At 6-2, Are the Detroit Lions For Real or Another Heart Break in Motown

30 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Their best receiver, who incidentally happens to be the best on the planet, is still sideline by injury and has registered a pedestrian 22 catches at the season’s midway point.

The Detroit Lions are 6-2 so far this season and are in first place in the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions are 6-2 so far this season and are in first place in the NFC North.

At one point last week they were so thin at defensive tackle that they had to give extensive play to rookie fifth-round draft choice Caraun Reid, he of Princeton.

The running game is still putrid and the quarterback still makes too many mistakes, but at 6-2 one can’t help but get excited by the Detroit Lions, surprising sole owners of first place in the NFC North.

Oh, we’ve seen this act before in Detroit. One need look back only a year to the Lions having a golden opportunity to steal an injury-ravaged division, a chance they squandered with authority down the stretch to the Packers and Bears.

But this isn’t the Jim Schwartz Era anymore. After a season of almost dead average defense, the Lions (and not the Seahawks or Niners or any of those more highly touted teams out west) have allowed the fewest points in the league (under 16 per game) under Jim Caldwell and that alone is enough to take notice.

Detroit has also find a nice more-than-complementary piece in Golden Tate, who could be on his way to the Pro Bowl with 55 catches for 800 yards, a total rapidly approaching what he achieved in a full season last year in Seattle. Team him with a healthy Calvin Johnson and the Lions have to wonder if they have the best wideout tandem in the league.

But getting back to that defense: it brings the heat (23 sacks), shuts down the run (four rushing touchdowns allowed all season), but still occasionally bends as illustrated by a 21-0 halftime deficit against the underachieving Falcons last week in London.

The difference between this year and last? To this point the Lions are resilient, grinding out the close ones, going 3-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including wins by a combined total of three points against New Orleans and Atlanta the last two weeks.

This last one had all the makings of a 2013 redux when Detroit’s primary Achilles heal popped up in the final moments as Matt Prater missed a 43-yard attempt. But maybe the football gods have decided that this is Detroit’s year; a delay-of-game penalty gave Prater a second chance from 48, which he cashed in to give the Lions the surreal win.

Note that there hasn’t been very much of this out of the Motor City in our collective memory; the Lions have made the playoffs only once since 1999 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. Their last playoff win before that was 1983 and they haven’t won an NFL title since 1957, enough to make the Kansas City Royals look like a dynasty.

Under Stafford, the top pick overall in 2009, the news has been more bad than good (he owns a career 30-39 record) with plenty of false hope and underachievement. Looking ahead at a schedule that includes road games at Arizona, New England and Green Bay, it is still easy to imagine the Lions surrendering the division lead and maybe not making the playoffs at all.

But the Lions’ depth may not allow that to happen; seven defenders already have multiple sacks and Stafford his playing his best since 2011, when the Lions won 10 games and last made the playoffs.

That mark was achieved in spite of the defense allowing 30 points or more six times, a mark no one has achieved this year against Detroit. But then Motor City fans are used to holding their breath.

When you haven’t won in 57 years, that is the rule and not the exception.

Maclin Showing He’s a More Versatile Receiver Than DeSean Jackson

28 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Amid the wreckage that was the Eagles 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, there was the outstanding performance by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Lost in all the talk of safety Nate Allen getting burned on Carson Palmer’s game-winning 75-yard touchdown pass to John Brown, Maclin caught 12 passes for a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Even bigger than his numbers was the versatility that Maclin showed as a receiver on the passes he caught from quarterback Nick Foles. Maclin caught passes across the middle, on corner routes, screen passes and on deep routes.

“He’s a legitimate deep threat and he played a hell of a game for us (Sunday),” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said.

To his credit, Maclin was more concerned about his team being on the short-end of a heartbreaking loss than his own individual performance.

“I’ve never been a stat guy… Today was just one of those days where my number was called. The win would be so much sweeter,” Maclin said.

The two touchdowns Maclin scored should tell you that he is more than a one-trick pony as a wide receiver. On his first score, Maclin used his speed on a flanker screen that enabled him to score on a 21-yard touchdown pass. Late in the third quarter, the former Missouri star caught a 54-yard bomb for a score.

“Mac did a great job of keeping his route on and really just beating them with speed. I just wanted to get the ball out there and let him come down with it. He had a great game,” Foles said.

Maclin leads the team in receptions with 39 and receiving yards with 632 (ninth in the NFL)and six touchdowns. He is averaging 16 yards per catch.

Kelly said he’s not surprised by Maclin’s performance so far this season. He said he was looking for him to do this last season before he injured his knee during training camp and was out for the year.

“I was so disappointed for Jeremy a year ago when he got hurt because I thought in terms of what we do, what a real outstanding player he could be in this system, and we’re starting to continue to see that,” Kelly said. “But I think he’s a difficult one on one matchup. He’s got good size, he’s got good speed.”
For those Eagles fans still whining over the loss of DeSean Jackson, now playing for Washington, you need to be happy with what you have at the receiver position with Maclin because it’s not just about stretching defenses with his speed, he is a better route-runner and is not shy about going across the middle.

“I think (Maclin) can stretch it from a vertical standpoint, but he can also run after the catch. I think he proved that not only early here in his career, but he proved that in college,” Kelly said. “We used him a little bit as a punt returner [and he] had a good punt return for us. We’re just starting to get to know him a little bit better than some of the other guys that have been here for a year.”

While Jackson’s speed did a good job of stretching opposing defenses last season, he was basically a one-trick pony who is not as good a route runner as Maclin and not as versatile. You’re not going to see Jackson, who leads the NFL in yards per catch, running across the middle to get passes.

Maclin also showed he had some heart in Sunday’s game. After a collision with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, Maclin was nursing a bloody ear and had to go through the concussion protocols before he was allowed back in the game.

Throughout Sunday’s game, Maclin was all over the place hustling and making plays for his team. On one play after an incomplete pass he came barreling through the Arizona sideline knocking down the Gatorade table and getting doused with the beverage.

I don’t think Maclin’s speed is as explosive as Jackson’s, but I think Maclin so far this season is proving that he can do more than just go long. He can do it all. With all the weapons in the Eagles arsenal on offense, Maclin is slowly but steadily becoming the Eagles go-to guy in the passing game.

October Surprise: KC’s Guthrie Joins List of Unlikely World Series Heroes

26 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

Righthanded pitcher Jeremy Guthrie led Kansas City to a win in Game 3 of the 2014 World Series. The series is now tied at 2-2.

The Kansas City Royals moved to within two wins of baseball’s world championship Friday night largely on the efforts of Jeremy Guthrie.

Jeremy who? That’s not Woody or Arlo or even Janet. For those who don’t recognize the name of the 11-year journeyman who owns a career record of 83-100, there are the following dubious distinctions:
1.      Led American League in losses twice (2009, 2011).
2.      Led AL in homers allowed (2009).
3.      Led AL in hits allowed (2013).
4.      Led AL in hit batsmen (2014).
5.      Led AL in errors by a pitcher (2014).

In all, not exactly a glowing resume, but then one of the beauties of the World Series has often been this cardinal rule: hot trumps better. It usually doesn’t apply in the NFL and almost never applies in the NBA (see a pair of lower seeds reach the NBA Finals lately?), but the joy that is October has its own set of rules, where the wave of a magic wand can bring unforeseen gifts.

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore 's Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

New York Mets second baseman Al Weis hit a three-run homer against Baltimore ‘s Dave McNally in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Photo by Newsday.com

In this world, Al Weis trumps Davey Johnson. Brian Doyle beats Davey Lopes. And Billy Hatcher? If you’re not careful, in a given year he can trump just about anyone.

The cynics can call it random and unjust. When teams with 88 and 89 wins, respectively, match up, images of John Mahoney screaming at John Cusack while incarcerated in ‘’Say Anything’’ – and lecturing about championing mediocrity – comes to mind.

The horror! And if dynasties are your bag, the ugly possibilities are limitless.
Would Tom Brady succumb to Ryan Fitzpatrick in a conference championship? Can you imagine the Bill Russell Celtics losing a playoff game to the Cincinnati Royals with Oscar Robertson’s sub playing the starring role?

Not on your life, but then baseball has so often been the one pastime where you can proverbially have your cake and eat it too, where conservatism can find a middle ground with the dreamer. In this world, we can tout the Yankee dynasties, while still noting that Derek Jeter only won one world title in his final 14 seasons, a democratic statistical correction by the baseball gods that the other sports cannot match.
October and occasionally a few days before and after grants a starring role for Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Mariano Rivera, but also shines its light upon Moe Drabowsky, Al Gionfriddo and John Stuper. And that’s what we have loved about it for over a century.

Hot trumps logic, invites imagination.

How else do you explain Guthrie outpitching perennial stud and four-time All-Star Tim Hudson in San Francisco in the game history tells us was probably the most important in the series? It’s Gary Gentry outpitching Jim Palmer to a lesser degree all over again, just a few years after a still-developing Palmer outpitched Sandy Koufax at the peak of his powers.

The game invites us to look a little bit closer, noting that while Guthrie’s won-loss record wasn’t all that scintillating (13-11) in 2014, the club was 19-13 in games he started, strong if not imposing. And since a July hiccup in which he went 1-3 with a 10.07 ERA over four starts, Guthrie has been 8-2 over 12 starts, following up a good Game 3 in the ALCS against Baltimore with another rock-solid outing against the Giants.

Peaking at the right time? Good scouting? A manager understanding his pitcher’s limits?
Theories will abound with a little bit of truth in many. But as any magician will tell you, the tricks of the trade are best not revealed, if they can be at all.

Who knows why a Cookie Lavagetto or Don Larsen shine, albeit briefly? But every fall their spirits are resurrected at this time, providing the kind of hope that only can be found in love, the hottest player of all.

Like All 20-Somethings, FSU’s Jameis Winston Needs a Little Guidance

24 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jameis Winston has won a Heisman Trophy and led his team to a national championship, but has been involved in some highly publicized incidents. Photo courtesy of ABCNews.com.

Jameis Winston has won a Heisman Trophy and led his team to a national championship, but has been involved in some highly publicized incidents. Photo courtesy of ABCNews.com.

PHILADELPHIA-I’m going to start my column on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with a memory from my days as a 20-something student at Morgan State University, so bear with me.

Like a lot of college students, I mixed various extra-curricular activities such as working as a sports anchor at Morgan’s radio station WEAA, maintaining a part-time job, hitting the parties and checking out the ladies along with my classes. In other words, I was your basic college student.

While I had good grades, I also had a bad habit of waiting until the last minute to turn in assignments and get ready for tests.

It caught up to me one day in my Political Science class. I had to make a presentation and after two minutes of fumbling through a poorly prepared speech, my instructor, Professor Grant, decided that he’d had enough. He told me to sit down, chastised my presentation as an “abysmal failure” in front of all my classmates and left me feeling kind of embarrassed for the rest of the class period.

After class, Professor Grant took me and a friend out to lunch. He said that he expected more of me and that being unprepared on the job or in graduate school would lead to my feeling a whole lot worse than it did that day.

To his credit, Professor Grant allowed me to re-do the presentation. But even if he hadn’t, I couldn’t get mad at him because he was right. When he took me to the woodshed in public, it was something that my hard-headed self needed to have happen. It also lit a fire under me and made me remember to stay on top of things in all aspects of my life.

Now I admit that I didn’t have as much going for me as Winston, who has a Heisman Trophy and a national championship under his belt and led the No. 2 ranked Seminoles to a comeback win over Notre Dame last Saturday.

But I’ve been 20. I’ve been hardheaded. I’ve come real close to blowing it. And I’m hoping that Winston’s Professor Grant is on the way because if he doesn’t, things could get ugly.

While Winston has spent a lot of time on the sports pages, which is good, he’s also spent some time in the news section, which isn’t. Between an accusation of sexual assault for which he was never charged, shoplifting $32.00 worth of crab legs, yelling out obscenities in the Student Union, and an accusation of signing and selling autographs–a big no-no for the NCAA–Winston is getting a lot of the kind of attention that a skittish National Football League already reeling from the domestic violence and child abuse incidents of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice doesn’t want.

In fact, it’s attention that’s already impacting his draft status. NFL Draft pundits say Winston’s draft stock is falling because while his talent is first-round, his character is third or possibly fourth. When you play quarterback in the NFL you are the face of the franchise and the owners don’t like risking millions of dollars if you have a tendency to get in trouble.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who like Winston is from Bessemer, Alabama, tried to talk to him in the same emphatic way a parent would before the crab leg incident and didn’t mince words with the young man.

“I really don’t know who is giving this young man guidance. I have communicated with him and I just talked to him like I was his dad. The things that you need to do.,” Jackson said in SBNation. “Normally, I don’t like giving people advice if I haven’t been down that road myself. But if I give you advice on something that I know more about than you by just falling out of bed in the morning, if you can’t take that advice and learn from it, then I’ve got nothing else to do with the situation. You’re on your own.”

Jackson received some shade from Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and more than a few people on Facebook and Twitter because they felt Jackson was butting in unnecessarily or he was being too exacting on the kid.

But I’m not mad at Jackson for trying to be Winston’s Professor Grant. The purpose of ruffling Winston’s 20-something feathers a little bit to make him a better person and a better man. We need more “old heads” like Jackson to get into the face of kids like Winston to let them know that they still have a lot to learn about life.

Winston is on that athletic conveyer belt that New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden refers to in his book, “Forty-Million Dollar Slaves,” where sometimes the indiscretions and shortcomings of ball players are overlooked because of their athletic prowess.

That often times leads to trouble that athlete can’t always get themselves out of because no one dared to say, “No” or You can’t do this or that. We were all foolish 20-somethings once on some level and there was an older person—an uncle, aunt, cousin, or some other mentor to light a fire under our rear ends to make us better people.

I have seen far too many talented young people, especially young African-American males, with the world in front of them make too many bad decisions that ended up costing them their careers and even their lives.

I covered the story of the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias, who had no history of getting into trouble, but made one bad decision, using cocaine, that cost him his life.

It was one of the toughest stories I’ve had to cover in my journalistic career because it didn’t have to happen.

While many scoff at the whole idea of a “village” being needed to raise a child, I believe it’s true. I don’t know Winston personally, but I get the impression that at his core he’s a good kid in need of some guidance. His problem is one of maturity more than anything else.

I just hope that he finds someone who is strong enough to tell him the truth and help him grow as a man.

I hope he finds his Professor Grant.

The Boys are Back in Town: Dallas Is Hot, But Can They Keep it Going?

17 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

PHILADELPHIA—Like it or not, love them or hate them, the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) are among the league’s best teams and no doubt one of the NFL’s biggest surprises so far in the 2014 season. Much to the chagrin of Eagles fans, the Cowboys are tied with the Birds for first place in the NFC East and for the league’s best record.

Last Sunday, the Cowboys raised more than a few eyebrows with a stunning road upset of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only did Dallas escape with a 30-23 win, they did it by rolling 401 yards of offense against one of the league’s most physical defenses.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The reason for the Cowboys success so far this season was best exemplified in the win over Seattle when they ran the ball more than they passed it. Dallas has shown a tremendous amount of balance on offense so far this season and that’s taken some of the workload off quarterback Tony Romo.

“The best thing that we’ve done as an organization is we’ve very purposely tried to take the burden off our quarterback,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during his Monday after-game press conference. “At different times in his career in Tony’s career, he’s had a lot of burden on him—we haven’t played good defense, we haven’t been great on the offensive line, we haven’t run the ball well.”

The Cowboys rushing attack gained 162 yards against the Seahawks with 115 coming from running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. As a team, the Cowboys are averaging 160 yards per game, which also leads the league.

That’s thanks to the outstanding performance by the Dallas offensive line which was so good against the Seahawks that left tackle Tryon Smith garnered NFL Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle helped to open holes for Dallas runners and allowed just one sack of Romo.

Murray, who has 785 yards rushing, is the Cowboys closer late in the game. He scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game through a tough Seattle defense.

With the Cowboys running game chewing up yardage, Romo has been more efficient in the passing game. Since tossing three interceptions in the season-opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Romo has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,229 yard, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

When they do pass the ball, Romo has been effectively getting the ball out to Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, who leads the team in touchdown receptions, and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. He also has better protection because teams have to respect the run.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of a Cowboys defense that all the experts said would be the worst in the league. Granted, they’re not the second-coming of those great Cowboys defenses of the 1970s or the 1985 Chicago Bears, but they’re getting the job done.

They are 21st in total defense (12th against the pass and 18th against run) and eighth in scoring defense, a vast improvement from last season.

“We really emphasized the importance of team defense,” Garrett said. “I just think everybody does—gap discipline, tackling, coverage responsibility, doing your job, playing with the right spirit and mentality. I think we’ve done a lot of those things. We’re a work in progress on defense and offense throughout our football team.”

In their latest NFL power rankings, ESPN elevated the Cowboys to No.3 behind the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. The challenge for the Cowboys is not to get ahead of themselves or get caught up in the hype of their own headlines.

“It’s such a long season,” Romo said. “When you win you enjoy it that night and move on to the next game. When you lose, you’re disappointed that night, you move on to the next game. You find that if you keep doing that over and over again, you give yourself the best chance to succeed. That approach has been there all season.”

The Cowboys have a home game against a New York Giants squad smarting from an embarrassing shutout loss to the Eagles. The G-men will no doubt be fired up to redeem themselves.

“I know they’re coming to play,” Bryant said. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to come out there and put it on the line.”

Contrary to owner Jerry Jones belief that the team should smell the roses and enjoy the win over Seattle, Bryant said his teammates are doing no such thing, especially considering the team’s failures in December over the last couple of years.

“Aw, man nobody’s smelling the roses,” Bryant said. “Man we all know in this locker room that we haven’t done nothing, we haven’t achieved nothing. It’s just a 5-1 record. We have to continue to play that we playing the way we’ve been playing …Hoping that we come out on top on Sunday.”

2014 Royals Taking Their Place in Baseball’s History of Improbable Post Season Runs

17 Oct

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas makes an incredible catch in the stands in Game 3 of the 2014 American League Championship Series.

The most natural inclination when the Kansas City Royals stunned the Baltimore Orioles in four straight to sweep the 2014 American League Championship Series was to draw comparisons to the 1969 Mets.

Inferior team wins. Said team catches lightning in a bottle, fueled by a bevy of incredible defensive plays. And yet it’s important to remember several pieces of data in the comparison beginning with the realization that the Mets didn’t sweep that series. The Orioles won Game 1 and one of the great what-ifs in baseball history is what might have happened had Baltimore won just one of the four games the Mets juggernaut snagged that week.

New York Mets outfielder makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

New York Mets outfielder Tommy Agee makes a diving catch against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The Kansas City Royals made similar plays against the Orioles in the 2014 American League Championship Series.

Would the Orioles, with Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar slated to go in games 6 and 7 at home, won the series in seven? Or would the Mets have won anyway with more magic from players like Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon or Al Weis?

To that question we will never know the answer. But as remarkable as that week was, it wasn’t the standard for postseason sweeps, which ironically happened exactly 100 years ago. Since then we’ve had a bevy of great lightning-in-the-bottle stories this time of year and the 2014 Royals may not even rank near the top.

You decide.

1914 Boston Braves: Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s were a dynasty, fueled by great pitching and their $100,000 infield (yeah, that was a long time ago). They were heavy favorites against the Boston Braves, whose manager George ‘’Tweedy’’ Stallings is best remembered for wearing out the seat of his suit pants on the bench. The Braves were in last place on the Fourth of July and then proceeded to go 60-16 to not only win their first pennant, but do so in double digits.

That should have been a warning to pundits of a potential upset, but both the A’s and experts were stunned over four days as Hank Gowdy (an underrated catcher whose career lasted until 1930) hit .545.

1966 Orioles: Once upon a time the Orioles were on the other side of an incredible four-game sweep. This is often forgotten in history since Baltimore went on to win three pennants and another world title only a few years later with much of the same cast. But understand the rep of the 1966 Dodgers: led by 27-game winner Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers were defending champs and had won their third pennant in four years. The Orioles were making their first postseason appearance. But paced by Moe Drabowsky’s amazing relief performance in Game 1, the Dodgers’ offense was shut down, never to reawaken in the most stunning display of four-game pitching in World Series history.

1980  Kansas City Royals: The 1980 Yankees won more regular-season games (103) than either the 1977 or 1978 teams that won it all. Both teams defeated the Royals en route to the crown and the Bombers had a run going of three consecutive postseason series victories over KC. So this was the ultimate grudge match. With homefield advantage, the Yanks were leading at home in Game 3 until George Brett’s long homer off Goose Gossage cemented the three-game sweep.

The 1990 Cincinnati Reds: Lest we forget. The 1988-1990 A’s were very close to being recognized as one of the great dynasties of the last 30 years. But they ran into a hot Dodger team in 1988 and even hotter Cincinnati team two years later. Reds pitchers held the Bash Brothers to only eight runs in four games, but the MVP was Billy Hatcher, whose .750 mark represents one of the great short-series hot streaks in postseason history.

2014 Royals: KC trailed 7-3 late in the wild-card playoff before stunning Oakland. Since that point, they have hardly trailed in their first postseason appearance in 29 years. They wiped out a veteran Angels team, but the nature of their four-game sweep over the Orioles was invigorating and incredible: Baltimore hit well in two games (games 1 and 2), but not enough.

Then it pitched well in the next two, but again it wasn’t enough as the Royals won two games by two runs and two others by one each. Lorenzo Cain was the Royals series MVP, but collectively KC played perhaps the best series defense since the 1969 Mets, using several diving or unlikely catches to shut down every potential Baltimore rally. Can the Royals sustain this momentum into the World Series? A national bandwagon of underdog lovers await in what is becoming one of the great October sagas in recent years.

Talk is Cheap: Eagles Defense Puts the Smackdown on Eli Manning and the Giants

13 Oct

By Chris Murray
For The Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin Gets one of his three sacks of Eli Manning in the Birds 27-0 win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday Night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin Gets one of his three sacks of Eli Manning in the Birds 27-0 win over the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday Night. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The New York Giants found out in their loss to the Eagles on Sunday that it’s much easier to talk trash and sell woof tickets. No matter how times you deface another team’s logo, backing it up on the field on gameday is a whole lot harder and the only thing that really matters.

As the late great  Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas used say, “Talk is cheap, let’s the play game.”

The Eagles, especially the defense, did all the talking in a resounding 27-0 shutout victory over the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.

Contrary to Giants defensive Jason Pierre-Paul’s contention that the Birds could easily be 0-5, the Eagles are 5-1 and tied with the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) for first place in the NFC East. New York is now 3-3.

For the first time this season, there was no need for a second-half comeback nor was there a frantic run of points by the other team to make the final score closer than the game itself. Going into the bye week, the Eagles wanted to come out and play a complete game where the outcome was never in doubt.

The Eagles defense dominated a hot Giants squad that came into the contest riding the wave of a three-game winning streak.

“That was the biggest thing we wanted to play quarter straight of clean football,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. “When we got up, coming off of last week (against the St. Louis Rams) we wanted to finish the game the right way. I think all three phases did that.”

Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole collars Eli Manning. It was one of eight sacks by the Birds against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole collars Eli Manning. It was one of eight sacks by the Birds against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick

Defensively, the Eagles gave Eli Manning and the Giants offense a good old-fashioned beatdown. The Birds held the Giants to just 253 yards of total offense. They sacked Manning eight times with three coming from linebacker Connor Barwin.

The key to the sacks was the tight coverage of the Giants receivers by the Eagles secondary that disrupted Manning’s timing and forced him to hang onto the ball longer than he wanted.

“Our secondary did a tremendous job jamming their receivers, giving them different looks because the last three weeks what we’ve seen on film is Eli catching the ball and throwing it,” Barwin said. “Today, he was catching the ball and getting to his second or third read and that’s how we were able to get pressure on him.”

After completing 70 percent of his passes last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning was 13-of-23 for 151 yards and zero touchdowns.

“(Eagles) did a good job,” Manning said. “They got good pressure and we didn’t win many one-on-one matchups. … They just had good coverage and I held the ball a little too long and I have to do a better job on some instances of getting the ball out and getting through my progressions a little quicker.”

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams said the goal of the secondary was to come out and establish a physical presence against the Giants receivers to help throw of Manning’s timing and allow the front seven the chance to attack the quarterback.

“We were able to get some hands on those guys and disrupt the timing,” Williams said. “The front seven did a tremendous job getting in those windows, putting their hands up and pressuring them and making the pocket muddy and he wasn’t getting too many lanes to throw in and that made our jobs easier.”

With the Giants best running back Rashad Jennings out with an MCL in his knee, New York could not muster a running game against the Birds defense. The Eagles held the Giants to just 85 yards rushing.

The finest moment of the game for the Eagles defense came in the third quarter. After intercepting a Nick Foles pass deep in Eagles territory, the Giants drove the ball down to the Eagles three-yard line and decided to go for it on fourth down and came up short when Manning’s pass sailed over Victor Cruz’s head.

“Our defense goes out in the field and doesn’t give them any points and then our offense goes out on the field and has a 97-yard drive for a touchdown,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “It’s something to build upon. …We’re pleased with the performance tonight.”

Meanwhile, running back LeSean McCoy found his rushing mojo, gaining a-season high 149 yards rushing on 22 carries. Foles threw touchdown a pair of first- half touchdown passes to Zach Ertz and James Casey. He was 21-of-34 for 248 yards, but also threw a pair of interceptions.

Kicker Cody Parkey added a couple of field goals to give the Eagles a 20-0 lead at halftime.

Running back Darren Sproles scored on a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He left the game with a left knee injury later in the period. The severity of the injury is yet to be determined. Cruz left the game with a torn patella on the Giants failed fourth and goal play in third quarter.

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