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The Eagles owned sole possession of first place in the crowded NFC East and Coach Chip Kelly finally named Nick Foles their starting QB. My local paper (The Asbury Park Press) covers the Eagles, and from their articles you got the impression that fans and teams considered the Cards a mere "place-holder" on Philly's route to the playoffs. Were they falling into the trap of overinvolvement in playoff/standings scenarios so that they overlooked the 7 & 4 Cardinals? The Cards - on a 4-game roll - faced a similar challenge. All the love being thrown our way by the national media could cause us to risk losing our focus on the Philly game - away...before a hostile crowd...East Coast...Brunch Time (AZT)...possible rotten weather. Last week, the Cards proved they were good enough to dominate a very good Colt team. The challenge was to go back out there and prove we can play that way consistently.
Black Sunday in Philly
The Bottom Line:
The Cardinals didn't rise to the occasion and meet the challenge of playing well consistently. Instead they reverted to their previous bad habits of starting slowly, relying on the defense and ST's to bail out the offense and failing to cover opposing TE's. The end of the game found the Cardinals pinned near their own goal line at the mercy of what can best be described as an inept crew of officials.
We Got Memos: Memo to Carson Palmer: "When you're starting out in the shadow of your own goal posts and BA calls for a vanilla "stay in the pocket" pass play, be very scared"...Memo2 to Palmer: "Hairy Face Month is over and the 'stache ain't working - shave it off dude. All of it."...Memo to Todd Bowles: "You might want to consider covering opposing TE's a bit more closely."...Memo to BA: "Better you wait til after the game before you describe an opponent's scheme as a "a very good college offense."...Memo to the Cardinal Faithful: "Before you whine about our being jobbed by poor officiating, does that include Philly's punt return for a TD in the 4Q that was nullified by a penalty?" ...Memo to Michael B: "Re-read the oortion of the ownership manual entitled "How to Suck Up to Roger Goodell." Maybe we wouldn't be hosed so frequently by the officials."
Eagles won the toss and deferred. On the 3rd play from scrimmage (as if it were rehearsed), Palmer was sacked and fumbled on his own 25-yard line. It took Foles 4 plays and 25 yards to score on a Ertz pass from Foles to his TE (Ertz). Key play was a completion to another TE (Celek) for 16-yards to convert a 3rd and 7. Eagles 7 - Cards 0.
On the seventh play of the next Cardinal possession, Palmer threw deep to Floyd (in what looked like a brisk Philly head-wind). Ball seemed to "die" and was picked off by N Allen. Neither team could get anything going for the remainder of the 1Q.
First Quarter Score: Eagles 7 - Cards 0.
Early in the 2Q, a short punt inadvertently rolled into Arenas, bounced around a little, was eventually picked up by Cason who returned it to the Cardinal 43 where he fumbled it. Ball said to be recovered by Philly, but challenged and reversed (because Cason's knee was already on the ground). 8 plays later, Palmer hit Fitzgerald on an intermediate seam route. Fitz bounced off two would-be tacklers and outraced everybody to the end zone - a 43-yard score. Other key plays were a 3-yard run by Mendenhall to convert a 4th & 1 and 12-yard run by Mendenhall. Eagles 7 - Cards 7.
A 9-play drive by Philly that featured a 19-yard pass to McCoy a 20-yard completion to Avant and a 20-yard hookup with Cooper. But the drive stalled and Philly had to settle for a 32-yard Henery FG. Eagles 10 - Cards 7.
Another 9-play drive by Philly capped by a one-yard TD pass from Foles to his TE (Celek). Key plays - completions of 6-yards (to McCoy), 25-yardfs to Jackson, McCoy's 5-yard run on 4th & 2 and a 28-yard pass interference penalty on Powers. Eagles 17 - Cards 7.
Halftime Score: Eagles 17 - Cards 7.
Eagles received and all but put away the game with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that used up 4:45 worth of clock time. Key plays included a 3-yard run by Foles to convert a 3rd & 1, a 16-yard completion to Cooper to convert a 3rd & 10, a 16-yard pass to Ertz to complete a 3rd & 8 and a 12-yard run by McCoy. Eagles scored on a 24-yard completion from Foles to Ertz. Eagles 24 - Cards 7.
Cards came back to narrow the margin on a 23-yard completion from Palmer to Floyd to cap a 10-play 80-yard drive. Key plays included a 29-yard completion to S Taylor and a 10-yard completion to Housler. Eagles 24 - Cards 14.
Near the end of the quarter, a Palmer pass intended for Roberts was picked off by C Williams, but Philly was unable to directly capitalize.
Third Quarter Score: Eagles 24 - Cards 14.
Early in the 4Q, Zastudil's punt was returned 54-yards for an apparent Eagle TD, but was nullified by a holding penalty. Both teams exchanged a couple of possessions before Palmer engineered an 8 play 86-yard scoring drive featuring 15-yard completion to Floyd, an 11-yard hookup with Fitzgerald a 17-yard completion to Roberts, a 34-yard completion to Floyd and a 3-yard scoring pass to Dray. Eagles 24 - Cards 21.
4:45 left on the clock. (Plenty of time for some really bizarre officiating). KO returned to Philly 31. Off-sides penalty on D Williams...Interception by Peterson nullified by questionable interference call on Mathieu...Eagles punted and Cards got ball back at their own 10-yard line with 2:03 left to play (plenty of time)...Eagles (aided and abetted by a non-call on Fletcher who was covering Floyd on a 4th & 5) got the ball back on downs at the Cardinal 15. (If the Cards hold the Eagles to a FG, they can get the ball back with over one-minute to play and one more shot at a game winning TD). We stop the Eagles from converting a 3rd & 4 at the Cardinal 9, but Shaughnessy (who was hand-fighting a block by an Eagle defender) was flagged for "defensive holding" - because the blocker turned out to be an uncovered wide receiver disguised as an offensive tackle. (The camera showed Kelly smirking on the sidelines). To add insult to injury, DWash was penalized for "unsportsmanlike conduct" on the next play. Three Philly knees. Party over. Final Score: Eagles 24 - Cards 21.
We were penalized 6 times (Philly 5). Time of possession was pretty even.
Foles completed 21 of 34 passes for 237 yards 3 TD's and (due to the bogus call on Mathieu) zero picks.
All 3 Foles TD passes were to his TE's..
Palmer went 24 of 41 for 302 yards and 3 TD's.
Cards gained 90 net yards rushing. Mendenhall gained 76 yards on 18 carries.
We held Philly to 105 net rushing yards (McCoy did approx the same as Mendy, but Foles was credited with 9 carries for 22 yards
Palmer was picked off twice and lost one fumble.
- Floyd (99 yards) and Fitz (72 yards) led Cardinal receivers with 5 catches and a TD apiece.
Roberts caught 4 and Housler and Dray 3 each. Brown and Golden saw action and had one grab each.
Dansby and DWash led all Cardinal tacklers with 9 apiece followed by Shaughnessy (7) and R Johnson (6)
Dansby was credited with 2 sacks followed by Shaughnessy (1), Abraham (1), Campbell (0.5) and Benard (0.5)
Both teams converted roughly 1/3 of their 3rd downs.
Card blockers allowed 5 sacks. Card pass rushers racked up 5 sacks. .
Our running attack looked half-decent (the blocking was less of an embarrassment during this outing).
We were able to put pressure on Foles (5 sacks).
The fact we came back to within 3 points late in the 4Q with a chance to tie or win the game.
The Dark Side
Three turnovers by Palmer (2 before the game was barely 5 minutes old) is getting really old.
Palmer's deep balls tended to "die" when he was throwing (what looked from TV to be) into the wind. Either BA should have been more aware of this before dialing up all those deep-right throws or Carson should have checked out of the play or checked down to a different receiver.
We still can't cover opposing TE's worth a damn. (Opposing OC's watch tape, and are now even exploiting this with little-used backup TE's).
So are the number of sacks we allowed (this time it was 5).
They made plays when they needed to. We didn't make enough when we needed to.
Either other teams' corners have much better cover techniques than our corners or we actually are being jobbed by the refs - who overcall interference penalties on our guys and undercall them on the other teams' corners,
I don't want to make a big deal about this, but I felt we were outcoached.
This one hurt, but it wasn't totally unexpected. Consistency is as much a part of a team's skill set as such physical stuff as experience, toughness and team speed. The Cards couldn't sustain their consistency of high-level play. Instead they reverted to old habits (like being exploited by opposing TE's and letting turnovers cause us to fall behind early in games). On a positive note - we're still 7 & 5 and face StL next Sunday. If we win, we'll be 8 & 5 with a good shot at beating Tennessee to go 9 & 5 and an outside shot at beating
either SF or Seattle to win 10 games and reach the playoffs. The final 4 games will be a true test of what this Cardinal team is made of.