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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sports notes: Come and get 'em

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Berube a winner

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers were 0-and-3 when Peter Laviolette was fired. They will lug an 8-10 record into the Wells Fargo Center Thursday, when they will host the Buffalo Sabres.
That means they have gone 8-7 — and, thus, literally have been winners — under Craig Berube.
Small steps …
"It’s great to have a better record since the start of the season and since Chief took over but at the same time we’re still out of the playoff picture right now," Steve Mason said Wednesday, after practice at the Skate Zone. "There’s nothing to be smiling about until we get back there and in a more comfortable position.
"But things are starting to look a little more positive right now. At the same time, there’s still tons of work to be done.’’
There is. But there has been progress … progress that can be measured in the record.
"You always expect it. it takes a while to get the system down," Berube said. "When I took over, I wanted to get the skating up. Right now, I feel and believe our skating is getting to where it needs to be. A lot of that has to do with knowing the system and not thinking so much and just going. There’s always growing pain. It takes time to change things. It’s still going to take time. There is growing pains throughout the year."
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The Flyers have allowed two power play goals in each of their last two games.
"Stay out of the penalty box," Berube said. "Look at the penalties the last three games. Just look at that. You can’t take five against the Penguins, can’t take four tripping and holding penalties against Winnipeg, and then seven penalties against Ottawa. They’re going to bite you.
"You can’t take stupid penalties."
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Though it took Sean Couturier 20 games to score his first goal, Matt Read appreciated his various contributions.
"Overall, his hockey IQ is high," Read said. "When he has the puck, he does the right thing 95 percent of the time. He’s solid. He has a heavy stick. In the defensive zone, he wins the majority of the puck battles. I think when he has time and space, he makes the right play. There are a lot of positive things that he does, and it’s something that I have enjoyed playing with him this year and the last couple of years together."
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Among the reasons for the Flyers’ slight resurgence has been the goaltending.
Mason is 3-0-2 in his last five, and has sliced his goals-against average to 2.12, 11th best in the NHL. Ray Emery has won two of his last three.
"It’s nice to hear but at the same time, that’s our job, to make sure we’re that steady force back there," Mason said. "We just have to continue to work hard in practice and make sure that, regardless of who’s in net, we give ourselves the best chance to win. So far it’s gone well. We just have to make sure it continues that way.’’

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sports notes: Come and get 'em

Friday, November 15, 2013

An Eagles notebook

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sixers spoiling some plans

Sam Hinkie spent Tuesday in Chicago watching Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, in some order or another, in a college basketball doubleheader.

A night later, the Sixers' G.M. might have been wondering why he wasted a trip on a scouting mission for the top three projected players in the next draft.

With a 123-117 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets Wednesday, the Sixers improved to 5-4 ... and in impression fashion, sharing the ball, making key free throws, defending with passion late in the game.

Asked if he was surprised at that record, coach Brett Brown said, "Yes ... I am."

Many would be. According to Las Vegas, the Sixers would not win 17 times this season. They may not. But they only need 12 more wins ... and that doesn't seem an outrageous proposition. Suddenly, they look like anything but a team shooting only for a spot high in the lottery.

"We fight," Thad Young said. "And we fight. And we fight. That's what we do."

Hinkie helped build the Rockets, who should contend this season. He is helping to do the same with the Sixers ... who may contend sooner than later.

Check out my column on the Sixers and their G.M. in the Daily Times Thursday and, as always, on

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A look back at an Eagles victory


From the Eagles' 27-13 victory Sunday in Green Bay …
Play of the game

The acrobatic 45-yard touchdown pass caught, baseball style, by former Phillies draft choice Riley Cooper. It gave the Birds a two-touchdown, second-half lead.

“Riley is really, really good at tracking the ball,” Chip Kelly said. “He was an outstanding baseball player. When you throw it up, he can make adjustments on it.”

Stat of the game

The zero interceptions thrown by Nick Foles, who has thrown 16 TD passes this season, and still no interceptions.

“Nick's really, really smart with the football,” Kelly said. “Very rarely do you see Nick throw a ball where all of a sudden it's tipped, when it's almost intercepted.”

What was he thinking?

Though it soon would be time to go into a measured delay game, Kelly chose to call for a pass to Cooper with 10 seconds left in the third quarter rather than let the clock expire and take some time.

It resulted in a touchdown.

“I guess my answer is,” Kelly said,“because we like scoring.”


Kelly offered no injury updates Monday, other than to say that Michael Vick (hamstring) will not practice fully Tuesday.

Jason Peters (concussion), Mychal Kendricks (knee) and Earl Wolff (knee) were injured Sunday, but Kelly indicated that none appeared immediately serious.

Also, Kelly said that Dennis Kelly (back), who has not played all season, is closing in on a return.

“I think he's coming along,” the coach said. “He's out there every single day working. I think he's getting better each week. That's the positive.”

Smoking hot

LeSean McCoy ran for 125 yards on 25 carries, a 6.2-yard average.

Smoking … not

Alex Henery, inconsistent all season, was just 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, sending a 39-yard try wide to the left.

An Eagles notebook

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Downie, Lecavalier still injured

NEWARK, N.J. --- Steve Downie, who was concussed in the Flyers' 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals Friday, will be released from Pennsylvania Hospital Sunday, the Flyers said Saturday.

From the Flyers: "Steve is doing better, he remains in the hospital and will be released tomorrow. Out indefinitely with concussion."

Also, Vincent Lecavalier remains day to day with a facial contusion, the Flyers said.

Neither will play Saturday night against the Devils at the Prudential Center.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Eagles notebook

The Eagles Scoop/Jack McCaffery


PHILADELPHIA --- The first time Eagles rookie tight end Zach Ertz was ordered to play football somewhere near Oakland, it wasn't his choice.

Second time? Same thing.

The first was when he was recruited to play college football, and, he said, his mother, Lisa, made the decision: He would stay relatively close to his home in Danville, California.

“I was feeling UCLA,” he said. “She was feeling Stanford. So it was Stanford. And it was the best decision she ever made.”

Ertz went to Stanford and played well enough to become the Eagles' 2013 second-round draft choice, the 35th player selected overall in the draft. Sunday, because his employer has it on the schedule, he will return to that region of California and try to help the Eagles defeat the Raiders.

“It's only about 20 minutes from where I grew up,” Ertz said Thursday, after practice at the NovaCare Complex. “But I never went to an NFL game growing up. The first NFL game I ever saw was when we played in the preseason here, and then our opening game in Washington. I always thought I was going to play basketball. I was a big Lakers fan --- a big Kobe Bryant fan.”

Ertz said “about 20” of his friends and family, and potentially many more, will be in Oakland Sunday, cheering for him and the Eagles.

“It won't affect me,” he said. “I will still prepare for the game the same way I always have. Obviously, going home, I would like to make some big plays out there. It would be a lot of fun, for me especially.”

Ertz has played in all eight Eagles games, and has had at least one pass reception in each. But in the 17-3 loss to the Giants last week, he had just one catch for five yards.

“I feel very comfortable,” he said. “I've had some opportunities to make some plays. I think I've made the plays when I've had my number called. Hopefully, that number continues to go up for the last eight games of this season, whether it is blocking or in the passing game, wherever they need me.”

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After surrendering 52 points in Denver Sept. 29, the Eagles have not allowed more than 21 points in a game. In their last two games, they have held opponents to 17 points of fewer.

Simple explanation: Better tackling.

“We work it every day in practice,” Nate Allen said. “Even in our team periods and seven-on-seven, we work on balance, and setting up like we are going to make a tackle. That definitely pays off on Sunday.”

That issue percolated during training camp when Chip Kelly chose not to order tackling practice --- or at least to keep it to what was thought to be an historic minimum.

“There's only 14 padded practices total during the entire season,” Kelly said Thursday, citing the players' bargaining agreement. “But I think we can do a good job fundamentally. You're not taking people to the ground, but I still think you can practice your approach --- long strike, short strike, stagger strike, all that stuff, without taking guys to the ground. I think it's what you emphasize every day in practice.

“One of the things we want to pride ourselves on is being a good fundamental football team. And the only way you can be a good fundamental football team is to practice the fundamentals.”

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The Eagles' revived tackling will be put to a test Sunday in Oakland, where quarterback Terrelle Pryor has rushed for 391 yards in six games, a 7.4-yard average.

“He's a heck of an athlete,” Allen said. “It speaks for itself. He can make guys miss. He's got a nice stiff-arm when he gets out of the pocket and starts running. Yeah, he's a big guy. We've just got to wrap and get as many people to the ball as we can. And the main thing I keep saying is, 'Everybody stay disciplined and do your job in the secondary,' because when he gets out there, he is looking to go deep. So we have to stay in coverage.”

Linebacker Mychal Kendricks understands the challenge.

“We are going to do our best,” he said. “We have some stuff for him. We're going to do our thing.”

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NOTES: The Eagles have a roster spot open, but Chip Kelly said he is not likely to fill it until the weekend … Jake Knott (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. DeSean Jackson (ankle), Michael Vick (hamstring), Donnie Jones (left foot) and Casey Matthews (hip) were limited in practice. Patrick Chung (shoulder), Jon Dorenbos (groin), Nick Foles (concussion), Damaris Johnson (ankle), Jason Peters (shoulder, finger), Chris Polk (shoulder) and Cedric Thornton (knee) all practiced fully … Unconcerned with jet lag, Kelly will take the Birds to Oakland Saturday, not earlier, as is an occasional NFL practice. “It takes a week to get acclimated,” he said. “So unless we went out a week ago, it wouldn't matter.”