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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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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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