The ugliest 2-0 team in the NFL is...

753838.jpg

The ugliest 2-0 team in the NFL is...

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- With the game on the line, Michael Vick made all the right decisions -- again.Vick scored on a 1-yard TD run with 1:55 left, helping the Philadelphia Eagles overcome a slew of turnovers to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-23 on Sunday for their second straight comeback win.The Eagles are 2-0 for the first time since Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens led them to the Super Bowl in 2004."In the moment, you have to be at your best," Vick said. "It's got to be an any-means-necessary mentality."Rookie kicker Justin Tucker made field goals of 56, 51 and 48 yards for the Ravens, but Joe Flacco couldn't get Baltimore (1-1) in his range in the final minute.Flacco overthrew Ray Rice on fourth-and-1 from the Ravens 46, and the Eagles ran out the clock.Vick threw four interceptions at Cleveland last week, but rallied the Eagles to a 17-16 win.He did it again, though the replacement officials almost made a costly mistake.Down 23-17, the Eagles started at their 20 with 4:43 left. Vick threw passes of 24 and 13 yards to Brent Celek. A 19-yard pass to Clay Harbor coupled with a roughing-the-passer penalty put the ball at the 3.Vick then threw incomplete as he was being hit by Haloti Ngata, but the play was ruled a fumble and it was recovered by the Ravens. A replay overturned the call and Vick scored on the next play."There's some serious calls the refs missed," Baltimore's Ray Lewis said. "It's just the way it is, man, all around the league. We have to correct that. These games are critical. Guys are giving everything they've got all across the league. But these are calls, with the regular refs, if they were here, we know the way the calls would be made."The Eagles committed three turnovers in the red zone in the first half and lost two starting offensive linemen in the second. They have nine turnovers in two games, a major reason why they only have 41 points despite totaling 942 yards of offense."We have to get better at it," coach Andy Reid said. "You have to take care of the football. You have to throw the football to the right person. This isn't something we planned on having."Vick finished 23 of 32 for 371 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Celek had eight catches for 157 yards and DeSean Jackson had seven receptions for 114 yards.This was a homecoming of sorts for Flacco and Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Flacco grew up in nearby Haddon Township, N.J. Harbaugh spent 10 seasons as an assistant under Reid before going to Baltimore in 2008.Tucker almost made them winners.An undrafted rookie out of Texas, Tucker beat out veteran kicker Billy Cundiff in the preseason and has made all six of his field goals in the first two games.Tucker's 56-yarder at the end of the first half sent the Ravens into the locker room up 17-7. His 51-yarder early in the fourth made it 20-17.Cundiff was 1-for-6 from beyond 50 yards last year, and missed a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against New England in the waning seconds of the AFC championship game."I think we'll be just fine coming out of this going forward," Harbaugh said.Two plays after center Jason Kelce sprained his right knee and was carted back to the locker room, the Eagles got within 17-14 on Vick's 23-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin. Vick scrambled to his left and threw on the run to Maclin, who slipped behind coverage and went to his knees to make a nifty catch.Philadelphia lost two more starters on its next drive. First, King Dunlap left with a hamstring injury. Maclin was then carted off with a hip pointer after making a block on Celek's 24-yard catch. Celek hurdled Ed Reed to gain a few extra yards on the play. Still, the Eagles reached the 5 before settling for Alex Henery's tying 23-yard field goal.The starting quarterbacks were coming off opposite performances in Week 1. While Vick struggled against the Browns, Flacco was near-flawless in a dominant 44-13 win against Cincinnati last Monday night.Flacco was 22 of 42 for 232 yards, one TD and one interception against Philadelphia.Despite the makeshift line blocking for him, Vick didn't take as many hard hits and was sacked only twice. He scrambled eight times for 36 yards before kneeling twice at the end.Using the no-huddle from the start, the Eagles moved the ball effectively to the Ravens 12. But Vick made another errant throw and was intercepted in the end zone by Bernard Pollard. Vick scrambled out of the pocket and had space, but he fired opposite his momentum."You can't always hit a home run," Vick said. "Sometimes you have to settle for singles and doubles. That's what I have to learn. I can't force the ball."Trent Cole stripped Flacco on Baltimore's second play and Cullen Jenkins recovered at the Ravens 15.McCoy ran in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.Vonta Leach scored on a 5-yard TD run to tie it at 7.After the Ravens failed to convert on a fake punt -- Sean Considine ran 3 yards on fourth-and-4 -- the Eagles took over at Baltimore's 45. The drive ended in another turnover. Rookie Bryce Brown fumbled a handoff on third-and-1 at the 20, and Albert McClellan recovered at the 30.Flacco connected with Jacoby Jones on a 21-yard TD pass to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead.The Eagles drove to the Ravens 9 before Lardarius Webb caused McCoy to fumble. Lewis recovered and was slammed down to the ground by Vick. McCoy had one fumble last year when he was an All-Pro. He already has lost two in two games.Notes: Rice ran for 99 yards and caught six passes for 53 more. ... Eagles improved to 5-9 in home openers under Reid and won one for first time since 2008. ... Tucker's 56-yard FG tied Wade Richey for longest in Ravens history. ... Entering the season, McCoy had lost one fumble in the previous 28 games, spanning 565 touches. He lost his second on his 36th touch. ... Dallas Reynolds replaced Kelce at center and took his first snap in the NFL.

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.