Cardinals vs Eagles: Mapping the 8 Stops on the Road to Cards 21-17 Win
When the Arizona Cardinals boarded the plane to Philadelphia, they relied on the pilot to map a course from Phoenix to Philadelphia. When the Cardinals stepped onto Lincoln Financial Field, they relied upon their coaches to have a strong game-plan to stop the Eagles and get the win.
The road map that was prepared by Arizona's coaching staff was sound and led to a victory on the road in Philadelphia.
Drawing up the plan for a win was necessary, but the players' execution of the plan was essential to beating the Eagles.
I've fueled the jet; now get on board and let's make a few stops on the way to the Cardinals' stunning 21-17 win.
Arizona's Front Seven Set the Tone
The first stop on our trip is in the Eagles' backfield where we find the Arizona Cardinals' front seven.
The Cardinals' game plan for Michael Vick was clear from the start: get pressure on Vick and shadow him with a linebacker. Arizona's front seven was able to do just that; linebackers Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon each brought Vick down.
Because of the Cardinals' pressure, Vick's performance was dismal: completing just 16 of 34 passes, no touchdowns and two picks. His 32.5 quarterback rating was his worst rating this season.
The Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, has been dialing up the pressure all season, and he has the personnel to be effective.
The heat that Horton brought in this game proved to be too much for Vick, and was the centerpiece of the Cardinals' win.
Larry Fitzgerald Is Too Much to Handle for Eagles
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald did his usual on Sunday: dominate.
The numbers in the box score (7 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns) are impressive. His performance on the field was extraordinary.
Just take a look at that video; his head was bent so far back to get a look at the ball, it was at a 90 degree angle with his back. Amazing.
In the fourth quarter alone, Fitzgerald caught five passes for 94 yards. Two of those five passes were first touched by an Eagles defender but Fitzgerald made second and third efforts to make the completion.
Fitzgerald kept the Cardinals in this game with his outstanding performance, and he'll be key to the Cardinals finishing strong this season.
As far as which quarterback Fitzgerald wants throwing to him: "I don't like to compare," he said. "That's not fair. Both of them, we feel we can win with and that's a good problem to have."
John Skelton Was Clutch When It Counted
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic said about Arizona quarterback John Skelton's poise: "If Skelton was ever going to melt under pressure, it would have come Sunday. He was up and down like a student pilot practicing landings."
Skelton held his own against a strong Eagles defense.
For the first three quarters, the quarterback job for the Cardinals was up in the air. Skelton completed 12 of 25 passes and threw a pick-six to Asante Samuel in the second quarter that gave the Eagles their first score of the game.
Skelton came to life in the fourth quarter, however. He went 9 for 15 for 166 passing yards and 2 touchdowns. Clutch.
With 3:10 remaining in the 4th quarter, Arizona lined up on their own 32-yard line on 4th-and-2. Skelton hit LaRod Stephens-Howling for a 30-yard pass to keep the drive going. Again, clutch.
Skelton finished off the 87-yard, game-winning drive with a 5-yard pass to wide receiver Early Doucet.
And with his 4th quarter performance, Skelton has created his very own quarterback controversy in the desert.
Arizona Needs to Pay Calais Campbell
Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is 6'8"—and that matters. Last week, Campbell used that rather long frame to block St. Louis kicker Josh Wilson's field goal attempt at the end of regulation forcing overtime.
And, while Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return was the highlight of the week, it wouldn't have happened if Campbell didn't get a paw on the potentially-game-winning field goal in regulation.
This week, with the Eagles in the red zone, Campbell outstretched his long arms and grabbed Michael Vick's pass right out of the sky. It was the first interception of his career.
Not only has Campbell made big plays this year, he has been instrumental in securing a solid defensive line and getting to opposing quarterbacks. The Arizona organization needs to make it a priority to resign this pending free agent.
Philadelphia Rookies Mismatched Against Fitzgerald
Look again at the picture to the left. Move your eyes from Larry Fitzgerald and to No. 26. That's Philadelphia Eagles safety Jaiquawn Jarrett.
You may not know him; he's a rookie.
That play was part of the game-winning drive when quarterback John Skelton hooked up with Fitzgerald for a 37-yard bomb to the 1-yard line.
Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo made the call to put Jarrett on Fitzgerald. Remember, Jarrett is a rookie.
When asked about that decision, Castillo stated, "I gotta do a better job, man. I gotta do a better job. Simple as that."
Eagles shutdown cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has this to say about Castillo's decision, "It would've been nice to be on him in that situation. I've done it before. With him. With others. Done it before. Chase guys. Follow guys."
Fitzgerald's second quarter touchdown came against another rookie, linebacker Brian Rolle.
Castillo is right, he does have to do a better job.
Cardinals' Young Secondary Gelling
The Arizona Cardinals secondary has been playing with a target on their backs all season. They rank toward the bottom of the league (24th) against the pass and have given up big plays to opposing wide receivers.
As the season has gone on, the Cardinal secondary has solidified somewhat.
Against the Eagles, the secondary proved to be capable to withstand a decent passing attack. I say decent because the Eagles were without their top wideout DeSean Jackson. Jackson was deactivated for the game against the Cardinals.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals secondary still faced quarterback Michael Vick and several talented pass catchers. The secondary came away with two interceptions; one of which was hauled in by cornerback A.J. Jefferson with 33 seconds left in the game.
With running back Beanie Wells not at 100% these days, the entire Cardinal defense will need to play at an elite level. Against the Eagles, they showed they can do just that.
Jay Feely Brings Turbulence with His Missed Kicks
The Cardinals have a very small margin for error. In most of their games this year, the line between winning and losing has been only a few points. That's what Cardinals kicker Jay Feely's leg is worth on each field goal, a few points.
He needs to connect on his attempts.
Feely missed two field goal attempts against the Eagles and it almost cost the team another close game.
In Week 3, Feely missed three field goals and Arizona lost 10-13.
This week Feely is forgiven because Arizona pulled out a close victory, but it looks like Feely should stay after practice and kick some extra field goals.
Beanie Wells' Knee Held Up Strong
Coming into the game against the Eagles, Cardinal running back Beanie Wells was dealing with a bum knee. In fact, he's had the bad knee for three weeks now.
Wells didn't put up impressive numbers (23 rushes for 62 yards) against a somewhat soft Eagles run defense (17th). But what he did do was make it through the game without having a set-back with his knee.
With Wells on the field, the Eagles had to respect the run, which made life easier for quarterback John Skelton.
Wells' knee should be more improved next week; he'll need it against a stiff San Francisco 49ers defense.