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Eagles' latest loss filled with blunders

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Eagles' latest loss filled with blunders

PHILADELPHIA (AP) In another miserable performance, the Philadelphia Eagles put together a year's worth of blunders fit for a football follies video.

A 34-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night featured four fumbles, one interception and one punt blocked by a teammate. That brought the Eagles' turnovers total to an NFL-high 34 in 14 games. They've only forced 12.

``Turnovers destroy you in this league,'' coach Andy Reid said Friday, stating the obvious. ``If we didn't know it before, we know it now.''

Lucky for the Eagles (4-10) and their frustrated fans, only two games remain in this nightmare season.

``I was thoroughly embarrassed,'' wide receiver Jason Avant said after another loss in front of a national television audience. ``I don't care if there were no cameramen there or if we were playing over at the University of Penn. That type of thing that happened was embarrassing wherever you are, even if you're in the sandlot. So, never mind that it was on a national stage, it was just not good football that happened. It just wasn't good.''

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin started the giveaways by fumbling on the second play from scrimmage. On Philadelphia's next possession, there were a series of comical mistakes that occurred when the punting unit took the field.

First, rookie linebacker Ryan Rau, who only plays special teams, didn't realize the Eagles were punting so he stood on the sideline. Tight end Clay Harbor noticed only 10 men out there and ran out at the last second, but one rusher broke free on the outside. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt tried to block him only to get pushed into punter Mat McBriar's kick.

Those two gaffes led to 10 points for the Bengals. But the Eagles rallied to take a 13-10 lead into the third quarter.

Then, they unraveled.

The Eagles allowed 24 points in a span of 3:23. Three straight possessions went interception-fumble-fumble. That was followed up by another fumble when defensive lineman Cedric Thornton tried to catch a short kickoff.

``Turnovers killed us,'' Maclin said. ``You can't keep putting the defense inside of the 30-yard line. Eventually, an NFL team is going to score on you. This was on the offense and special teams.''

The emergence of rookie quarterback Nick Foles has been one of the few bright spots in a dismal season, but he took a step backward against the Bengals. Foles threw for 381 yards, including a game-winning TD pass on the final play to snap Philadelphia's eight-game losing streak. The Buccaneers, by the way, have the league's worst-ranked pass defense.

Foles was just 16 of 33 for 182 yards with one TD pass and a pick against the Bengals. He underthrew Maclin on a deep pass that still went for a long gain in the second quarter. He underthrew him again on what should've been a long TD pass and got intercepted in the third quarter. That started the parade of turnovers.

``I just made a horrible throw,'' Foles said. ``The ball came out bad and it had a little bit of wobble to it. You have to really cut it and I didn't do that. I just have to spin it and it started fluttering toward the end. So it's a bad throw, it's one that I can't have.''

Reid defended Foles' arm strength, blaming his footwork and mechanics for the underthrows.

``Nick has one of the stronger arms in the league, but you have to make sure your feet are right and your drop is right,'' Reid said. ``You have to learn those things. That's one of the tougher things for young quarterbacks to do. Instead of taking what would normally be a five-step drop, he took what would be a seven-step drop. When you're in the gun, it would be a five as opposed to a three. He held too long on the safety and tried to look the safety off. These are rookie mistakes, and he'll learn from that. He's very diligent about those things, and he'll get it right. It wasn't a lack of arm strength that would cause that to take place.''

Foles will start next Sunday's game against Washington even though Michael Vick has been cleared to return after a concussion forced him to miss the last five games. Reid already said weeks ago that Foles will finish the season as the No. 1 quarterback. As for Vick, Reid hasn't decided whether he'll be the backup or No. 3 behind Trent Edwards.

Notes: RB LeSean McCoy will see an independent neurologist next week, probably on Tuesday. He's missed the last four games with a concussion, but could play vs. the Redskins. ... TE Brent Celek has passed all tests in his concussion recovery and should be ready to go. ... DB Brandon Hughes was hospitalized overnight because of a lung contusion, but was released and should be fine.

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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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