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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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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefitted from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.