The Eagles overcame injuries to their offensive line, inconsistent defense, stupid penalties and a rare dropped pass by DeVonta Smith to edge the Arizona Cardinals 20-17 in front of 63,919 fans at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ.
It is estimated that over one-third of those fans were from Philadelphia and at times were so loud, they made it difficult for Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray to run his offense.
Cardinals’ kicker Matt Ammendola, signed this week to replace injured starter Matt Prater, missed a 43-yard field goal attempt with 22-secomds left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles leading 20-17.
The Eagles stormed out to a 14-0 lead at th3e 10:11mark of the second quarter. Both trips to the end zone came from Jalen Hurts quarterback sneaks.
Those would be the only two touchdowns the Birds (5-0) would score for the day.
Led by Murray, the Cardinals scored on a 25-yard catch-and-run pass from Murray to Marquise Brown with 5:24 left in the first half.
The Birds scored on a 42-yard field goal by Cameron Dicker with 9:57 left in the third quarter. Dicker was signed this week after Jake Elliott suffered a leg injury during the Eagles win over Jacksonville the week before.
The Eagles had to settle for the field goal when the drive stalled when guard Sua Opeta, subbing for injured Landon Dickerson, was called for holding on a first-and-ten at the Arizona 15-yard line.
The Birds were unable to finish the drive.
Another drive in the third saw the Eagles start at their own 14-yard line and move the ball to the Cardinals 41-yard-line, highlighted by a 31-yard catch from Hurts to tight end Dallas Goedert.
Unfortunately, Landon Dickerson, back in the game now, was called for holding, pushing the ball back to their own 49-yard line.
The Birds were missing left tackle Jordan Mailata, who was out with a shoulder injury. Jack Driscoll took his place and center Jason Kelce left the game for a while with what appeared to be a foot injury. Rookie Cam Jurgens held the fort until Kelce returned.
There was a chance of redemption that fell short. With the ball at the Arizona 39, Smith dropped a pass downfield that was in his hands.
Cardinals J.J. Watt and Byron Murphy split a sack of Hurst that lost 10 yards and the Eagles were force to punt.
The Cardinals (2-3) came right back with a brilliant 12-play, 90-yard drive. With 9:43 left in the fourth quarter, running back Eno Benjamin scored on an 11-yard run to tie the game, 17-17.
Hurts then took the Eagles on 17-play, 70-yard drive that fell short but ate up 7:58 of the clock. Dicker was true from 23 yards and the Eagles had the lead for good.
On Monday, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said there are games that they are going to sweat out.
“Yeah, I would love to win every game by a lot. I really would,” Sirianni said. “Those are a lot less stressful. You know you played a good game when you hold them to 7 and you score 30, or whatever it is, right?
“But that's not the reality of this league. You're going to go through the grind. In fact, more games are going to be like they were yesterday than they were for our first couple games -- or for our Washington game or our Minnesota game. There is a heck of a lot more games like yesterday than those couple games.
“So, you just like to be able to win any way. You go through it and you're happy with the win no matter what. You're dissatisfied with the things that you want to correct. First of all, as coaches, and then secondly as the players.
“So, you just try to go through and fix that as you would, but of course there are benefits to winning every way, and you say to yourself, well, we're going to be in those games more so than not, so it's good when you win those games obviously.
MURRAY WAS THE BAD GUY FOR THE CARDINALS, NOT THE KICKER
Most fans and many observers remembered the 43-yard field goal that Ammendola missed in the final seconds.
But it really was the mistakes made by Murray on the final drive that doomed the Cardinals.
With 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Arizona was faced with a second-and-ten from the Eagles 34.
Murray took the snap and ran for what he thought was a first down…he only went nine yards.
To make it worse, he spiked the ball to stop the clock, setting up a fourth down with just 22 seconds left.
His team was out of options and it was on the quarterback.
Veteran offensive lineman Justin Pugh interrupted with some strong words for reporters at Ammendola’s locker. He also had words of encouragement for his teammate.
“It’s not one (expletive) guy,” Pugh said. “I missed a block. We missed touchdowns. We should have had the ball and been able to score. It’s not on one (expletive) guy.”
Murray finished 28 for 42 for 250 yards and an interception. He passed for one TD and was sacked once by Haason Reddick.
Hurts was 26 of 36 for 239 yards. He did not throw a TD pass and was not intercepted. Hurts was sacked twice for 21 yards of losses.
As a team the Birds rushed 33 times for 139 yards. Hurts had 15 carries for 61 yards, Miles Sanders 15 carries for 58 carries. Kenneth Gainwell rushed for 20 yards on three carries.
Smith hauled in 10 receptions for 87 yards, Goedert eight catches for 96 yards and A.J. Brown ended up with three catches for 32 yards, all on the Birds first drive.
Hurts was not a happy camper after the game. He knew the Eagles made mistakes that could have cost them the game and probably should have.
The mistakes Murray made down the stretch and the missed field goal were really a gift.
“I, personally, I hate hearing five-and-oh,” Hurts said at the postgame press conference. “I don't like to hear it. Because, nobody wants to mention the record when we were 2-5 (last year). Nobody wants to talk about that.
“So I don't want to hear it now. We're going to enjoy this because winning is not easy. Winning is hard. You earn it every week. We put a lot of work into this every week and we just want to go out there and play to the standard that we set for ourselves. And that's just the competitive nature we have.” *
Email Al Thompson at email@example.com