Defending champs fall in final seconds

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Defending champs fall in final seconds

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- When Lawrence Tynes got a do-over, LeSean McCoy couldn't watch."I was so nervous, praying please let him miss it," McCoy said.The sellout crowd that prematurely celebrated a victory seconds earlier likely felt the same when Tynes got a second chance because Eagles coach Andy Reid had called a timeout in an attempt to ice the Giants' kicker.But Tynes was short on a 54-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds left and the Philadelphia Eagles held on for a 19-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.With McCoy leading the way on the ground, Michael Vick guided Philadelphia (3-1) to its third comeback win.The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to have each of their first three wins by two points or less according to information provided to the team by the Elias Sports Bureau."It's a much easier way to play this game," Vick said. "You can come out and score 28 points and the defense can play well and you can be up and it can be easy."That hasn't been the case so far.Alex Henery kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:49 left and the Eagles overcame two pass interference penalties on New York's final drive.The defending Super Bowl champion Giants (2-2) have struggled against Philadelphia, losing eight of the last nine meetings."We knew it was going to be a game that was going to come down to the fourth quarter," Eli Manning said. "We knew we were going to have to earn every yard. They're a good defense, they're a good team. We had opportunities, we were close."McCoy had 121 of his 123 yards rushing in the second half. The All-Pro had six carries for 2 yards at halftime."I think we just stuck with it," McCoy said. "I just had that feeling, that feeling I want the ball."Vick threw TD passes in the final two minutes in consecutive 1-point wins over Cleveland and Baltimore the first two weeks before a 26-7 loss at Arizona.After Manning tossed a go-ahead 6-yard TD pass Bear Pascoe, Vick drove the Eagles to the Giants 2 before Osi Umenyiora sacked him for a 6-yard loss on third down. Henery then hit his fourth field goal to put Philadelphia ahead to stay.Henery also connected from 48, 35 and 20 yards.A pass interference penalty on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie kept the Giants' last drive alive and put the ball at the Eagles 35 after Manning threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-1. Another pass interference call on Nnamdi Asomugha on third-and-10 moved it to the Eagles 27.Then Ramses Barden got called for offensive pass interference to move it back to the 36."I thought it was on him," Barden said of Asomugha. "But I know he's a competitor, and he came to play tonight. We were both fighting for position and it's just one of those things."After an incomplete pass, the Giants sent out Tynes to try for the winning kick on third-and-18 because they didn't have any timeouts remaining."I don't believe in icing the kicker," Vick said. "You let him kick it and if it's in, it's in. You can't play games. I don't know where that started. We got to end that tradition."Vick was 19 of 30 for 241 yards and the turnover-prone Eagles protected the ball. The Eagles led the NFL with 12 turnovers through three games, but didn't commit any.Manning completed 24 of 42 passes for 309 yards, two TDs and one crucial interception.He threw a pick to Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone after a 30-yard pass to Victor Cruz on fourth-and-1 got the Giants to Philadelphia's 10 on the final play of the third quarter.Manning redeemed himself on New York's next possession. He completed passes of 31 yards to Barden and 41 yards to Domenik Hixon. He then found Pascoe wide open over the middle for a 17-16 lead with 6:45 left.McCoy finally broke loose by running for 56 yards on consecutive carries in the third. He was stopped at the 1 on a 22-yard gain, and then couldn't get in on three straight carries. The Eagles settled for a 20-yard field goal by Henery that made it 10-3."The O-line found themselves as the game wore on," Reid said. "They were able to block well enough to where McCoy had big yards."The Giants answered after David Wilson ran the kickoff back 45 yards to the 43.Mixing run and pass effectively, the Giants moved to the 14. On third-and-3, Manning threw a TD pass to Cruz, who celebrated with his trademark salsa dance in the stadium where it all started. Cruz burst on the scene with a breakout performance in a 29-16 win at Philadelphia last September.Using a no-huddle offense, the Eagles drove 70 yards on 11 plays late in the first half for their only TD. They converted three third downs on the series, including Vick's 19-yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson on third-and-9.Before the game, the Eagles retired the No. 20 worn by Brian Dawkins for 13 seasons from 1996-2008. The hard-hitting safety went to eight Pro Bowls and was a four-time All-Pro in 16 years with Philadelphia and Denver.Dawkins, one of the most revered athletes to play in this sports-crazed city, sent the sellout crowd at the Linc into a frenzy when he ran out of the tunnel during pregame introductions. Wearing his green No. 20 Eagles jersey, Dawkins did his unique, crawling, gyrating entrance. He then joined the captains at midfield for the coin toss. Dawkins changed back into his navy blue pinstriped suit and led the crowd in signing "Fly! Eagles! Fly!" at halftime.NOTES:The officials got a standing ovation when they walked onto the field an hour before kickoff. ... McCoy has four 100-yard games vs. the Giants. ... Manning wasn't sacked.

Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game

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Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots haven't had all of their receivers simultaneously healthy and in uniform since they acquired Michael Floyd on waivers last month. That appears as though it could change Sunday. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, wideouts Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Chris Hogan (thigh) are expected to play in the AFC title game. Tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) is also expected to play, per Schefter. All three were listed as questionable on the team's injury report. 

Mitchell has not seen game action since injuring his knee mid-way through the third quarter against the Jets in Week 16. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week, left the game in the third quarter and did not return. 

Patriots receiver Danny Amendola was also listed on this week's injury report with an ankle issue. Last week, he played in his first game since Week 13.

If Mitchell, Hogan and Amendola are all healthy enough to play, the Patriots will have their choice of five wideouts against the Steelers since Julian Edelman and Floyd are also physically able to suit up. 

Will they all be in uniform? That remains to be seen. The Patriots haven't taken five receivers on their 46-man game-day roster yet this season. However, because all five bring something different to the Patriots offense, perhaps Bill Belichick and his staff will find it valuable enough to activate all five.

If the Patriots opt to take the receiver-heavy route, they'll have to go lighter elsewhere -- perhaps de-activating a core special teamer -- in order to make room.

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

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Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test.