The Philadelphia Eagles win their second straight home game, and their fourth contest over all as they clip the Cardinals at the Linc, 24-21. This match-up truly was a battle in the trenches, and Philly was just barely able to outlast Arizona in this pivotal tilt.
Starting up front, neither team was overly dominant with regards to their line play. Each offensive line was attacked all game long by two blitz-happy defensive coordinators, Billy Davis and Todd Bowles. Just as a side note here, Bowles was the defensive coordinator of the Eagles in 2012 while Davis was in charge of the Arizona defense from 2009-2010 (don’t you just love how things come full-circle in the NFL?). Anyways, each defense was able to drag the opposing quarterback down five times. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham of the Eagles had two sacks apiece while Karlos Dansby acquired a pair for the Cards. In addition to struggling in pass protection, neither team’s offensive line was really able to do much in the way of helping out in the running game. Arizona’s backs toted the rock 21 times for 91 yards on the afternoon (this excludes Carson Palmer’s kneel down at the end of the first half). Philadelphia’s backs ran the ball 25 times for 84 yards. For the Eagles, this was easily one of the worst performances from the offensive line all year long. The Cardinals have seen worse out of their line this season, but their work was nothing you would want to compliment either.
Perhaps the offensive lines struggled so much because each team’s front-seven was so dominant. For Arizona, Matt Shaughnessey had the game of his life. He was able to sack Nick Foles once in this game and pressured him on other multiple occasions throughout the afternoon. He also made seven tackles, many of which were on LeSean McCoy in the backfield. The other two players that shined the most for the Cardinals were their linebackers, Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby. This dynamic duo combined for fifteen tackles and were constantly rallying to the football. LeSean McCoy is probably going to see Washington in his dreams for the next few nights, seeing as how #58 was constantly pulling him down in the open field and stretching his runs to the perimeter. Dansby’s impact was felt more as a pass rusher, but he did make a nice contribution in pass coverage as well as stuffing the run. For Philadelphia, their front seven played extremely well. Trent Cole had his best game of the season in this one; on the third play of the game, he stripped Carson Palmer of the football, leading to a Bennie Logan recovery. This set the team up on the Arizona 25 yard line and the Eagles were able to capitalize on it with an early touchdown. Anyways, Brandon Graham played his best game since Week 9 of last season. He split a couple of double teams and was a force to be reckoned with on the interior. Mychal Kendricks’ return to the lineup helped as well; he was using his wheels to chase down Arizona receivers and backs in the open field. Once again, DeMeco Ryans lead the team in tackles (with eight solo and one assisted). He also added a sack to his ledger as he makes his case for a pro-bowl stint.
Offensively, this was not Philly’s most dominant performance of the season. However, they were squaring off against one of the best defenses in the league. Nick Foles did not turn the ball over at all in this contest (although he did come close on a couple of occasions and had an interception taken off the board courtesy of a defensive hold). All and all, the second year pro played very well and was able to make a lot of nice decisions. The tight ends were heavily involved in this game as well. This was essential because the team went into this game knowing that Patrick Peterson would be shadowing DeSean Jackson all day and Riley Cooper would be doubled on the outside. Zach Ertz had a coming out party in this game; he scored two touchdowns (becoming the first Philadelphia tight end to do this since Chad Lewis in 2001) on five catches. Brent Celek accounted for the third Foles touchdown late in the second half and also caught four passes. Outside of the big guys, the Philadelphia offense was not able to do much in this one, especially in the second half. The team’s inability to run the ball in the fourth quarter with a big lead has to be a concern as they gear up for a playoff-run. The one thing that the Eagles can brag about is the fact that they did not turn the ball over in this game. The Cardinals had 23 on the season going into this game (which was good for fourth in the league). The ball-hawking defense was unable to force a turnover in this game as Philly did a great job holding on to the rock. This is the sixth game this season in which the Eagles have not turned the ball over. Furthermore, the team has only turned the ball over once during the course of their four game winning streak.
Arizona was not great on offense, as they were a bit generous with the football. Carson Palmer’s stats don’t look too ugly, but he did not play all that well in this one. He threw for 302 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. On both of his picks, the decision to throw the ball was right, but the ball placement was not very good. He also under threw a lot of balls (a lot of this was due to the pressure that was in his face) and held on to the ball too long at times. Larry Fitzgerald, who has been an Eagle killer over the years, was held in check (kind of). He had one long catch which went for 43 yards and a touchdown. Outside of that, he had only four catches for 29 yards. Michael Floyd had the best game of any offensive player for Arizona. He caught five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. This guy is becoming more of an active participant in the Cardinals’ offense, which is something that bodes well for this team going forward.
So after all is said and done, the Eagles were able to grind out the three point win at home, thanks in large part to their “Big Boys”. Both Brent Celek and Zach Ertz had big games while the defensive line was able to get enough pressure on Carson Palmer throughout the afternoon to help propel the team to a narrow victory. One thing that Philadelphia has to do better in the future is running clock in the fourth quarter. They were able to do it against Green Bay in Week 10, but since then they have seen large leads evaporate because they have been unable to bleed more time off the clock. What Chip Kelly has done with this offense is pretty amazing, however this is an area which he needs to focus on in practice. Ask St. Louis Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher just how important the four minute drill is in the NFL. It is the first thing he has his team practice, because if you don’t start there, you will never finish there. So, for the Eagles to take the next step the absolutely have to do a better job closing games out. Anyways, hats do have to go off to their defense for stopping Arizona from tying the game up in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Now, the team will be tested next week when the Detroit Lions and that impressive offense comes to Philly in another important game for both teams. The Cardinals look to redeem themselves at home versus the St. Louis Rams, a team they lost to in the first week of this season.