Sunday, October 26, 2014

Birds taste bitter defeat to Cardinals

Glendale, AZ -- The Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles played down to the wire, and it was a rookie who made the biggest play.

John Brown hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter and the Cardinals held off one last Eagles drive to survive a 24-20 thriller on Sunday.

A matchup between two of the four remaining one-loss teams lived up to its billing, and an unlikely hero emerged in Brown.

The third-round pick out of unknown Pittsburg State caught Nate Allen peaking into the backfield on 3rd-and-5 from the Arizona 25 and sprinted past the safety before making a terrific over-the-shoulder grab. The speedster was tracked down near the goal line but not before crossing the plane.

Nick Foles led the Eagles down to the Arizona 16 in the final seconds and took three shots at the end zone that all fell incomplete. His last pass to Jordan Matthews was caught, but the rookie receiver was well out of bounds in the left corner of the end zone.

Arizona (6-1) is off to its best start since winning its first seven games in 1974. That season, the St. Louis Cardinals broke the Cowboys/Redskins stranglehold by winning the NFC East with a 10-4 record.

Palmer finished with 329 yards and two touchdowns through the air, with most of his focus going to Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, who caught seven passes for 160 yards and a score. Brown logged five catches for 119 yards.

Foles had a busy day for the Eagles (5-2), passing for 411 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions on 36-of-62 attempts. The Birds have lost three in a row to the Cards on the road and seven of nine in greater Phoenix since 1996.

Jeremy Maclin was evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit with All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson never returned, but Maclin wound up catching 12 
passes for 187 yards and two scores.

The Eagles churned out 273 yards in the first half but committed nine penalties and turned the ball over twice deep inside Cardinals territory.

Those mistakes kept it a 7-7 game at halftime, and out of the break Fitzgerald caught a short slant and split cornerbacks Brandon Boykin and Bradley Fletcher en route to a vintage 80-yard score.

The Eagles scored the next 10 points to retake the lead. Cody Parkey booted a 54-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10, and Maclin got behind the secondary for a 54-yard TD. Maclin outran Peterson's replacement, Jerraud Powers, on a go route, and Foles hit him in stride for the go-ahead score.

Antonio Cromartie's second interception of the game set up Chandler Catanzaro's tying 28-yard field goal with 9:01 left in regulation.

The Eagles held the ball for the next seven minutes but had to settle for Parkey's 20-yard chip shot. LeSean McCoy was stuffed for no gain on 3rd-and-1 from the 2 prior to the field goal.

The always aggressive Chip Kelly was asked if he thought about keeping his offense out on the field for fourth down, and Kelly backed his defense.

"We kicked the field goal because I had confidence in our D, they were doing a great job," the Eagles head coach said.

The Cardinals punted from the Eagles' 35-yard line on their opening drive and Drew Butler kicked it into the end zone.

Philadelphia then went 80 yards in nine plays, with Maclin hauling in a 21- yard touchdown pass with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter.

Arizona countered with an 80-yard march of its own to even things. Andre Ellington punched one in from a yard out, and the Cardinals forced two turnovers to keep it even heading into the intermission.
Eagles rookie receiver Josh Huff lost a fumble inside the Arizona 5-yard line, and Cromartie picked off a deep Foles pass in the end zone.

Notes: The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine games at home ... McCoy rushed for 83 yards on 21 carries for the Eagles ... Including one playoff meeting, Fitzgerald has 11 touchdown catches in seven career games against the Eagles ... The Eagles' defense has recorded a takeaway in 20 straight games ... The Cardinals are 8-0 at home against non-division opponents under head coach Bruce Arians ... The Eagles were without running back Darren Sproles (knee) but welcomed back linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) for the first time since Week 2.
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