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Newton leads Panthers past Eagles 30-22

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Newton leads Panthers past Eagles 30-22

PHILADELPHIA (AP) They were two words on a sponsor's banner draped behind the Philadelphia Eagles' postgame podium: Imagine. Change.

For disgusted Eagles fans, that's all they can do, especially with coach Andy Reid still running the show. They won't have to imagine much longer.

After 14 seasons, one Super Bowl appearance, and, now a dreadful losing streak, the countdown to the end of Reid's tenure is hitting high gear in Philadelphia. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already has said that an 8-8 record would be ``unacceptable'' this year.

The Eagles would have to finish 5-0 just to get there after Cam Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 30-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

Newton, who hadn't played up to his sensational rookie season, showed no signs of a sophomore slump against Philadelphia's porous pass defense. He finished 18 of 28 for 306 yards and had a passer rating of 125 in a matchup of teams with the worst records in the NFC.

Newton was only the latest player to shine against an Eagles (3-8) team about all out of hope. The Eagles haven't won since beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants to go 3-1, a skid that has put Reid's job in real jeopardy. Unless Lurie has an implausible change of heart, Reid's run is about over, an inglorious end for the coach who led the Eagles to five conference championship games.

Lurie ducked out of a pregame press conference for the team's Hall of Fame before he could take questions from reporters. Reid said he hasn't discussed his job status with his boss.

``I'm not worried about all of the other things,'' Reid said. ``I'm worried about winning football games and making sure I get my players coached up to where we do a better job with that.''

As Philadelphia's seventh straight loss came to a close, some fed-up fans held up a banner that read, ``Jeff This Is On You.''

While Lurie surely joins Reid in taking a share of the blame for this ugly season, the players have been awful.

``I feel bad for Andy because he's in a horrible situation in a town that is critical, and rightly so,'' tight end Brent Celek said. ``If I was the fans, I'd be mad, too. I don't see Andy as the problem. I see it as us.''

Their latest problem was an inability to solve Newton.

Newton, the No, 1 overall pick in 2011, lived up to the hype by throwing for 4,051 yards with 21 TD passes and 14 TDs on the ground in his first year. He entered this game with only nine TD passes and four TDs rushing, a major disappointment for Panthers fans.

But Newton outshined rookie seventh-round pick Nick Foles in his Monday night debut.

Newton had a 24-yard TD toss over the middle to a wide-open Gary Barnidge for a 7-3 lead. He connected with Brandon LaFell on a 43-yard pass to make it 14-3 later in the first quarter. LaFell was wide open on the play, taking advantage of another breakdown in coverage in the secondary.

Newton led a 95-yard drive to open the third quarter, finishing it off with a 1-yard leap to give the Panthers a 21-15 lead. Newton hit Louis Murphy for a 55-yard gain on a second-and-11 from Carolina's 16.

``I think my best game is still to come,'' Newton said. ``I'm still focused on getting better each and every week.''

Carolina (3-8) went ahead 24-22 early in the fourth quarter on Graham Gano's 23-yard field goal.

``It's been a long time in coming,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. ``Lots of people contributed and made plays. Real proud of what we did and the things we did to give ourselves a chance to win.''

Bryce Brown set an Eagles' rookie record with 178 yards rushing, including TD runs of 65 and 5 yards. Brown, filling in for injured running back LeSean McCoy, surpassed Correll Buckhalter's rookie mark of 134 yards rushing in his first start since his senior year at Wichita East High School in 2008. Brown also lost two fumbles, including one in Panthers' territory.

Foles was so-so in his second straight start for Michael Vick, who sat out with a concussion. Foles was 16 of 21 for 119 yards.

``The most important thing for me was for us to get the win and that didn't happen tonight,'' Brown said. ``I felt like a lot of that had to do with my two turnovers. It really, really cost us.''

After Gano's field goal put them up for good, the Panthers finally stopped Brown when it mattered most, stuffing him on a fourth-and-1 to take over on downs at their 40. Newton led them downfield, running in from the 2 to make it 30-22. Gano, signed last week, missed the extra point. But Brandon Boykin fumbled after a 44-yard kickoff return, the Panthers recovered and held the ball the final 4:29.

The Panthers have shown they're better than their record. They have lost six games by less than a touchdown, including a 2-point loss at Atlanta and a 1-point loss at Chicago.

``It's a huge stage, Monday Night Football, on the road,'' tackle Jordan Gross said. ``It was just big for us and big for the guys on the team who haven't experienced something like this.''

For the Eagles, it was simply the latest loss in a season stuffed with them. The Linc was quiet and empty except for some boos when busted coverage led to another Carolina TD. They fled for the exits once the Panthers took over for the final time.

Dwindling fan support is one thing. Losing it from Lurie is quite another for Reid.

``He's as competitive as anybody and he wants to win games,'' Reid said. ``That's what he's in this business for.''

NOTES: Neither Vick nor McCoy has been cleared to return to practice. The injury-depleted Eagles lost wide receiver DeSean Jackson (sternum) and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (tail bone) in the first half. ... The Eagles inducted five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Troy Vincent and longtime front office executive Leo Carlin into the team's Hall of Fame at halftime. ... Brown's 65-yard TD run was the longest for the Eagles since McCoy's 66-yard TD vs NYG on Nov. 1, 2009. ... Buckhalter had 134 yards rushing vs. Arizona on Oct. 7, 2001. ... Newton led the Panthers with 52 yards rushing.

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Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

Redskins Talk hosts "Redskins On the Clock" special: How to watch, live stream, listen

It's the moment we've all been waiting for: finding out who the Redskins are going to take as their No. 15 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

After much anticipation and countless mock drafts, Redskins fans will finally find out what's to come for the Burgundy and Gold in the upcoming NFL season. 

And we couldn't let you handle this news alone: So we've got the Redskins Talk crew hosting a special "Redskins on the Clock" live stream to address, analyze and hopefully rejoice over the 'Skins decision. 

<<CHECK OUT NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON'S LATEST NFL MOCK DRAFT>>

On Thursday, Apr. 25th, JP Finlay, Peter Hailey and Mitchell Tischler from the Redskins Talk Podcast, along with guests Travis Thomas and Trevor Matich, will be offering a live look into their thoughts and concerns surrounding both the Redskins' pick and all of Round 1. The live stream will be available on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from approximately 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

And if you haven't already downloaded the MyTeams App, you can do so right now, RIGHT HERE.

Redskins Talk Podcast "Redskins on the Clock" Special

CLICK HERE to watch the daily live stream of the Redskins Talk Podcast

When: 8 p.m. - (approximately) 11 p.m. ET, Thursday, Apr. 25th 

Live Stream: Click to stream Redskins Talk Podcast Live every day this week

Want to subscribe to Redskins Talk?: 
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How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

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USA TODAY Sports

How the Capitals went from 'chokers' to 'closers' in Game 6s

RALEIGH — There was a time when a Stanley Cup Playoff series lead of any kind produced nothing but stress and anxiety for the Capitals and their tortured fan base.

This is an organization, after all, that has blown a 3-1 playoff series lead five times – often in horrifying, heartbreaking fashion. That has only happened 28 times in NHL history, and Washington owns 18 percent of those epic collapses. But the league’s biggest chokers have put those demons to rest. And that trend started well before winning the Stanley Cup last year. 

Tonight, the Capitals have a chance to close out the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at PNC Arena. They lead 3-2. They know they always have another chance, if necessary, on Wednesday for Game 7 at Capital One Arena back home. 

But if ending a series on the road once seemed like a daunting task, it hasn’t fazed the franchise for a while now. Washington has won four Game 6s in a row when up 3-2 in a series.  

“When we play to our identity and force other teams to make mistakes and they’re in an elimination situation, then those mistakes become magnified,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “That team is already feeling the pressure of that being their last game. And if we play to our identity then it really seems to match up nicely for those elimination games.”

The Capitals were ahead 3-2 with road Game 6s in Philadelphia (2016), Toronto (2017), Columbus (2018) and Pittsburgh (2018) and won them all. They also put Vegas away last June up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 on the road and won the Stanley Cup that night. If the recent version of the Capitals has a chance to put a team away, the team has done it.

The last time they blew a lead with a chance to eliminate the opposition was 2015 when they coughed up a 3-1 advantage in a second-round exit to the New York Rangers. 

There are theories why.

A big, physical team with elite skill, Washington has been able to wear teams out the later a series goes. In 2017, the Maple Leafs put up a great fight against the Presidents’ Trophy winners in the first round. They won two overtime games. They took a 2-1 series lead and had a chance to go up 3-1 on the Capitals with Game 4 at home in Toronto. 

Washington, instead, won Game 4 by a 5-4 score and allowed just two goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.

The offense went dry in 2016 against Philadelphia in the first round and a 3-0 series lead suddenly was cut to 3-2 with the Flyers hosting Game 6. They had life. The old Capitals might have panicked. But they won that game 1-0. Philadelphia managed just four goals over the final three games of the series and had nothing left in Game 6. 

There is a mentality that goes into playing a game where the other team’s season is on the line and yours is not.   

"To ourselves, I think, to show that when we play that way, we're going to be real tough to beat,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “I don't think we put much emphasis on [Carolina]. We know they're going to prepare and play as if it's an elimination game for them. We know they're going to come hard, we know they're a good young team and they never shy away from anything. It's on us to play like that and take everything else out of it."

Last year against Columbus in the first round, Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the series. Game 4 on the road was a clinic with the frustrated Blue Jackets hardly able to get the puck through the neutral zone in a 4-1 Capitals win. Washington broke Columbus’ will with its relentless, physical play. It scored 10 goals in Games 5 and 6 to end the series.  

The same thing played out the next round against Pittsburgh. A dominating 6-3 win in Game 5 at home – much like the 6-0 win over Carolina on Saturday – set the stage for a classic road Game 6. Washington scored first. The Penguins tied it. But the Capitals were the team with enough juice left in overtime to take the series on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game-winning goal. 

The best example of how the Capitals have worn down one opponent after another actually came last season in the Eastern Conference Final when they were down 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington didn’t allow a goal in Games 6 and 7 and advanced. 

“Our team likes being on the road, plays well on the road, enjoys spending that time with each other,” Reirden said. “When you want to have success on the road you have to have contributions from everybody throughout your lineup. That makes you a very difficult team to match up as the home coach. So by us having the seven 20-goal scorers, we were a difficult match.

"And now, we started to see a little bit more of our depth scoring [Saturday]. … It certainly becomes an easier road assignment for the coach -- I can tell you. That’s an advantage for us.”

The Lightning last May looked like a boxer that had taken too many blows to the head after the Capitals blitzed them in Game 6.

If you looked closely on Saturday, you saw elements of that when Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton raced back for a puck, knew Alex Ovechkin was steaming right behind him, and gave up on the play. Hamilton didn’t appear to want to pay the price for winning that race and instead Ovechkin took the puck away and fed Brett Connolly in front for the goal that put Washington up 3-0. 

Maybe Carolina regroups tonight. The Hurricanes are a young team, but with grizzled veterans like Jordan Staal and Justin Williams who have won multiple Stanley Cups between them. They won’t play scared. The crowd at PNC Arena will be a factor. They do not want their season to end.

But these Capitals are a different breed. Time and again the past three years they have grinded their opponents into dust so by the time the series reaches this point there isn’t enough fight left to them.     

“We’ve just got to regroup here and move forward,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “That was just a 3-2 lead. Toughest one is the last one. We haven’t been happy with the way we’ve played in Carolina so far. Let’s change that.”

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