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8:48AM

The Sports Xchange: Foles ascends from backup to Super Bowl MVP

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS — A few months ago he was a backup, again, waiting for the chance that as someone who had been with other teams knew might never come along. But come along it did, and Sunday night, still in his uniform pants, still unpretentious, there stood Nick Foles, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LII.

Foles became the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback when Carson Wentz went down with a torn-up knee. Oh well, said the critics, the Eagles are doomed. 

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2018 The Sports Xchange

7:06AM

The Sports Xchange: SBLII Opening Night: 'That's Entertainment'

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- It was just a few hours for the other town, the one usually tacked on the end of the dateline, was now able to stand alone, and be mentioned by itself for the lunacy that is the runup to America's-maybe, the free world's-national holiday, the Super Bowl. 

The contestants, the journalists, the public, paying for the experience, crossed the river, the mighty Mississippi, so on Monday, Saint Paul would have its few moments of fame, detached in effect from Minneapolis for what used to be known as Media Day and is now called "Opening Night." 

Read hte full story here.

Copyright 2018 The Sports Xchange

7:16PM

Raiders' defense reverts to terrible past

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — This was the regression game, the reminder that the Raiders haven’t moved that far from their recent, terrible past.

This was the game where the defense couldn’t have covered a hole in a ground, much less a Philadelphia receiver.

This was the game that made Eagles quarterback Nick Foles part of history.

“It’s time for us,” Dennis Allen, the Raiders' coach said on Friday. “If we’re going to do something, we need to start making some sort of move.” 

He didn’t mean backwards, which is where Oakland went.

All those glowing words about the Raiders’ improved defense? All those thoughts the Raiders might reach .500 as the calendar reached November? Worthless.

Which in the 49-20 rout Sunday by the Eagles at O.co Coliseum is what the Oakland defense proved to be.

This was why the Eagles brought in Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon, to leave the opposition breathless as well as bewildered.

Philly didn’t dominate the clock or the statistics. Oakland had the ball 37 minutes 54 seconds, compared with 22:06 for the Eagles. Oakland had 560 yards, compared with 542 for the Eagles.

But Philly averaged 9.5 yards each play. Philly scored and scored. And scored.

Foles is the backup to the injured Michael Vick. He tied an NFL single-game record with seven touchdown passes. And of his 28 passes, only six were incomplete.

Seven touchdowns, six incompletions. What a replacement. What a nightmare for the Raiders, who are 3-5.

“We were out of place,” said Raider cornerback Tracy Porter. “We missed tackles. What NFL quarterbacks do is look for holes.”

In the Raiders, Foles found as many as in a hunk of Swiss cheese.

“They played their style, up-tempo,” said Porter. “And we weren’t able to match that. They came ready to play.”

What were the Raiders ready for? Or more accurately, were they ready for anything?

Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden, Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2013 draft, wasn’t, including requests for a postgame interview, which he sloughed off with, “No, I’m good.”

In reality he was bad. Riley Cooper beat him for 17 yards 43 seconds into the second quarter to make it 14-3, then for 63 yards exactly three minutes later to make it 21-3.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for D.J.,” said Charles Woodson, the longtime all-pro defensive back who rejoined the Raiders again this season at age 37.

“He was the 12th pick in the draft. He was right there on those pass plays. I don’t think he located the receiver one time. Another time he slipped.”

That word, slipped, seemed appropriate for the entire Raider defense.

“I don’t know what to say,” added Woodson. “They executed their game plan from the word go. We never had an answer. You can read the press clippings. There were a lot of great things said about the defense. We took a beating, and we’ve got to stand up to it.”

Allen, in his second season as head coach, is not quick with the one-liners. No responses in the style of John McKay, who when being queried about his team’s execution said that he’d be in favor of it.

Allen remains wary of management, careful in his assessments, protective of his athletes.

“Obviously we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain,” he said. “We also realize we’re a better football team than what we displayed out there today, and we have to be better than that. Listen, I still have a lot of confidence in this defense. I think this defense is a good defense. We had a bad day. That happens.”

That happens to a team that either doesn’t completely extend the relentless demands of the NFL season or is not equipped physically or mentally to cope with those demands. Teams that tease, then buckle under pressure.

Everyone understood Nick Foles has a strong arm, yet he wasn’t even the starter. And now he’s in the books with people such as Sid Luckman, George Blanda and Peyton Manning.

“Their quarterback had seven touchdowns,” said Porter, “and we have to take that personally. We can’t give a guy seven touchdowns in a game, let alone let them put up 49 points. We couldn’t match their tempo.”

Philly, in the season’s and Kelly’s first game, beat Washington, 33-27, and the thinking was they were going to do to the NFL what Oregon has been doing to college football.

But the Eagles didn’t score an offensive touchdown in either of the two games preceding this one against Oakland, and the cynics said the Kelly system wouldn’t work in the pros. It worked against the Raiders.

“It’s an embarrassing loss,” said Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who came out of the game in the fourth quarter with a knee bruise.

“We just have to get better.”

Much, much better.

9:37AM

RealClearSports: Vick Not Wasting His Second Chance

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com


We find satisfaction in realizing what Michael Vick can do. After finding revulsion in learning what he did.

He moves forward, with remarkable skill, a brilliant talent. We move on. And yet ...

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2010
8:12PM

No revenge for Tom Cable, just victory

OAKLAND -- He’s a rough-hewn sort, which is what an offensive line coach is supposed to be. But now Tom Cable is a head coach, of the Oakland Raiders, and his appearance, background and recent problems have not fit the image that some prefer.

We’ve heard it all. Tom Cable is Al Davis’ tool. We’ve written it all. Tom Cable is just filling space until he’s fired.

The last few days, with the Raiders getting crushed the previous weekends, with the accusations that Cable punched one of his coaches, the news and the rumors had been particularly nasty. A season on the brink? It  was a season in the sink.

So when the unexpected took place Sunday, when the Raiders sacked Donovan McNabb six times, when the Raiders held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time in 43 games, when the Raiders upset the Philadelphia Eagles, 13-9, Cable could have extracted a measure of revenge.

Could have pointed out we know less about football than about conjugating verbs, less about football than about restaurants in Barcelona. Could have gloated and said hey, he knew what he was doing all along. Which very well could be the situation.

He knew they could play, that it wasn’t a matter of tactics and strategy but of competition. And if deep down he was burning from all the words hurled his way, he wouldn’t be letting us in on the revelation.

“I think this makes a statement,’’ Cable said, making his own statement, “that we have good enough players, we have a good enough football team, and it’s a matter of whether we go out and fight for it. And today we fought to win. We deserved to win. We beat a good team.’’

What that makes the 2-4 Raiders, ending a three-game losing streak, is a legitimate question. In the NFL, good teams lose and bad teams win, if in either case not consistently, which is why they’re either a good team or a bad team.  And why the Raiders can get battered one week by the New York Giants, 44-7, and then the next week defeat the Eagles can be attributed to the “Any Given Sunday’’ Sunday.

But if the Raiders with their few hours of success satisfied a Coliseum crowd announced at 49,642, Cable was waiting for new answers. Like whether this was just the Eagles acting as if they would have been better off taking a swim in the Atlantic or whether the Raiders actually deserved to be a member of the NFL.

“The biggest issue in the locker room,’’  Cable insisted, and correctly so, “is how we handle this. How do we grow? . . . How do we turn it around and make it consistent, grow from it?’’

Cable had been telling us the Raiders were “about to turn the corner,’’  although you wondered if the corner were at Telegraph and 51st or one of the intersections of the Champs-Elysees. So Sunday he did give us a little post-game reminder.

“I said to you guys time and again,’’ was Cable’s instructional commentary, “stop looking to write negative things or worry about the BS. ... We’re developing a team and an organization that has struggled to win the last few years, and you don’t flip a switch to that overnight. Don’t wake up the next day and everything is rosy and ready to go. There’s a process.’’

On Sunday, the process included quarterback JaMarcus Russell, as taunted as Cable, connecting on 17 or 24 passes for 224 yards and, on a great catch and excellent blocks by rookie Louis Murphy, an 86-yard play for the game’s only touchdown.

The process included the defensive line chasing down McNabb and holding the Eagles to 67 yards rushing. “We got home after the Giants game,’’ said defensive end Trevor Scott, who had two sacks as did Richard Seymour, “and asked, ‘Is this what we want?’ We can’t be playing ball like that.’’

The process included Justin Fargas rushing for 87 yards on 23 carries and then on third and one, with 2:02 on the clock and the Eagles out of timeouts, JaMarcus Russell  throwing to Gary Russell for the ultimate first down.

“It was coming,’’ said Cable of JaMarcus’ play. “He’s been throwing balls much better.

“Our defense played pretty good, (and) we had enough of a run game to eat up the clock, maintain drives and keep them off the field. We went out and said, ‘Enough. Let’s play.’ There were no magic words.’’

Just for the first time in a month, a magic ending.