By the numbers: Light bulb comes on for Cardinals’ offense in win over Eagles
Jan 1, 2024, 6:42 PM
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals had its best game in years with a 35-31 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, and the numbers reflect that.
The light bulb appeared to come on for offensive coordinator Drew Petzing’s unit as the run game was rolling behind the 1-2 punch of James Conner and Michael Carter while Kyler Murray dissected the Eagles defense, especially in the second half.
Plus, it came against reigning NFC champion Philadelphia in its own building, and the Eagles really could’ve used the win to wrap up the NFC East. Instead, the home fans left the stadium booing their team and producing funny moments on the broadcast.
Though the win may take them out of contention for prized receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., the win could end up being a massive step toward bringing the organization back into contention.
Here’s a look into the numbers behind Arizona’s Week 17 win.
Punter’s day off
For just the third time in the franchise’s history — which dates back to the late-19th century — the Cardinals didn’t punt once over the entire game, scoring a touchdown on each second half drive.
The only full drive the Cardinals didn’t punctuate with a score of their own was the 99-yard pick-six early in the second quarter off of the miscommunication between Murray and Michael Wilson.
Arizona gained 32 first downs, one shy of a franchise high which came in 2008. They were 5-for-10 on third downs and 2-for-2 on fourth downs after being one of the worst fourth down teams throughout the season.
Dominating on the ground
Arguably the team’s MVP of the season, Conner rushed for a season high 128 yards, including the game-winning score from two yards out. Conner also scored on a one-handed catch from five yards out.
Michael Carter, playing in just his fifth game as a Cardinal, added 61 rushing yards on seven carries, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. He made defenders miss almost every time he touched it.
Murray added his own timely rushes, including a 14-yard run to bring Arizona into the red zone on the drive that tied the game at 28 inside of five minutes remaining.
All this ground success (221 yards and 5.0 yards per carry) came against an Eagles defense which ranks just outside the top 10 at defending the run.
Passing game clicking
The three touchdowns Murray threw in the second half were the most touchdowns through the air that the Cardinals have tallied all season.
It’s the 13th time Murray has thrown for at least three passing touchdowns over his 64 games, putting him at third in franchise history (Neil Lomax with 15 in 108 games and Charley Johnson with 14 in 87 games).
Greg Dortch led the team in receiving with 82 yards on seven catches, including a key 36-yard gain late to set up Conner’s game-winning touchdown. It was the only time in December that a wide receiver led the team in receiving yards.
NFL Draft check-in
With the win, the Cardinals find themselves in a three-way tie for the second-worst record in the NFL, though a stronger strength of schedule than the other two teams — Washington Commanders and New England Patriots — leaves the Cardinals all the way back at No. 4 with one week remaining.
If Arizona is indeed seeking Harrison, it would have to cross fingers that the first three picks are all quarterbacks, or use other draft capital to move up.
Including their own No. 4 pick and Houston’s No. 17 pick, the Cardinals are slated to have six picks in the top 81 of April’s draft.