Most fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives are attributed to the offense or the quarterback, but seldom to the opposing defense. On Sunday, the credit for the Cardinals win could equally be attributed to Arizona’s offense and Philadelphia’s defense. That’s not to say the Eagles didn’t make big plays on defense. An Asante Samuel pick six put the Eagles up 7-0, and Nnamdi Asomugha’s interception led to a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. But when the Eagles defense needed a stop the most, they looked confused, inferior and outplayed.
Let’s not lay all the blame on the Eagles. Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike Miller did a good job of play-calling and John Skelton made plays with his arm and his legs. Twice the Eagles put Arizona in negative situations and twice the Cards responded positively on the next down.
The first mistake came on the first play of the drive. The Eagles lined up in the right coverage, but played it soft and gave Fitzgerald too much room to make an 11-yard reception. After a sack for a nine-yard loss, John Skelton was able to escape the pocket and flip the ball to an open running back for 17 yards on third-and-19. On fourth-and-2, Arizona just ran a great play and Skelton made an accurate throw. No fault by Philly here.
However the next two big plays were born from Eagles’ errors. On third-and-10, Asante Samuel and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett were responsible for Larry Fitzgerald. Samuel, who jumped a route in the first quarter and took it to the house, ignored his assignment hoping to duplicate his earlier play. This left the rookie Jarrett all alone on Fitz who made a spectacular catch for a first-and-goal. On the game-winning touchdown, free safety Kurt Coleman missed a tackle and basically picked his inside help defender, giving Early Doucet a clear lane to the end zone.
You can chalk it up to a few mental mistakes or bad technique, but Philly’s defense really looked lost on the drive. Cris Carter said on “Mike and Mike in the Morning” that the Eagles had “no chemistry” and “lots of selfish players.” Team chemistry could just be what the team is lacking. We often see in sports that big names and even bigger contracts don’t always add up to championships.
It didn’t work out too well for the 2003 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Yankees got one championship and a lot of unmet expectations.
It remains to be seen whether the Eagles will start to gel or melt under the pressure.
For in-depth analysis of the Cardinals’ game-winning drive, watch Brian Baldinger’s Drive of the Week.