The Eagles’ lead was 24-7 after the opening drive of the second half. A good Arizona Cardinals team looked lost.
Then the Eagles’ offense stalled. Again.
It has become one of the patterns of a remarkable season: that this offense, which can be so explosively productive in the first three quarters of games, quiets down so suddenly in the fourth. It has happened several times now, and it was happening again, and 24-7 became 24-14, and then it became 24-21, and a joyous crowd at Lincoln Financial Field began to grow as gray as the day.
With 4:37 remaining, the Eagles were desperately hanging on, first-and-10 on their 31-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Nick Foles threw his first interception of the season, to the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson — but a holding penalty on the Cardinals magically saved him, and his streak. Even with that, though, the Eagles were forced to punt.
The Cardinals had the ball on their 10-yard line with 2:08 remaining. It was going to come down to the defense, after all. The thought at the beginning of the season was that the Eagles‘ defense was under-talented. It seems like the most distant of memories now. In this game, the Eagles intercepted two passes thrown by Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, forced a fumble that led to a score, and exploded for five sacks before that final drive — but they were going to need to come through one more time.
And they did. (And if the officials helped them, well, so be it.)
The Cardinals’ final play was on fourth-and-5 at the 15 -- and while Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher might have manhandled the Cardinals’ Michael Floyd on a pass that fell incomplete, no flags were thrown.
Then, after the Eagles got the ball back and were trying to run out the clock, they were about to be in a position where they were going to have kick a field goal, take a six-point lead and give the ball back to Arizona, one more time. But a reasonably bogus defensive holding penalty extended the drive for the Eagles and effectively ended the game.
After it was over, and after he shook hands with Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Arizona coach Bruce Arians sprinted across the field and chased referee Tony Corrente and his crew into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms — not that the Eagles cared.
They had survived.
In December, survival is good.
DN Members-only: Join our weekly Daily News football picks contest to win big prizes.