Best as I can tell, the Eagles blitzed Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner 13 out of 30 pass plays. It was a ton of blitzing. Thirty percent blitzes is a bunch. The Eagles were just north of 43 percent. It was a lot, and I might even have missed a couple for all I know -- and this doesn't even include when they blitzed on running plays. But it still wasn't enough.
The Eagles' dilemma going into the game was clear. Warner is great against the blitz so they needed to get four-man pass rush pressure. It was the game's most significant imperative. But they couldn't do it, not consistently enough, especially in the first half
Here are the numbers for Warner:
Blitzing: 8-for-13 for 108 yards.
Not blitzing: 13-for-15 for 171 yards and four touchdowns.
There is a chance my numbers are off by a little -- stuff happens quickly and television replays don't always show you what you need to see. But the numbers are pretty close, and they are devastating for the Eagles' front four. Trent Cole was a force in the third quarter but was about it -- and, honestly, most of those pressures came on blitzes. The four-man rush, though, just wasn't enough. And that is fully acknowledging that Warner is a pro's pro, very accurate and very good at recognizing pressure and getting rid of the ball.
I don't know what the Eagles could have done differently. I mean, you can't blitz 60 percent of the time against a good quarterback, can you? The Eagles are incredibly high-risk as it is -- it's hard to see them adding more risk.
Again, best as I can tell, the blitzing percentages were virtually the same in both halves, too. It did seem as if they added a sixth pass rusher more often in the second half, and maybe that was part of their overall success in the third quarter (while doubling the risk on each play). But at the end, on that last drive, the Eagles blitzed twice and got there neither time. Two completions to Larry Fitzgerald were the result, 15 yard and 18 yards, by far the two longest plays on a 14-play, 72-yard drive that cut the heart out of the Eagles' defense.
Risk, reward, and the failure of the four-man pass rush. That really was the story, even as we fixate on the other side of the ball.