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Ryan leads unbeaten Falcons over Eagles 30-17

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Ryan leads unbeaten Falcons over Eagles 30-17

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Either the Atlanta Falcons are really this good or the Philadelphia Eagles are really this bad.

Matt Ryan threw touchdown passes on Atlanta's first three possessions against the Eagles and new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and the Falcons remained the NFL's only unbeaten team with a convincing 30-17 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Falcons improved to 7-0 for the first time while the Eagles (3-4) lost after a bye for the first time in 14 games under coach Andy Reid since 1999.

Ryan finished 22 of 29 for 262 yards and three TDs for his first win against his hometown team in three tries.

Michael Vick didn't turn the ball over for once, but he played so-so and failed to beat his former team in his second start against the Falcons since returning to the NFL in 2009.

The Falcons scored on their first six possessions before punting for the first time with 5:35 left.

This was a validation win for Atlanta. The Falcons entered with no victories over a team with a winning record and their opponents were a combined 13-24 going into this weekend. Perhaps that's why they were a surprising 3-point underdog despite Philadelphia's recent struggles.

Reid's Eagles have lost three in a row since starting 3-1. Reid fired Juan Castillo and replaced him with Bowles two days after Philadelphia blew its second straight fourth-quarter lead in an overtime loss to Detroit.

Clearly, it didn't work.

Castillo's defense allowed 18.5 points per game, excluding two TD returns against the offense. Bowles' D allowed 21 points in the first 24 minutes and couldn't make a stop until the fourth quarter.

A sellout crowd anticipating a pending storm expected to hit the East Coast soon started filtering out in the third quarter. Those who stuck around booed the Eagles off the field, though one guy chanted ``E-A-G-L-E-S'' in the final minute.

The anti-Reid fans may be seeing him in his final months with the team. Owner Jeffrey Lurie already stated before the season that another 8-8 finish would be ``unacceptable.''

The Falcons methodically drove 80 yards on 16 plays on the opening possession, converting five third downs. A holding call on defensive end Jason Babin kept the drive going after Ryan threw an incomplete pass on third-and-10. Ryan then threw a 15-yard TD pass to Drew Davis for a 7-0 lead.

Ryan tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Jason Snelling to make it 14-0. Penalties on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Mychal Kendricks on separate third downs kept Atlanta's drive going.

After going three-and-out on the first series, the Eagles put it together on the next drive by mixing in seven runs among their 13 plays. LeSean McCoy scored from the 2 to cut it to 14-7.

But the Falcons answered quickly. Ryan connected with Julio Jones over Nnamdi Asomugha for the 63-yard score to put Atlanta up 21-7.

Atlanta converted their first nine third-down tries, including three by penalty. The Eagles finally held in the final minute of the second quarter and Matt Bryant's 43-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 24-7 halftime lead. Bryant kicked field goals of 29 and 30 on the next two drives.

The Eagles made it 30-17 on Vick's 7-yard TD pass to McCoy in the fourth quarter.

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The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

The goal that no one wanted: Alex Ovechkin gives up hat trick to set up T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin had two goals, the puck on his stick and an empty-net yawning. The Caps held a 4-2 lead on Monday against the Vancouver Canucks late in the third period and the win looked all but secured. The only thing still up for grabs was the exclamation point empty-net goal.

Ovechkin took the puck in the defensive zone and weaved his way through the neutral zone. Once he hit center ice, there was only one player between him and the net. The hat trick looked all but certain…until he passed the puck away.

He easily could have taken the puck himself and fired it into the empty yet, but instead he chose to pass it off to T.J. Oshie on the wing.

Oshie delayed, but with the trailing Vancouver players skating into the passing lane, there was no way for Oshie to try to pass it back to Ovechkin and he very reluctantly shot the puck into the net.

When the players returned to the bench, the disappointment on Oshie’s face was clear to see. He wanted Ovechkin to get the hat trick, but Ovechkin wasn’t having it.

After the game, head coach Todd Reirden praised Ovechkin for his leadership.

“He could have easily got in the red and tried to score himself and it wasn’t even a thought,” Reirden said. “He passed right to Osh and Osh couldn’t go back to him and that’s the way it worked out. It doesn’t bother him one bit and I think that’s where you see a different player than maybe you saw three or four years ago that is not focused on individual stuff. He’s doing the right thing and he feels if you do the right thing for long enough, you’re going to get rewarded.

“We were benefactors of that last season with being able to win out at the end. He’s really got a lot of buy-in right now for doing the right thing. I think his leadership is really in the last probably year, year and a half has really gone to a new level.”
 
Reirden saw leadership on the play. Oshie saw disappointment.
 
Ovechkin offered his own explanation for giving up the shot as he said, “Save it for next time.”

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Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. show how they can change everything for Wizards in win over Blazers

Most nights, with little variance, the Wizards know what they are going to get from John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. They are consistently what they are, both good and bad, and mostly good.

The same cannot always be said about Markieff Morris and Kelly Oubre Jr. Both are capable of brilliance, it's just those moments come and go and sometimes with mysterious timing. Both players help the team more often than not, but can be unpredictable and enigmatic.

Monday night saw both Morris and Oubre at their best as the Wizards topped the Blazers 125-124 in overtime at the Moda Center. It was a worthy reminder of how much the two of them can change the outlook for the Wizards as a team on any given night.

Let's begin with Morris because this may have been the best game he's played with the Wizards since joining them in a Feb. 2016 trade. On both ends of the floor, he  was a force, but particularly on offense.

Morris erupted for 28 points in 25 minutes on 9-for-15 from the field and 6-for-10 from three. His six threes were a career-high. He also had 10 rebounds, a block and a steal.

It was the most efficient night in Morris' career and, by one measure, one of the most efficient in franchise history. His 28 points were the most by a Wizards or Bullets player in 25 minutes or less since A.J. English dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in 1990.

Morris' threes were well-timed. He hit two in the extra period, including one with 38.5 seconds remaining to put the Wizards up four. He also made one with 1:04 left in regulation and another right before that with 1:39 to go, both to give the Wizards a lead at the time. 

The clutch threes invoked memories of a game-winner Morris hit in the very same building two seasons ago. That also happened to be his best year with the Wizards.

Morris has improved his three-point shooting in recent years with a career-best 36.7 percent last season. When he's knocking them down, the Wizards can be uniquely good at spacing the floor, as Wall and especially Beal and Porter can be dangerous from three.

What Morris did against Portland was a major departure from a pair of uninspired games to begin the season. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds total in his first two games, both losses, as he failed to compensate for Dwight Howard's absence. On Monday, he stepped up and helped lead the Wizards to victory.

Like Morris, Oubre had been scuffling through two games. A different version of him showed up in Portland.

Oubre amassed only 17 points in his first two games and shot just 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-7 from three. Against the Blazers, Oubre scored 22 points and shot 9-for-13 overall and 3-for-3 from long range.

Oubre added six rebounds, a block and a steal and a host of winning plays that didn't show up in traditional stats. He drew a loose ball foul on Mo Harkless early in the fourth quarter and took a charge on C.J. McCollum with under two minutes in overtime.

Oubre played pretty much exactly how head coach Scott Brooks often says he should. He ran the floor in transition and attacked the rim when the ball swung his way. He was more selective with his three-point attempts than usual. He wreaked havoc on defense with deflections, didn't gamble for steals and he hustled for rebounds. 

Monday night showed the perfect version of both Morris and Oubre. The Wizards need that to be the model for how they aspire to play every single night. If they do, this team's ceiling is significantly higher.

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