Archive | November, 2013

Vick Handles Move to No. 2 Spot Well, Supports Foles

28 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michael Vick said Foles deserves to be the starter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Michael Vick said Foles deserves to be the starter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It’s easy for an athlete to sulk and bemoan his situation when he loses his starting position. This is especially true when a guy has been a long-time starter. In some cases, that long-time starter is usually demanding to be traded elsewhere.

That can’t be said of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. After witnessing the rise of Nick Foles, the NFC’s offensive player of the month for November, Vick has been supportive of the guy he competed for the starting job with since minicamp. Foles said Vick has been helpful throughout his time on the field.

“Mike’s been tremendous throughout this whole thing,” Foles said. “The best thing about Mike is that he’s a great team player. He’s been nothing but helpful to me throughout this whole thing whether it’s me on the sidelines and telling me what he sees out there. It’s been great for me to look up to an older guy to see how he’s handled this whole situation.”

But that’s the approach Vick has taken all season. Remember this was the same guy who took a pay cut, signed a one-year contract, and competed for the starting job. At the same time, he was working with Foles and rookie Matt Barkley to help them to get better.

“Mike wants to contribute any way he can and that’s the type of guy he is,” Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s a great teammate, great leader. He’s been great for Nick over the games he’s been out in terms of helping him to develop. We’ve got a good situation.  I think we have two quarterbacks that win games in the NFL.”

Wide receiver Jason Avant said Vick is still a leader in the Eagles locker room even though he is not the starter.

“He’s not focusing on himself, he’s been focusing on his teammates and putting God first,” Avant said. “That’s leadership to me more so than someone saying this or saying that. Leadership is about what you do in your daily life, but also in adverse times. What do you do? Does pressure break you or does it reveal that you’re a champion on the inside …(Vick) is a champion.”

Before he got hurt in the first Giants game, Vick wasn’t having a bad year. He led the team to the win over the Redskins in the season-opener. He passed for 203 yards and threw two touchdown passes. He also had 54 yards rushing with one touchdown.

In the Eagles 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers, Vick passed for a career-high 428 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown.  But he struggled in the Kansas City game, throwing two interceptions including a pick-six.

Against the Denver Broncos, Vick was merely ordinary compared to an incredible performance Peyton Manning. Vick passed for 248 yards on 14-of-27 passing, but had a few drops along the way.

By the time he left the game with his injury, Vick had led the Eagles to a 16-7 lead before Foles replaced him. Vick said he’s not disappointed by the demotion to second string because of how well Foles has been playing.

“It’s all about support,” Vick said on Tuesday. “I’ve been playing in this league for a long time, and it’s great to see guys who I know can play and spend a lot of time with go out there and have success, and I enjoy watching it. I enjoy watching my team go out there and do the things that Coach Kelly asks them to do and see it turn over and correlate into wins. It goes to show that what we’re doing is working and we’re all on the same page, and it’s exciting to see.”

I can’t say that I know how Vick will be remembered in this game as a player because I think his book still has a few chapters left.  On one level, I wouldn’t be too worried about whether or not he’s put up all the requisite numbers to get a bust in Canton. But if there was a Hall-of-Fame for growth as a human being, Vick would definitely be on the first ballot.

The way he has handled being relegated to the backup role is proof positive of that. Since coming up from the depths from his imprisonment, Vick has proven that being a man and handling adversity without wincing or crying out loud is far more important than his passing statistics.

Champions in the Fight Against Hunger in Philly

26 Nov

 

Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia Help give away holiday turkeys in West Philadelphia

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

From left to right-Craig Stroman, CEO and founder of We Feed the Homeless Philly', Angel Garcia, father and trainer of Danny Garcia, world light heavyweight champion, world junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the American Red Cross House in West Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Murray.

From left to right-Craig Stroman, CEO and founder of We Feed the Homeless Philly’, Angel Garcia, father and trainer of Danny Garcia, world light heavyweight champion, world junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the American Red Cross House in West Philadelphia. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Both International Boxing Federation light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins and WBC/WBA light welterweight champion Danny Garcia have had a whirlwind year inside the ring in 2013. They are both coming off huge victories and are considered among the best pound-for-poundboxers in their sport.

On Monday, Hopkins and Garcia joined forces with We Feed the Homeless Philly and the American Red Cross House on Powelton Avenue to give 450 holiday turkeys to low-income families in Mantua and residents of the Red Cross House. Turkey recipients braved cold temperatures and stood in a line that was about a block long.

Hopkins said both he and Garcia with all the success that they’ve enjoyed this season are blessed to be back in the community to be able to help people.

“Thank God you’re in position to be giving out turkeys and that you’re not receiving one,” Hopkins said. “That could be you in that line.”

Hopkins and Garcia passing out holiday turkeys to low-income residents of West Philly. Photo by Chris Murray.

Hopkins and Garcia passing out holiday turkeys to low-income residents of West Philly. Photo by Chris Murray.

While Hopkins and Garcia are known worldwide as champions in their sport, their concern for the families in their hometown makes them champions as people as well.

“There’s joy in transcending self to serve others,” said Chad Dion Lassister, executive director of the Red Cross House. “One of the amazing things about Bernard Hopkins and Danny Garcia is they fundamentally understand that they have multiple identities. They’re not just champs, they also come from these communities and it’s great to give back. It means so much.”

The turkey giveaway was part of We Feed the Homeless Philly’s efforts to deal with the organization’s ongoing effort to deal with the city’s hunger crisis, said Craig Stroman, founder and CEO of the organization. Places like Mantua are among the city’s most impoverished areas of the city and while events like this help ease the pain of hunger for the holidays in these areas, more help is needed, he said.

“We appreciate the champs for coming out, but what we need to be focused on is a hunger problem in our city,” Stroman said. “This is what we do 365 days a year. We worry about the hungry in our communities. We feed the homeless and we feed poor families across the citywho call us for help. “We decided to do this partnership with the Red Cross House to try get as many people we can feed in this Mantua section, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. We wanted to help and give people turkeys so they can sit with their families with dignity during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

For Garcia, who is coming off a big win over heavily-favored Lucas Matthysse and a victory earlier this year over Zab Judah, coming out to give turkeys to the city’s poor is the highlight of what has been a good year for him personally.

“It feels great to give back to my community and give back to the Philadelphia community means a lot to me,” Garcia said. “I’m thankful, man because this means more to me than anything because there’s a lot of people out there who are not fortunate to have a good dinner. Today was about the people.”

 

 

 

Third Line Leads Flyers to Win over Buffalo

22 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Matt Read scored two goals in win over Buffalo.

Matt Read scored two goals in win over Buffalo.

PHILADELPHIA—Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Flyers (9-10-2) had lost all seven games in which their opponent scored the game’s first goal.

During a lackluster first period for the home team, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, in a scrum near the Flyers net, somehow got a shot past goalie Ray Emery to give his team a 1-0 lead. A few weeks ago that goal would have been the kiss of death for a Flyers team that was struggling to score.

But the early Buffalo goal only served to wake the Flyers up as they did all the scoring the rest of the way in a 4-1 win over the Sabres in front of a sell-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center.  The Flyers are 5-0-1 in their last six games and have outscored their opponents 22-8.

“After that (first period) we kept at it and kept it at and we finally got a couple in the second,” Emery said.

After struggling in the first period, the Flyers seized control of the game in the second period thanks to their No. 3 scoring line which consisted of right winger Matt Read, who scored the team’s first two goals, Steve Downie and center Sean Couturier, who got assists on those two scores.

“The third line played great,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “It’s nice to get balanced scoring for sure. When you can have everybody chipping in, it goes a long way.”

Read scored the Flyers first goal with 6:53 left in the second period on a pass from Downie. A little over a minute later, Couturier stole the puck from Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder and passed it to Downie who circled around the net and found Read in front of the net who shot the puck past goalie Ryan Miller.

“As a line, we played pretty good,” Couturier said. “We kept it simple, put puck deeps and won some battles. Read finished two nice plays there.”

Read said he, Downie and Couturier often meet about getting deep in the scoring zone and getting the puck to the net and they’re doing a good job of developing chemistry with each other.

“Couturier, Downie and I are having fun out there,” Read said. “We’re doing the simple things and not turning pucks over, just making things happen. The key to our line is to get pucks deep and go to work. Things just went our way tonight, but we have three or four solid lines. Any given night, any line can score. It’s fun to play when all four lines are cooking like that.”

After the second period, the Flyers kept the pressure on the Sabres in the third period. With 10:02 left in the game, Vincent LeCavalier’s goal upped the margin to 3-1. Scott Hartnell added another on an empty-netter with 11 seconds left in the game. For the game, the Flyers outshot the Sabres (5-18-1) 46 to 30.

Meanwhile, Emery had a solid night in goal for the Flyers. He had 29 saves while upping his record to 3-3 on the season. That was something that was not lost on Berube.

“Ray was solid again. He’s done a really good job. He’s a very good goalie,” Berube said. “He wins a lot of games. He goes in there and wins games. Like I say again, he was solid.”

Flyers Score Three in the Third Period to Sink Ottawa

20 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Claude Giroux got the Flyers going with a power- play goal in the first period in the Flyers win over Ottawa Photo by Webster Riddick.

Claude Giroux got the Flyers going with a power- play goal in the first period in the Flyers win over Ottawa Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Earlier in the season, the Flyers had a penchant for taking one or two goal leads only to have the other team come back and win the game.

When Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris scored the game-tying goal with 16:48, it was looking like one of those bad nights for the Flyers, who had jumped out to a 2-0 early in the second period.

But the Flyers (8-10-2) refused to fold and exploded for three goals in the third period for a 5-2 win over the Senators Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers have won four out of their last five games and are 5-1-2 since a fight-marred shutout loss to the Washington Capitals.

“It was a very good response by our team,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “I thought the whole third period we played to win that game. It’s encouraging, it’s good to see. … You’re looking for your team to play and skate for 60 minutes. Sometimes, you’re going to do that and not get a break and lose, but if you do it on a consistent basis, you’re going to win more than you’re going to lose.”

Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen had a big night for his team with a goal and two assists. It was his goal past Senators goalie Robin Lehner with 8:30 left that put the Flyers on top for good. Twenty-three seconds later, Wayne Simmonds added an insurance goal to make 4-2. Adam Hall’s empty-netter in the final seconds capped an impressive third period.

“The way earlier in year has been going for us it’s been a lot of bad losses or tight losses, but when we’re able to turn these games into two points for us in the third period, that’s a good sign,” Timonen said. “The team looks good right now. They’re skating, we’re working and doing the system pretty well. The boys are playing unbelievable. It’s a lot of good things going for our team. Hopefully, we can keep doing it.”

It also helped that the Flyers got a little bit of luck. With 10:30 left, Turris pushed in a shot that was headed for the back of the Flyers net. But the puck hit the left skate and bounced the right skate of defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. The official behind the net ruled that it was no goal.

“I tried to get some guys out of the crease and I felt the puck coming off my left foot and after that, I just hit it with my reflexes,” Grossmann said. “I didn’t see the puck coming in, just reflex and a lot of luck.”

The play was reviewed by the replay officials and the call was upheld. Photographic evidence suggests that the puck might have snuck past the goal line, but it wasn’t conclusive enough to overturn the call.

With the ruling in their favor, the rejuvenated Flyers began their push to win game thanks to the scoring of both Timonen and Simmonds.

“We said no matter what happens if it’s a goal we were going to stay with our structure,” Simmonds said. “We were going to get opportunities all game. We’re confident in ourselves. We know what we have to do. Today was great because everybody did their job and we came up with the win.”

Meanwhile, Flyers goalie Steve Mason had another outstanding performance with 32 saves including a huge save on a penalty shot by Turris late in the third period.

“He played well,” Berube said. “He’s been playing well all year. A big save on that penalty shot. That was a huge timely save.”

The Flyers started the scoring with 3:16 left in the first period on a power-play goal by center Claude Giroux who got a pass from Timonen to the right of the Senator’s goal. In the second period, the Flyer upped the lead to 2-0 on a by center Sean Couturier who was set up on a pass by Timonen.

Later in the second period, Ottawa got its first goal of the game on a goal by left winger Clark MacArthur before Turris tied it in third period.

Eagles Defense Shuts the Door on Washington’s Comeback Hopes

18 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Brandon Boykin's four-quarter interception of Robert Griffith III preserves the Eagles 24-16 win over Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Brandon Boykin’s four-quarter interception of Robert Griffith III preserves the Eagles 24-16 win over Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The Eagles 24-16 win over the Washington Redskins Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field was more of a stark contrast to where this team was last season going into a bye-week.

Back in 2012, the last game the Eagles played before their bye-week was a heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Lions who came back from a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes in regulation to win the game in overtime.

After the Eagles jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the third quarter on a one-yard run by LeSean McCoy, the Redskins made things interesting in the fourth period on a couple of Robert Griffin III touchdown passes and a pair of two-point conversions. With the offense unable to move the football in the final stanza, the Eagles defense needed to come up with one final stand to hold off the surging Redskins.

Brandon Boykin's interception in the end zone was the exclamation point to a huge win for the Birds. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Brandon Boykin’s interception in the end zone was the exclamation point to a huge win for the Birds. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Washington drove from its own four-yard line down to the Eagles 18 with 40 seconds left. It looked like it was going to be another example of the Birds defense blowing a big lead in the fourth quarter.

But Eagles nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin saved the day with a drive-killing interception in the end zone that helped to preserve the win for the 6-5 Birds, who will head into the bye-week in sole possession of first-place in the NFC East. It was the Birds first win at home since Sept. 30, 2012 when they beat New York Giants on a late field goal.

“Everybody knew that someone had to step up and make it,” said middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “There was no sense that we were going to let them get into the end zone. Everybody had that type of attitude that we were going to make a stop.”

In all honesty, the Eagles win over the Redskins was the type of game they would have lost last season.  To their credit, they found a way to pull off a huge victory when it looked like they were about to fall apart.

“Really, how are you going to react when things don’t go exactly the way you planned?” asked Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “That’s what I think I’m most proud of today, is how they reacted when it didn’t go our way, when they faced a bit of adversity, to kind of dig down deep and make a play when we had to make a play. That was a big sign for this team.”

Boykin, who remembers all too well how the Eagles defense had trouble closing out games last season, said the coaching staff under current defensive coordinator Billy Davis has done a good job of preparing them for late-game situations.

“It’s no panic, it’s not anything new to us. We practice this, so when you’re in a game situation, you treat it like practice,” Boykin said.

The Eagles also played well on defense in the other three quarters as well. For the sixth straight week, the Eagles have not allowed a team to score more than 21 points in a game.  The Birds sacked RGIII four times including his fumble in the red zone after a hard hit by linebacker Connor Barwin.  Linebacker Trent Cole also had a pair of sacks for the Eagles as well.

“They did a good job coming out in the beginning of the game and shutting down a lot of stuff that we were trying to do,” Griffin III said. “They were there where they needed to be; they were taking away the routes we were trying to run. That’s disheartening, but we have to make sure we come up with something to counteract that.”

Davis said his defense has progressed well since the first game of the season and especially since the loss to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 29.

“We know at the end when it gets all pressure-packed that you have to back to your fundamentals and your technique and your training,” Davis said. “This is what separates you.”

The Eagles scored their points on offense on a pair touchdown runs by LeSean McCoy and a four-yard run by quarterback Nick Foles. Alex Henery had a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter.

Eagles Are Getting Better on Defense

13 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans has been the anchor of an improving defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans has been the anchor of an improving defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles’ linebacker Mychal Kendricks was a rookie when the Eagles struggled through last year’s 4-12 season in which the defense blew games late in the fourth quarter or just got outright blown off the field. Quarterbacks like Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Washington’s Robert Griffin III had field days carving up the Birds defense.

Through it all, Kendricks said the veterans kept telling him this wasn’t always going to be the case and that better days had to be around the corner.

“Some of the veterans told me ‘this is not the league, we’re supposed to be winning and having fun,” Kendrick recalled. “You’re supposed to win something. I just felt that morale was at an all-time low …This year I think this is what the league is supposed to be about.”

That’s because the Eagles defense has been a much better place than it was last year. Since a 52-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Eagles defense has not allowed a team to score more than 21 points. While they are not going to remind anyone just yet of the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, they have been a team that seems to get better with each game and they’re a lot better off than they were last season.

“Everybody is comfortable with what they’re doing,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.”Everybody knows their role; everybody knows where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be doing it. Guys are flying around and having fun playing the game. That’s the difference.”

Ryans came up big against Green Bay with 11 solo tackles (13 overall), including two for a loss of yardage and he also had an interception. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said Ryans is doing a good job of quarterbacking the defense.

“DeMeco is the leader of our defense and he’s having an outstanding Pro Bowl year and we couldn’t be happier with everything DeMeco is doing for us,” Davis said. “He gets us in the best defense possible, and as the season has gone on we as a staff have gotten more and more comfortable in his ability to put us in good situations, and he has, and from there he’s done a great job playing the middle linebacker position, between tackle to tackle, he is a force. Whether it’s crossing routes he’s knocking out or his inside run game that he’s tackling.  He had one of the best form tackles I’ve seen in a long time last week.”

In the Eagles 27-13 win over the Green Bay Packers, the defense came up with another big effort. They held the Packers to under 100 yards rushing and they forced two interceptions. The Birds managed to do it despite injuries to Kendricks and safety Earl Wolff. Najee Goode, who nearly had a pick-six and cornerback Roc Carmichael also played well for the Eagles.

The Birds secondary, which got burned for the big play quite often last season, has done a better job of limiting the big play and they’ve done a good job of tackling. Nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin, who leads the team with three interceptions, said the loud music played during practice has helped the secondary do a better job of communicating with each other.

“I think what helps that is the music. That’s huge for us because the defensive backs have to over-communicate so when we get in the game it’s automatic. We’ve been working on that since whenever OTAs starting, so it’s second nature now,” Boykin said. “You have to focus on the play while other stuff is going on around you. When you get in a real environment, it’s easy.”

On the defensive line, the Birds got a solid effort from defensive tackle Vinny Curry, who seems to be getting better every time he’s on the field. Against the Packers, he had three tackles and had the lone Eagles sack in the game. Head coach Chip Kelly said Curry is getting better with each game.

“I think he’s getting better at just overall run defense,” Kelly said. “But in the run game itself, you know, I think Vinny is starting to get better and better.  It was his best game against the run this week.”

The Eagles defense has just 20 sacks in 10 games, but Davis said his squad has done a good job in putting pressure on the quarterback and making them uncomfortable in the pocket.

“Even though the sack numbers aren’t as high as we would like, but there’s pressures, there’s batted balls, there’s errant throws sometimes, just a matter of keeping the quarterback uncomfortable, and that ball that looks ugly was a bad pass had a lot to do with a throwing lane being clogged up or an arm up in the face or not having a clean lane to see in,” Davis said.

Flyers, Giroux End Scoring Woes in Win over Edmonton

9 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Claude Giroux celebrates his first goal of the season in the third period of the Flyers win over the Edmonton Oilers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Claude Giroux celebrates his first goal of the season in the third period of the Flyers win over the Edmonton Oilers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—There are several ways you can look at the Flyers 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on a Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

One way is to say it was inspiration from the players-only meeting after Thursday’s embarrassing shutout loss to the New Jersey Devils. They played 60-minutes of solid hockey, especially in the third period when they scored two goals. They outshot the Oilers 34-26.

“I think some choice words were said in that meeting and we all gotta be accountable,” said Flyers right-winger Wayne Simmonds. “I thought we came today and played a much-better game for 60 minutes. We stuck with our structure and we got two more goals in the third period which is always nice.”

Or you can be a cynic who sees the glass as half empty and say the Flyers were playing a last-place (Pacific Division) Oilers squad (4-12-2) that gives up 3.8 goals per game. This is a team the Flyers should beat. The only problem with that logic is that the Flyers (5-10-1) are at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Given the way the Flyers have struggled to score, the team is simply happy with the win and is hoping that it will give them a boost of momentum for their three-game road trip that will take them to Ottawa (Nov. 12), Pittsburgh (Nov.13) and Winnipeg (Nov15).

“I thought that we played a real good third period tonight,” said Flyers head coach Craig Berube. “I thought that we kept playing and doing the right things. I like the way we got the puck deep and forechecked tonight. I like getting 30-plus shots a game and putting pucks on net.”

Another bright spot for the Flyers is that team captain Claude Giroux finally ended his scoring slump and smacked a slap-shot past Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk to give his team a 3-1 lead 8:34 left in the third period. It was his first goal of the season.

“It was big,” said Flyers left winger Jay Rosehill. “The bench was really happy and all pumped up. (Giroux) had a big smile on his face. A guy like him isn’t going to go scoreless very often. To get a nice goal like that we needed was big, so I expect him to start rolling now.”

It was especially huge for a visibly frustrated Giroux who had two excellent scoring chances for goals in the second period, but just could not find the net before getting that third period goal. After that second point-blank miss, he shattered his stick in frustration on the Flyers bench.

“Jake (Voracek) and (Scott Hartnell) did a good job of finding me,” Giroux said. “I think we were real aggressive today-the whole team.  The (Oilers) are really talented offensively and we had to make sure that we had a good effort.”

When Edmonton left winger Taylor Hall pushed a shot past goalie Steve Mason to cut the Flyers 3-2 with 6:35 left in the game, fans might have been wondering how the Flyers were going to blow this game given some recent history.

Vincent LeCavalier put that notion and the Oilers to rest with 5:27 left in the third when he took a pass from Braden Schenn and slid it past Dubnyk to put the game away for the Flyers.

Oddly enough, it was Rosehill, known more for his toughness, who got things going for the Flyers in the first period when he took a pass from Mark Streit about four yards in front of the Oilers goal and smacked it past Dubnyk.  He also got the best of Luke Gazdic in a fight that put him in the penalty box for five minutes.

“Rosey did a great job,” Berube said. “He scored a goal and had a big fight. Rosey has done everything we’ve asked of him.”

Later in the first period, Streit assisted on another goal when found a streaking Scott Hartnell who put the puck in the net to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. Edmonton cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period on a goal by left winger David Perron.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason finally had a solid game with support from the offense. He finished the game with 24 saves.