Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hapless Cards stun overrated Eagles

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) - In the midst of a Keystone Cops routine Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, a football game finally broke out in the second quarter when Asante Samuel jumped an out route and returned it for a touchdown.

In the end, however, the Eagles were unable to contain the incomparable Larry Fitzgerald and fell to a hapless Arizona Cardinals team 21-17.

Michael Vick had perhaps his worst game as an Eagle, completing 16-of-34 passes for 128 yards and a pair of interceptions. The Philadelphia quarterback clearly missed his big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was benched for missing a team meeting on Saturday and really could have had four picks if
things broke the Cardinals way.

“I give a lot of credit to the Arizona Cardinals," Vick said.  "They played a great game.  They had a good plan and we were never able to get into a rhythm, move that ball downfield consistently and kept our defense on the field for a long time, which is unfortunate.  I think those are things that we just can’t do. So there has to be a balance and we have to figure out the answers to why it happened.” 

The Cards, of course, were without the services of their starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, the ex-Eagle who has proven to be one of the poorer starting signal callers in the league this season. However, as s bad as Kolb's been, the Texas product remains a huge upgrade over what Ken Whisenhunt had to put
under center on Sunday -- John Skelton.

Skelton connected on just 21-of-40 passes but was bailed out by Fitzgerald time and time again and finished with 315 yards with threes TDs and two picks. Fitzgerald ended with seven receptions for 146 yards and two scores to become the Cards all-time TD leader in the process.

It might as well have been Red Skelton throwing to Fitz. Vick was woefully inaccurate early on but was matched throw for throw by Skelton. Of course, even the pathetic play of Cardinals' QB didn't stop Arizona from getting into scoring position twice in the first quarter. But, the normally reliable Jay Feely missed a pair of field goals.

The Eagles' offense couldn't even muster those kind of opportunities but Samuel gave the team a charge by jumping an out route by Fitzgerald that Skelton badly telegraphed. The gambling cornerback took it back 20 yards for the score, his ninth career TD.

It seems like things are never easy for the 2011 Birds and that would prove no different against the Cards, who answered with a 10-play, 77-yard TD drive, helped along by a roughing the passer call on Trent Cole and culminated by a 10-yard Skelton to Fitzgerald connection.

Unable to get things done through the air, Vick used his legs and took advantage of a questionable call to get the Eagles back on top right before halftime.

A pair of big scrambles by the dynamic QB set Philadelphia up at the one before LeSean McCoy plunged in for the short TD with just 17 seconds left in the half. A Vick interception by Adrian Wilson in the end zone was taken off the books moments earlier thanks to a very late holding call on Cards CB Richard Marshall, who wasn't involved in the play. In fact the flag was dropped after Wilson had secured the pick.

Philadelphia was on the verge of extending the lead late in the third quarter when Vick made another mistake in the red zone, finding the midsection of the 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell when trying to hit a dragging Jeremy Maclin over the middle.

Arizona evened things with 9:18 left in the game thanks to the brilliance of Fitzgerald. The All-Pro receiver made three circus catches during the drive including a seven-yard TD after Joselio Hanson had tipped a poor Skelton pass.

Skelton gave the Eagles the lead back with back-to-back overthrows. First, he missed an open Fitzgerald by about 10 yards on what would have been a huge gain down the right sideline and followed that by badly misfiring while looking for Early Doucet. Nmamdi Asomugha, sitting in a zone behind Doucet, made the easy interception and returned it four yards to the Cards 26.

Philadelphia was unable to move the ball as Vick was shaken up and had to be removed for a play but rookie Alex Henery was perfect from 36 yards out to make it a 17-14 contest with 5:06 remaining.

The Cardinals finished thins on their next drive. First they converted a big 4th-and-2 when Skelton found LaRod Stephens-Howling on a wheel route down to the Eagles 38. Two plays later Fitzgerald made a brilliant over the shoulder catch reminiscent of Willie Mays in centerfield that brought the ball to the

“We had a pressure there and we were trying to blitz them, so that is the match-up,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said when asked why rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was checking Fitzgerald on the play.

Philadelphia stiffened a bit from there but Skelton finally found Doucet on a nicely designed play for a 5-yard TD with 1:53 on the clock for a 21-17 Arizona edge.

"I put ourselves down throwing that pick six, and then throwing that pick late, but our defense was able to bail me out, essentially and hold them to a field goal," Skelton said. "And the guys on the sideline, you know, never gave up [and] everyone knew that we were a play away. And ultimately we just won it as a team and I think that’s the best way to do it.”

Vick's desperation heave down the left sideline to Steve Smith was intercepted by A.J. Jefferson in the waning seconds, sending the overrated Birds to a dismal 3-6 on the season.

“Well, we exercised a lot of demons today—winning on the east coast, stopping them on the last drive defensively, being able to drive down and score offensively—all the things that we haven’t been able to do," Whisenhunt said.  "It seems like we were able to do it today. I give a lot of credit to our players and our team for believing in what we were doing. That’s a very good football team, I don’t care what you say about them, they got a lot of talented football players on there." 

“Obviously you can’t turn over the football as many times as we did, have 11 penalties on top of that, and be a disaster in the red zone like we were," Reid contered. "That’s my responsibility and the way this team played is my responsibility. We have to make sure we get it corrected.” 

Bird Droppings:

Along with Jackson the other Eagles inactives were QB Mike Kafka, S Nate Allen (concussion), CB Curtis Marsh, RG Evan Mathis (turf toe), OT Winston Justice and DE Phillip Hunt. Allen was replaced in the starting lineup by former Temple star Jaiquawn Jarrett and King Dunlap replaced Mathis.

Fitzgerald's fourth quarter TD was the 70th of his career, surpassing Roy Green for the Cardinals franchise record.

Former Card Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was named a captain against his old team. He was forced to leave the game, however, after suffering a right ankle injury while returning the second half kickoff.

Maclin suffered a right shoulder injury in the first quarter but was back by late in the second frame. He then went down with a hamstring injury in the fourth and was unable to return.

McCoy scored a TD for the ninth consecutive game, a franchise record. He also became just the fourth player since 1960 to score a TD in the first nine games of the season joining Lenny Moore (1964), OJ Simpson ('75) and George Rogers ('86).

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