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Enigmatic Eagles seek answers after blown leads

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Enigmatic Eagles seek answers after blown leads

PHILADELPHIA (AP) When Andy Reid uses the word ``pathetic'' to describe the performance of the Philadelphia Eagles, it must've been really bad.

The Eagles blew a 10-point lead with 5:18 left and lost 26-23 in overtime to Detroit on Sunday to fall to 3-3 going into their bye week. It was the second straight game they wasted a late lead, a common theme over the past two seasons.

Throughout his 14 seasons as head coach, Reid typically accepts blame after each loss, filling his news conferences with quotes such as: ``I have to do a better job'' and ``I have to put the players in better position to perform.''

After uttering those phrases several times Monday, Reid was uncharacteristically critical of the offense for its last two series. Michael Vick and Co. went three-and-out late in the game, allowing the Lions enough time to get the tying field goal to force overtime. After winning the coin toss, they went three-and-out again with Vick getting sacked on the first two plays to lose 21 yards.

That forced Mat McBriar to punt out of the end zone, so the Lions started with excellent field position and won it on a 45-yard field goal.

``The last two drives offensively were pathetic,'' Reid said. ``They were pathetic from a coaching standpoint and they were pathetic from a players' standpoint. When you're in a tight game and have an opportunity to score, you go down and you put it together. When it's needed, when your back is to the wall, and when it's the fourth quarter or overtime, you put that together and you go take care of business.

``Both sides of the ball, we failed in that area.''

Another favorite quote for Reid is this: ``We all have a piece of the pie.''

Six games in, he's right on. The offense, defense and special teams share the blame for a mediocre start.

Vick has been a turnover machine, throwing eight interceptions and losing five fumbles. Overall, the Eagles have 17 turnovers. But it's not all Vick's fault. The injury-depleted offensive line has struggled mightily, letting Vick get hit at an astounding rate.

The running game has been inconsistent and the receivers aren't making standout plays. Tight end Brent Celek dropped a TD pass on one drive that ended with a field goal and his pass interference penalty negated his own TD catch on another that ended with 3 points. Turned out to be a difference between winning and losing.

``I feel a huge responsibility for this loss with how I played and the position I put our team in,'' Celek said. ``It's just uncalled for, especially, for my age and position on this team, I can't do that. I can't do that to this team, to this city, this organization.

``That's on me.''

On defense, the Eagles are a confusing group. They suddenly can't seem to get to the quarterback. After leading the NFL with 50 sacks last year, they have only seven and none in the past three games. But they were able to limit yards and keep teams off the scoreboard en route to a 3-1 start.

In the last two games, however, they've allowed long drives at crucial times late in the fourth quarter. They can't get stops at important points and nobody on defense seems capable of making a big play. The Eagles have forced just eight turnovers.

``It stings because it's the second week in a row that we didn't get it done in the fourth quarter,'' linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. ``That is our time to go out and shut people out. We didn't get it done.''

Special teams have been downright awful all season for Philadelphia. They had a chance to redeem themselves against the Lions, who entered ranked last in coverage and having allowed four returns for scores. But the Eagles averaged just 4.0 yards on three punt returns and 24.4 yards on five kick returns.

``We go back and we evaluate and tear things apart during this bye week and look at how we get ourselves better in both areas - as players and coaches,'' Reid said. ``You evaluate everything and that's what we'll do from that standpoint. With 10 games left, we know that there are a lot of games left. Anything is possible in the NFL, and I still believe that we have a good football team. We just have to get a couple of things together here.''

Reid, as he normally does during a bye, gave the players the entire week off. They'll return next Monday to begin preparing for the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons (6-0). The Falcons also will be coming off a bye. The Eagles have never lost a regular-season game after a bye under Reid, going 13-0.

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Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

The Capitals were already facing one of the toughest back-to-back challenges in the NHL. Then they found out their starting goalie would not play and less than nine minutes into the game lost their No. 1 center. 

That about summed up a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The last time an NHL team swept a back-to-back set of games against the Jets and Minnesota Wild was 2012. 

Washington played well enough taking a 1-0 lead on a Jakub Vrana goal in the first period and the game was tied until 12:51 of the third period when a shot by Ben Chiarot skipped past goalie Pheonix Copley. The Jets added an empty-net goal to seal the win. 

The loss is one thing. Winnipeg is a tough place to play and maybe the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. But injuries have begun to mount and that’s the big takeaway. 

Holtby showed up to the rink Wednesday morning and it was assumed he’d play after Copley won the game in St. Paul against the Wild. Instead, Holtby was ruled out with an upper-body injury and the Capitals had to sign an emergency goalie – Gavin McHale, a 31-year-old assistant coach for a local women’s college hockey team in Winnipeg. That is less than ideal. 

Holtby’s injury might not be a big deal. You’ll know if Washington recalls top prospect Ilya Samsonov from AHL Hershey for Friday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. 

“That was this morning. [Holtby] came over with our goalie coach and did a skate this morning and was not able to back up tonight or play,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “So he was kind of a game-time decision and he wasn’t able to participate tonight.”

Holtby will be re-evaluated Thursday after he gets continuing treatment for his injury. There has to be concern about Kuznetsov, who took an elbow to the face at 8:52 of the first period from Jets forward Brandon Tanev. Kuznetsov left the game and did not return. 

That left the Caps shorthanded most of the night with Lars Eller playing center alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on the top line. Ovechkin ended up playing 24:21. Eller played 18:48 and Backstrom 21:41. Not having Kuznetsov would be an issue. He’s not a player they can replace for long. 

“Was more precautionary,” Reirden said. “Obviously a blow to the head. We had to continue to evaluate him tomorrow, but we needed to make sure he didn’t return to the game.”

Washington, of course, could look to last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs when they missed Backstrom for Game 6 during the second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a hand injury and the first three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Oshie was the final blow. He was slammed to the ice by Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey and the back of his head hit the ice. Reirden compared the play to a hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson on Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson. He was suspended two games on Oct. 15.  

Oshie certainly didn’t look right. He had to stay on the ice as the Caps pushed for the tying goal with the net empty down 2-1. But it took a while for him to get back to his skates and then he wasn’t able to jump on a loose puck in the slot moments before Winnipeg put the game away at the other end of the ice with an empty-net goal. 

The result is one thing for the Capitals (8-7-3), who are still struggling to generate multiple wins in a row. The status of their three key players is more important after a 1-1-0 start to a four-game road trip. 

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Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

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USA Today Sports

Wizards finally experience a blowout win for their side

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards experienced plenty during this largely trying regular season. One aspect missing, being on the all-smiles end of a blowout victory. After Wednesday’s 119-95 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they can now check that box.

“It’s nice to experience that as well,” Tomas Satoransky said.

Washington led from start to finish and by double figures for the final 35 minutes. It set season-highs for points in a quarter (41 in the first), the first half (73) and largest halftime margin (21). The Wizards turned 24 Cavalier turnovers into 29 points. All 13 players scored. 

Quality stretches existed this season, but for minutes, a quarter, maybe a half, but rarely over the full 48. Other than a third-quarter dip when the Cavaliers (2-12) closed within 13 points, the Wizards rolled. The romp meant John Wall only played 21 minutes. None of the starters entered in the fourth quarter. That last part happened in recent games, but this time for positive reasons.

“It was great,” Bradley Beal said of a game “[We were] able to come out and get a lead and be able to sustain it and maintain it throughout the game.”

The Wizards maintained little during the opening 11 games of the regular season other than a downtrodden vibe. Their 5-9 record reflects those struggles. The current three-game winning streak signals growth. The postgame locker room smiles and comments displayed some sense of relief.

“I think we needed that, obviously,” Satoransky said to NBC Sports Washington. The reserve point guard was part of the second quarter surge that saw the Wizards outscore the struggling Cavaliers 20-2 for a 61-34 lead.

“They were on a back-to-back and they haven’t been playing well this year. We felt like with a day off after our last win we could come out aggressively, and just keep it going,” said Satoransky, who had eight points, four assists and three steals in 17 minutes. “Trying to turn the season around.”

The Wizards aren’t naïve enough to think all problems are solved. The three wins came against teams with losing records. Victories over Miami and Orlando included shaky stretches. The big picture hole remains.

“We still have a lot of work to do – we still have to get better,” said Beal, who led Washington with 20 points. “We’re still not content with where we are. We put three [wins] together, but we still have a couple more at home that we have to take care of.”

All of that is true. Numerous gloomy statistics remind the reader of the rough beginnings. Washington entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 118.5 points per game. At least now, the Wizards can contemplate their issues without the weight of the world on their shoulders. For now, the league-wide media will find another target after pillaring the Wizards for weeks. Finally, positive momentum arrived and did so with the Nets, Clippers and Trail Blazers rounding out the homestand.

“I hope we can continue winning,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “We have three more games at home. I think it’s a good moment for us to turn things around. Brooklyn has been playing well and those two [Western Conference] teams are going to be tough, but I think we’re in a good way now.

“It’s great to experience something like that [blowout]. It helps you mentally. It helped just being able to win three in a row. You can feel it. Whenever you step on the court after that you feel more confident, so that’s good.”

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