GLENDALE, Ariz. — If the Arizona Cardinals’ offense at times looked like a porous, sinking rowboat, then the defensive players were the ones carrying the bailing buckets.
Arizona beat a rolling Philadelphia Eagles team 24-20 Sunday, and they owe it mostly to the efforts of their defensive unit.
Carson Palmer was 20-of-42 for 329 yards and two touchdowns, both of which were explosive enough to edge past the Eagles, yet their ground game was practically nonexistent as Andre Ellington had the only carries of the game (23 for 71 yards).
The offense only managed to capitalize on 7-of-17 third-down opportunities. They also gave the Eagles excellent field position past the 40-yard line five times in a row on punts.
So the defense had to step up big time.
“We kept putting our defenses in bad, bad situations offensively,” said Arizona head coach Bruce Arians. “But, we made enough plays and enough big plays to win the ball game and again, the defensive stops were huge, especially when we kept pinning ourselves back and giving it back to them.”
Antonio Cromartie relished the defensive challenge, picking off Eagles quarterback Nick Foles twice, including one in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. He even shouldered the job of the offense on one interception, refusing to kneel after the end zone pick and instead juking his way down the field for 38 yards.
“I’ve always been told (when I get the ball) I have the green light,” he laughed.
He also added that being put in tough situations by the offense “just mean an opportunity” for the defense to make a play, and that’s how he “had” to think about it.
“We only control what we can control, and that’s on the defensive side of the ball,” he said.
And then came “the play”, from the defense, of course.
Philadelphia was driving down the field with 1:21 left in the game – tons of time, if you’re Chip Kelly. Foles threw a 22-yard pass, then a quick 8-yarder before dumping the ball off to running back LeSean McCoy for two eight-yard gains.
The Eagles were breathing red zone oxygen after a 16-yard completion from Foles to Jeremy Maclin with 18 seconds left in the game.
Two incompletes later, Foles and his crew had one more shot with one second on the clock. He threw left, deep in the end zone to receiver Jordan Matthews – and the Cardinals defense made its final save of the night as Rashad Johnson bumped Matthews out of bounds as he came down with the ball.
“We were in zero coverage. I had a tight end, and I saw him go to the flat and once I took a look at the quarterback (and) saw the ball up, I raced and was thinking about going for the pick but I saw how close I was to the sideline so, you know, just get him out of bounds,” he said. “That was all that was going through my head, just get him out of bounds.”
And if the defense was using buckets to bail the Cardinals out every drive, receiver John Brown used an entire bathtub in a single scoop.
With 1:21 left in the game, he caught a pass from Palmer and took it to the house for 75 yards to give Arizona the edge.
“I live for games like this,” said Brown. “I was just praying that I made a touchdown. We weren’t playing how we were supposed to play and I didn’t want to leave it up to anybody else.”
Brown had five receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona’s two main targets, Larry Fitzgerald and Brown, offset each other in age and experience, but both were reliable and dangerous targets for Palmer Sunday.
Fitzgerald has the Eagles’ number, scoring at least one touchdown in each of his last seven games against Philadelphia, and Sunday was no different. He was targeted by Palmer 10 times for seven receptions, 160 yards and a touchdown.
“They both came up with huge plays,” said Arians. “And Carson Palmer did a good job when he had time of spreading it around.”
He did, indeed. Fitzgerald was only 12 yards shy of his career high of 172 yards, and his 160 yards is the third-highest in his career.
Four other receivers caught at least one pass from Palmer Sunday: Jaron Brown (one reception for seven yards), Robert Hughes (two receptions for 13 yards), Ellington (three receptions for 14 yards) and John Carlson (two receptions for 16 yards).
The Cardinals defense kept their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher alive. Philly’s LeSean McCoy had a mere 83 yards and no touchdowns, extending that streak to 17 games.
Aside from the above-mentioned punting, failure to convert and lack of ground game, penalties were a huge problem for both teams.
The Cardinals had 10 penalties for 95 yards, and the Eagles one-upped that total with 11 penalties for 103 yards.
Philadelphia’s Maclin was also a thorn in Arizona’s side, accounting for 12 receptions for 187 yards and both Eagles’ touchdowns. Maclin left the game in the second quarter with an apparent head injury and “bleeding ear”, but returned to not only wreck the Cardinals’ pass defense, but their Gatorade table, too.
Finally, Patrick Peterson had to leave the game after a collision with Maclin (whose big grabs came after the corner was in the locker room) and teammate Deone Bucannon and will be put through the Cardinals’ concussion protocol.
STAT OF THE GAME
Cromartie’s two picks staved off the Eagles long enough for the offense to put up a few point of their own. The interceptions were Foles’ sixth and seventh of the season.
The Cardinals are now 6-1 for the first time since moving to the Valley in 1988.
THEY SAID IT
“We’re going to Dallas. Big-time game, Patrick won’t miss that game. He’ll pass the concussion test.” — Safety Rashad Johnson on Peterson’s status for next week’s Dallas game.
“We play Dallas next week. I’m not giving them sh**.” — Bruce Arians, when asked if he could elaborate on what transpired on the Cardinals’ game-winning touchdown pass from Palmer to Brown.
JUST FOR FUN
Philadelphia’s Kelly and Maclin shared a bit of an awkward moment on the sideline:
— Dan McQuade (@dhm) October 26, 2014