a row in the postseason. Six years later they met again under different circumstances. The 1992 Capitals had blown their second 3-1 series lead to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. But they returned a solid team that finished second in the Patrick Division, a slight favorite over New York, hoping for another shot at Pittsburgh. 

Instead, an insanely frustrating series followed. The Islanders won Games 2 and 4 in double overtime and Game 3 in regular old overtime. Just like that they were up 3-1. Washington staved off elimination at home in Game 5. But Nassau Coliseum was a House of Horrors. There would be no Game 7. 

Dale Hunter opened the scoring for the Capitals in the first period. But the Islanders were up 3-1 after the second period and the old barn was roaring. Another goal made it 4-1 and with 8:31 to play, Pierre Turgeon put Washington away with a fifth goal. The crowd had been chanting “Nah-Nah-Nah-Nah, Hey-Hey-Hey, Goodbye!” The season had slipped away again. Hunter then lost his mind.

 After a Hunter turnover, Turgeon deked on goal and scored, skating with his arms raised looking up into the crowd. He never saw Hunter following him like a shark for three seconds. He never sensed the check that was about to come well after the goal that buried him into the boards. The Islanders won the series. But Turgeon missed the ensuing series against the Penguins with a separated right shoulder. New York won that anyway before its Cinderella run ended in the Eastern Conference Final against eventual champion Montreal. 

Hunter was hit with a 21-game suspension to start the following year and it’s still considered among the dirtiest hits in NHL history. 

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April 28, 2015

The Islanders and Capitals took another long break from each other but that was mostly because New York stunk. It made the playoffs just six times in the next 20 years and didn’t win a series.

That looked to change in 2015 – Trotz’s first with Washington – when a back-and-forth series with an overtime win for each team went to a Game 7. Given the Alex Ovechkin-led Caps had lost a Game 7 at home in 2008 (Flyers), 2009 (Penguins), 2010 (Canadiens) and 2013 (Rangers), the home crowd was a little tense.

 A 1-1 game for most of the third period became unbearable. It took a young Russian with a flair for the dramatic to make the difference. No, not Ovechkin. Evgeny Kuznetsov had his back to the play near the right circle against the boards, baited Frans Nielson to skate up behind him and then turned on a dime and blew toward the center of the ice. 

No one stopped him. Kuznetsov took the puck across the middle and almost down to the opposite goaline, waiting for Jaroslav Halak to sprawl to the ice – the man who stunned Washington in goal for Montreal in that crushing 2010 series. The lead held for the final 7:18 and for once a Game 7 didn’t end in tears for Capitals fans. That would happen in the second round when the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and won Game 7 in overtime. You can’t win them all. 

Kuznetsov insisted to NBC Sports Washington's Rob Carlin this past spring that it is that Game 7 goal against New York that remains his favorite and not the Game 6 OT winner against Pittsburgh during the Stanley Cup run in 2018. Whether that's just kuzy being Kuzy, who knows? They're both epic and wonderful moments in franchise history. 

Playoff series No. 8 between the Capitals and Islanders has enough storylines to fit in a Stanley Cup Final. Let's see if they can add another memorable chapter to 37 years of history starting Wednesday afternoon. 

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