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Maple Leafs beat Flyers in most defensively sound road effort yet

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PHILADELPHIA — Behind the scenes and between the ears, Toronto Maple Leafs players and coaches have been wrestling for solutions to their sluggish starts.

Heading into Philadelphia Wednesday night, the club had yet to score first in any road game and had dug itself an early hole in nine out of their first 13 games.

How can a group that struck first in 34 of 56 games last season begin so many nights with its feet in the mud?

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“It’s a $1-million question,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Coaches will beat yourself up over that — and sometimes players will, too — just trying to figure it out.”

In a venomous Philly barn, where the locals loudly chant “Sucks!” after the introduction of each member of the visitors’ starting lineup (Announcer: “Right wing Ondrej Kase.” Crowd: “…sucks!”) and boo their own power-play with lust, falling behind early again could’ve been a recipe for disaster.

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“We can’t sit back,” challenged ex-Flyer Wayne Simmonds. “We can’t wait. I feel like we’ve probably done that a little bit too much this year, you know, the feeling-out process. And we don’t want that to be the makeup of our team. We want to go out there and jump on it right away.”

Although it would be difficult to argue that the Leafs jumped all over the Flyers, they more than held their own playing without the injured John Tavares (day to day, lower body) in a rather even if uneventful first period.

Then they drew first blood in the second.

William Nylander’s all-important deflection off his boot kickstarted the Leafs, who cruised to a 3-0 shutout — easily their most consistent and defensively sound effort away from home.

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“I liked the intensity our team played with defensively in a game we knew was going to be low-event and hard to get much offence,” Keefe said. “It was a clean win for our team.”

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The coach instructed his group that they needed to be comfortable locking things down and winning 1-0. Responsible defence led to opportunities to build the lead.

“Everybody took his words of wisdom to heart and came out and executed like we know we can. And we’re going to need that to continue to beat these really good teams,” Jack Campbell said, facing only five high-danger chances en route to his second blank sheet. “I didn’t have to do too much.”

Nylander pounced again in the third, wristing a puck clean past Carter Hart on the power-play off a buttery backhand feed from Nick Ritchie, promoted to the top PP unit in Tavares’s absence.

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For Ritchie, it was just his second point as a Leaf.

For Nylander, he ties Tavares for the team lead in goals (seven) and Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in game-winners (four). He is rolling on a five-game point streak (4-3-7), has shot more pucks on net (56) than everyone not named Alex Ovechkin, and is now humming along at a 40-goal pace.

“Whew. Got some fire in his belly. He is moving out there and doing everything we could possibly ask,” said Campbell, noting Nylander’s effort on the backcheck to bust up the Flyers’ attack.

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Nylander’s 14 takeaways rank him sixth in the category league-wide.

“When he’s going, he’s going, right? When he’s skating and moving his feet, he’s dangerous all over the ice. He reads the play well,” Auston Matthews added. “He’s been shooting the puck, I think, a little bit more, and it’s obviously been going in.”

Game-time decision Ondrej Kase played well despite battling an injury and added an insurance goal late in the third, benefitting from a nice hustle play by Alexander Kerfoot on the forecheck. Kase’s goal snapped a 16-goal run during which only the Core Four was finding the back of the net.

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Toronto’s penalty kill was pristine (four for four), and Campbell, making his 12th appearance already, was stellar in a bounce-back effort.

But with a back-to-back looming this weekend (versus Calgary Friday and at Buffalo Saturday), Tavares’s health will join Campbell’s heavy workload among the Leafs’ challenges.

“Certainly gotta step up. I think everyone felt that. When your captain and one of your best players, leading scorer is out of the lineup, it’s a big ask for everybody. But also a great opportunity,” Campbell said.

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“I just felt like everybody was in a zone, top to bottom. Doesn’t matter who it was, everybody did their job — and did it for 60 minutes. It’s great to see.”

Stream the Leafs this season with new pricing options! SN NOW STANDARD and PREMIUM let you choose how much hockey you want to watch.

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• You gotta feel happy for Tavares’s replacement, Kirill Semyonov. The undrafted 27-year-old moved his young family to Toronto from Omsk this summer to chase a long-deferred NHL dream. After producing nine points in nine games for the AHL Marlies, Semyonov’s dream came true Wednesday. He did not look out of place.

• With a grand total of one goal this season by Toronto defencemen (Jake Muzzin), Keefe has been investigating the dearth of blue line scoring.

“I’ve looked at a lot of the defence scoring around the league and a lot of it is activating offensively in the offensive zone; it’s on the rush. And our D are just as active if not more than most teams, yet that hasn’t produced the results that we want,” Keefe says. “It is a bit of an oddity.”

• Flyers defenceman Justin Braun registered seven blocked shots.

• Ritchie had some excellent chances and a game-high seven shots during his promotion to Mitch Marner’s line and to the top power-play unit. Offensively, this was easily his best showing, but he is still hunting for his first goal as Leaf.

“It’s not easy,” Ritchie concedes. “You want to score as many as you can, but it’s not that easy right now, and I got to get back to basics.”

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Says Keefe: “We want to make sure we stay on top of him with just the urgency of the situation. It is not so much the fact that he hasn’t scored, but shift to shift, it’s bringing urgency and consistency in his play…. We expect a lot more, and we need to get a lot more out of him. Part of that is on him, and part of that is on us to help him get there.”

• Auston Matthews has raised nearly $58,000 for Movember. He has promised to shave off the moustache he’s been rocking since 2019 if that total reaches $134,000.

“It’s really important to me and a really big month,” Matthews said. “I try and have fun with it and raise awareness.

“I hope we reach the goal, though, because I want to see what it looks like without it.”





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Jacoby Brissett shares funny story about Eagles’ Nick Sirianni trying to fight fans when two were with Colts

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Nick Sirianni has showcased himself as a passionate head coach since being hired by the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago. Sirianni demonstrated how passionate he can be toward his team when a bouquet of flowers was thrown at him after a November loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last year, a moment he doesn’t like to reminiscence about. 

Turns out, Sirianni has unleashed his passion towards his team prior to his days in Philadelphia. Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was the signal-caller for the Indianapolis Colts when Sirianni was the offensive coordinator, shared a good story regarding his former coach and his encounters with fans ahead of the Browns-Eagles preseason matchup Saturday night.

“Remember he was trying to fight fans one time they were booing us,” Brissett said with many laughs from the media in attendance. “A lot of good memories. A great friend. A great coach obviously. I am extremely happy for him and the opportunity that he has been presented. I think he did a great job last year. Excited to see where he goes. I am a big fan of him.”

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Sirianni’s second year as the offensive coordinator in Indianapolis was the year Andrew Luck shockingly retired (2019), forcing Brissett into the starting role. Brissett started 15 games for the Colts that season, going 7-8 in his starts while completing 60.2% of his passes for 2,942 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions for an 88.0 passer rating. Brissett didn’t throw a touchdown pass, nor did he throw for more than 200 yards in his last three games played in 2019, finishing with a passer rating lower than 70 on all three occurrences. 

Brissett and Sirianni were together in Indianapolis for three years before the Eagles hired Sirianni and Brissett signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2021. Sirianni was flattered Brissett shared those fan stories, going into detail why he’s ultra passionate toward his players. 

“He’s teasing and making that up a little bit,” Sirianni said with a laugh. “I think one thing that, to a fault, maybe, even with me is — and I’ve been this way since I was a little kid with my brothers, we’re a family. My brothers and my dad and my mom were a family and I’m the youngest. One brother is nine years older than me and one is six years older than me. When they would have a bad game or say something bad about them or talk bad about them, I was quick to be defensive of them because I love them.

“Now as a coach, I feel like I have that. I was like that as a teammate I would like to think. As a coach, I definitely know I have that, like, protective (instinct) — like I know these guys are the biggest, strongest men in the world and they can protect themselves, but I love these guys. 

“That’s just an instinct that you have. That’s how I was raised, and I was like, this is our family, and I just have that protective instinct to defend them, and that’s been like that with every team I’ve ever coached.”

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Packers’ Matt LaFleur says Jordan Love ‘light years ahead’ of last year: ‘The game has slowed down for him’

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Jordan Love certainly showed the progress the Green Bay Packers wanted from the first preseason game to the second, using the deep ball to give Green Bay optimism in a post-Aaron Rodgers world. Love was accurate on his deep passes that didn’t reflect his overall performance in the box score. 

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur liked what he saw from the former first-round pick, saying he’s “light years ahead” of where he was last year.

“I think the game has slowed down for him,” LaFleur said after Friday’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints (via ESPN). “I see a much more decisive player. I think that’s going to lead to a much more effective player.”

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Love finished 12 of 24 for 113 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, yet his performance was highlighted by several drops that affected his night. Love threw a deep pass to seventh-round rookie Samori Toure that wasn’t a completion, and fourth-round rookie Romeo Doubs also misread a pass that led to a drop. LaFleur admitted Toure’s ball needed to be caught. 

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The Packers are liking what they’re seeing from Love, throwing accurate deep passes and showcasing his arm strength. The five drops certainly affected Love’s performance — as was the case in his three-interception game last week — yet the Packers have seen enough to be confident in Love if he had to play this year.





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Combate Global picks, live stream, how to watch, fight card: Tena vs. Romero predictions, channel, time

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The Combate Global schedule will continue Friday on Paramount+ with five fights from La Jaula in Miami. Ivan Tena is a 23-year-old featherweight who looks like one of the best prospects in the promotion after earning three knockout victories and one submission win in his first four fights. He’ll take on Mexican fighter Roberto Romero in a USA vs. Mexico showdown in the 145-pound division. You can stream the action live on Paramount+.

The co-main event will feature Chile’s Valentina Escobar (1-0) against Mexico’s Yazmin Najera in a fight at 120 pounds. Another bout on the Combate Global fight card will feature a pair of veteran featherweights as Carlos Rivera (14-6) takes on Landry Ward (5-1). The Combate Global fight card begins at 10:30 p.m. ET and you can catch all the action live on Paramount+.

Paramount+ now has two levels of membership so you can watch Combate and much more. The Premium Plan is $9.99 per month and you can watch your local CBS live stream, including plenty of sports like Champions League, Italian Serie A, college hoops, and the PGA Tour, with no ads, on-demand and the ability to download episodes for offline viewing. Plus, watch the highly-anticipated series Halo, Picard, 1883, and more. Both plans come with a free week to start. Paramount+ will even give you a free week to start, so sign up now here.

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How to watch Combate Global 

  • Date: Friday, August 19
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
  • Streaming: Paramount+

Top Combate Global picks for Aug. 19 fight card

Before tuning in to Friday’s Combate Global fight card, you need to see the picks from SportsLine’s MMA insider Andrew Gombas. With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000. 

For Friday’s card, Gombas is picking Tena to defeat Romero to stay unbeaten and continue his rise up the featherweight ranks. Tena is a recent Arizona State graduate who trains out of MMA Lab and has finished all four of his professional fights in the first or second round. Romero is coming off a draw against Zed Montanez in his last fight.

“This is a fantastic main event for the Combate USA vs. Mexico card. Ivan Tena is one of the prospects in Combate who I hold in high regard. Roberto Romero is known for an exciting fighting style and has a bright future as well. I have to side with Tena. He is a slick finisher who punishes his opponents for making mistakes. I think he gets another finish,” Gombas told SportsLine. Stream the card on Paramount+ now.

How to watch Combate Global in Miami

Now that you know who to pick, get ready to watch Combate Global. Visit Paramount+ now to see the Combate Global, your live local CBS sporting events, some of the world’s top soccer matchups and much more.

August 19 Combate Global fight card

Stream the entire Combate Global fight card here

  • Ivan Tena vs. Roberto Romero
  • Valentina Escobar vs. Yazmin Najera
  • Carlos Rivera vs. Landry Ward
  • Jaret Betancourt vs. Rodrigo Garcia
  • Katie Perez vs. Andrea Meneses Garcia



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