Through three quarters, the Eagles' defense had delivered a solid performance.
They had stopped the Cardinals' run game, and John Skelton was just 12-for-25 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That translates to a QB rating of 63.6. Larry Fitzgerald had been targeted five times and managed just two catches for 52 yards.
Yes, the Eagles benefited from two field goal misses by Jay Feely, but here's what the the Cardinals' first 11 possessions looked like: 6 punts, 2 missed FGs, 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 1 end of half.
Again, not a bad performance through three.
But, as has been the case all season, the Eagles fell apart in the fourth. In the final 15 minutes, the Cardinals put together touchdown drives of 89 and 87 yards, respectively. Skelton completed 9 of 15 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He targeted Fitzgerald eight times, completing five of those attempts for 94 yards.
And the Cardinals left the Linc having ended an 11-game road losing streak, dating back to last season.
Here's the player-by-player breakdown of what went wrong:
Jason Babin - This was his quietest game of the season. Babin played 50 snaps, but I didn't write a single note down about him making a play. And if you look at the box score, you won't see his name. Zero sacks, zero tackles, zero QB hits. He was called for offsides in the second, turning 3rd-and-6 into 3rd-and-1. And since the Eagles blitzed more, he dropped back into coverage once.
Mike Patterson - He had a couple good moments as a pass rusher. Patterson shadowed Skelton as he got out of the pocket and threw the ball away. And his pressure up the middle forced Skelton to flee the pocket, allowing Trent Cole to pick up the sack in the third.
Cullen Jenkins - He was more active than he's been in recent weeks. Jenkins got pressure on Skelton on a third-down throw in the first that was incomplete. He dropped Beanie Wells for losses of 3 and 4 in the first. Jenkins' pressure caused Skelton to flee the pocket and eventually get shoved out of bounds by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a sack. He and Cole hit Skelton on the 37-yard completion to Fitzgerald. In the third, Jenkins got blocked on a 12-yard Wells run.
Trent Cole - He was probably the Eagles' most productive lineman, but part of Cole's role reminded me of how he was used in 2010. He dropped back into coverage at least four times on zone blitzes. That happened quite a bit under Sean McDermott. Cole was also whistled for a pair of penalties - an offsides in the first, and a roughing the passer in the third. The good moments: He helped pressure Skelton, forcing him to throw it away in the first. He and Coleman stopped LaRod Stephens-Howling for a 1-yard loss in the second. He got some pressure on Skelton on a second-quarter incompletion. He sacked Skelton in the third on a four-man rush. He pressured and hit Skelton on a third-down incompletion in the third. And he stopped Wells after a 3-yard gain in the fourth.
Darryl Tapp - He played just 21 snaps and wasn't much of a factor. Tapp stopped a Wells run after 4 yards in the second. He dropped back into coverage once also. Didn't notice him getting any pressure on Skelton.
Brandon Graham - He played just 18 snaps and wasn't much of a factor either. On one play in the second, Graham and Tapp lined up as linebackers and then inched up towards the line of scrimmage, inside Derek Landri and Trevor Laws., but the Cardinals ran the ball out of shotgun for 11 yards. Graham got pressure on third down in the fourth, but Skelton fled the pocket and found Fitzgerald for a first down.
Juqua Parker - As far as I can tell, he didn’t play in the first half, but then rotated in for Graham in the third. I only counted three snaps for Parker.
Trevor Laws - He played 25 snaps and had a couple good moments. Laws dropped Wells after a 1-yard gain in the first. And he got pressure up the middle on 3rd-and-18 in the third, forcing Skelton to dump the ball off.
Derek Landri - He played 23 snaps and made several plays. Landri and Akeem Jordan hit Skelton on an incompletion in the second. He got pressure up the middle and forced Skelton to throw incomplete in the third. And he and Moise Fokou dropped Wells for a loss of 4 at the goal line before the game-winning touchdown.
Jamar Chaney - Not a good showing for Chaney. Two bad plays in the fourth quarter, specifically. He couldn’t keep up with Chester Taylor, as Skelton flipped it to the veteran running back for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-19 on the game-winning drive. On the very next play, 4th-and-2, Chaney trailed Stephens-Howling, who beat him on the wheel route for 30 yards. Earlier, he got blocked on Wells’ 5-yard run in the first. And he was called for a facemask penalty. Skelton fooled Chaney by pumping to his left and then coming back to Fitzgerald on the first touchdown. And Chaney got blocked on Wells’ 12-yard run in the third. The good moments: He came free on a blitz and pressured Skelton on third down in the first as he threw it away. He brought Wells down after a gain of 1 in the first. He broke up a pass in the first. And he came on a blitz in the fourth to sack Skelton. Chaney blitzed 10 times, the most of any Eagle.
Brian Rolle - Early on, he dropped Wells after a 3-yard gain and blew up a run, allowing Jenkins to drop Wells for a 4-yard loss. But after that, Rolle struggled quite a bit. He looked like he was trying to get a hand on Fitzgerald to slow him down on the first touchdown, but pretty much whiffed as Fitzgerald ran free for the 10-yard touchdown. He missed a tackle and suffered an injury in the third on a 19-yard completion to Early Doucet. He missed a tackle on Wells’ 12-yard run in the fourth. Skelton floated a pass right over Rolle’s outstretched hands for 20 yards in the fourth, helping to set up the Cardinals’ game-tying touchdown. And he got run over by Wells on a 6-yard gain in the fourth.
Akeem Jordan - He got the start at SAM in place of Fokou. Jordan brought pressure on a blitz up the middle in the second, hitting Skelton and forcing an incompletion. He and Rolle stopped Wells for no gain in the first. Jordan stayed on the field in nickel when Rolle got injured.
Casey Matthews - He came in for short yardage, playing four snaps overall.
Moise Fokou - He was replaced by Jordan in the starting lineup, but played in short yardage and also entered the game when Rolle was injured. Fokou and Jordan stuffed Wells at the goal line in the fourth. Overall, I have him down for eight snaps.
Asante Samuel - The players seemed to offer differing accounts of what happened on the 37-yard completion to Fitzgerald that set up the game-winning touchdown, and the TV angles aren't great, so it's difficult to properly assess Samuel's role on the play (although I'm sure some of you have opinions). Samuel looked like he was passing Fitzgerald off to Jarrett and certainly wasn't running with him down the field. Earlier, Samuel was fortunate that Skelton was off-target on a couple throws in his direction. He was covering Fitzgerald one-on-one as the Eagles blitzed Jarrett in the fourth and got beat by a double-move, but Skelton’s throw was off-target. It could have been an 84-yard touchdown with a better pass. In the first half, Samuel jumped in front of Fitzgerald and picked off Skelton, returning it for a touchdown to get the Eagles on the board. He played the first five plays of the next series, but then came out because his legs were tight. The Cardinals scored on that possession.
Nnamdi Asomugha - There's no downplaying the penalty in the fourth. Asomugha lined up in the neutral zone on 3rd-and-10. Skelton’s pass was deflected, but the Cardinals got to try it again (3rd-and-5) and converted. He won’t get an easier interception than the one he had in the fourth. The Eagles sent a six-man blitz, and Skelton made a horrible throw. Later today, I'm going to chart how often Asomugha was on Fitzgerald.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - He only played defense in the first half, suffering a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. Roders-Cromartie covered Roberts in the slot and broke up a third-down pass in the first. But later, Roberts got in front of him with the Eagles in zone coverage for a 16-yard catch. He got beat by Fitzgerald for a 42-yard gain in the first. Of course, it looked like it was going to be just an 18- or 19-yard gain, but Rodgers-Cromartie didn't give much effort to bring Fitzgerald down after he made the catch. This seems to happen on a weekly basis. Rodgers-Cromartie picked up a sack by shoving Skelton out of bounds in the second. He played left cornerback when Samuel went out. Rodgers-Cromartie took on a stiff-arm and shoved Wells out of bounds after a 2-yard gain in the second. It was the kind of play the coaches surely hope to see more of going forward.
Joselio Hanson - He took over as the Eagles' nickelback once Rodgers-Cromartie went down. Hanson gave up a 10-yard completion to Roberts on 3rd-and-8. He blitzed from the slot once, something we saw frequently last year. In the fourth, Hanson got his hand on the ball, but tipped it right to Fitzgerald for the game-tying touchdown.
Brandon Hughes - He played four snaps in the fourth when the Eagles were in dime. Hughes had good coverage on Chansi Stuckey on an incompletion late.
Jaiquawn Jarrett - The coaches put him in some tough positions as Jarrett found himself alone with Fitzgerald on multiple occasions, including the key 37-yard completion. The Eagles had Fitzgerald double-teamed in the third. Jarrett was in front of him and should have had an interception, but the ball bounced off his hands, and Fitzgerald caught it for a 29-yard gain. With the Eagles in zone, he got matched up with Fitzgerald again and allowed a 10-yard pass on 3rd-and-5 in the fourth. Jarrett made a great play early against the run, dropping Wells after a 1-yard gain in the first. He got good pressure on Skelton, blitzing from the slot on an incompletion in the third. Jarrett blitzed four times overall.
Kurt Coleman - He completely whiffed, trying to tackle Doucet on the game-winning touchdown. Not sure what happened there. Earlier, Coleman and Cole dropped Stephens-Howling for a 1-yard loss in the second. And he dropped Wells for a 2-yard loss in the third. Coleman got run over by Wells on a 2-yard carry on 2nd-and-1 in the second. He blitzed eight times.
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