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It wasn’t pretty, but the Birds gut out a win | Sports Daily

The Eagles sputtered and stumbled, but, eventually, they flew to victory in Carolina.

The Eagles outscored the Panthers, 18-3, on Sunday after a shirtless Eagles fan ran on the field. That’s surely a coincidence, but perhaps it was also emblematic of a simple truism in sports — no guts, no glory. So maybe it wasn’t fancy, dominant, or elegant, the way the Birds won out over the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps they were more birds of prey feasting on the carcass of Sam Darnold’s mistakes than soaring easily to victory, but is there any city that loves Gritty over pretty more than Philly? Likely not.

That fighting spirit is also evident in Philadelphia’s own Kahleah Copper, who led the Chicago Sky to victory in the opening game of the WNBA Finals. Ahead of the final round of team cuts before the season starts, the Flyers are trying to build up stamina to go with their grit. The Sixers, meanwhile, have realized before their own season tipoff, yes, size does matter, but also, it matters that the team defends as a unit. Phillies fans, we haven’t forgotten you, and we’ll keep you updated on all the offseason moves the team will or should make with the goal of finally returning to the postseason, so the Extra Innings section will return when there’s new information on that front. Speaking of comebacks, though, the Broad Street Run had a big one as well.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

Early Birds

What was for the most part an ugly game for the Eagles turned out to be a 21-18 win against the Panthers that showed the team’s grit.

Jalen Hurts and the offense struggled, but in the end they lifted each other up and executed the winning plays. The defense bounced back with a big day, harassing Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold and intercepting him three times. And on special teams, T.J. Edwards’ first blocked punt of his life was the key to the Eagles’ game-winning drive.

It all added up to Hurts and coach Nick Sirianni leaving us — and columnist David Murphy — thinking, “Maybe the Birds aren’t so bad after all.” Because despite this team’s concerns, bad teams don’t win games like this one.

What’s next: As Hurts noted, there isn’t much time to celebrate the win as the Eagles start preparing for their home game against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday.

Off the Dribble

Two games into their preseason schedule, the 76ers are adjusting to life without holdout Ben Simmons. It’s good practice because they likely will have to learn to play without him since a split seems inevitable. That means trying to make up for what he does best — playmaking as a 6-foot-10 point guard and elite defender. Doc Rivers says the Sixers have to “win with what we have” even without a true point guard on the roster. Another area where the Sixers feel the loss of Simmons comes when Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris are out and their rotation gets small real quick. But Rivers has a plan for everyone to play big.

The loss of Simmons, the runner-up for the 2021 NBA defensive player of the year award, wipes out a “huge luxury” on defense. Here’s how the Sixers will try to make up for the guy who defended the best opposing players every night.

Next: The Brooklyn Nets visit the Wells Fargo Center for the Sixers’ final home preseason game at 8 p.m. Monday (NBC Sports Philadelphia).

On the Fly

With five days until the season opener, the Flyers are getting ever closer to finalizing the roster. After sending third-string goalie Felix Sandström to Lehigh Valley on Saturday, the roster now stands at the maximum opening-night limit of 23. That said, the Flyers are leaning toward starting the season with only 20 players, meaning there could still be three cuts to come. Defensemen Cam York and Nick Seeler are two of the players competing to make the opening-night roster, and the race remains close. Will the Flyers go for youth in York or experience with Seeler? We’ll find out before Friday …

What’s next: The Flyers open the season on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center against the Vancouver Canucks (7 p.m. on NBCSP).

Fleet Street

The U.S. men’s national team couldn’t make it to 15 games without a loss, falling with a young squad to Panama, 1-0, in Panama City to record its first official loss in the octagonal round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. Similarly, the Union had to recently rely on some raw players, but had a better outcome. One name, in particular, will stand out to Union and USMNT fans alike. For Paxten Aaronson, the Union’s latest phenom, Jim Curtin says “the training wheels are coming off.”

Next: We’ll bring you the latest on the NWSL reckoning, as well as the USMNT trying to get back on the right qualifying track and, of course, all the Union news as they chart a path to the MLS playoffs.

Worth a look

There are undoubtedly a few Eagles fans who may have decided they didn’t want to spend their Sunday watching the Birds struggle, turned off their TV sets at halftime, and decided to rake fall leaves, pick out a pumpkin, or take a nap. Anything is better than the pain of enduring another loss, unless it’s finding out that the improbable has happened and the team fought its way back to a win that you can only relive vicariously. Don’t miss out, then, on other sports stories worth knowing about:

  1. Penn State dipped to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, but the Nittany Lions have a bye week to nurse their many injuries after the loss to Iowa.

  2. Mike Sielski ponders: What does it profit the Phillies to win a few more games if they lose the team’s soul?

  3. Meanwhile, Mike Jensen brings our readers the latest sights and sounds from Villanova hoops.