By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—The Eagles secondary came into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals knowing that they had a tough assignment going up against Larry Fitzgerald and the rest of the Cards physical receiving corps.
The Birds corners and safeties figured that Cardinals receivers were going to get their fair share of catches in the game, but they were determined to not allow them to totally dominate the game.
“They were going to try to be physical with us,” said safety Nate Allen. “So we knew we had to be physical and re-route them and get our hands on them and mess up their timing on the routes and I think we did a good job of that today.”
They won some battles and they lost a few battles, but more importantly the Eagles secondary helped the Eagles to win the war in a 24-21 win over the Cardinals Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I believe the refs let us play today and that was a good thing,” said Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher. “When you go up against guys like Floyd and Fitzgerald and you can be a little more physical, it definitely helps out.”
It could be argued, especially by the Cardinals receivers, that there were a few penalties against the defense that weren’t called in the game. On the flip side of that, Arizona receivers did their share of pushing off, too.
“If the wide receivers are going to play us physically, we’re entitled to our space,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “If a wide receiver runs into me, I’m entitled to get my hands up in defense, if I happen to hold, it’s a part of the game. They were pushing off the whole game, in my opinion, but I like those kinds of games because you’re out there being physical. You’re the playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Not only did the Birds secondary get a pair of interceptions, but they kept Fitzgerald and company from dominating the game. None of the Cardinals receivers had more than 100 yards in receptions. Michael Floyd had five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown while Fitzgerald had five catches for 72 yards.
“I think we had a great game-plan in place,” said Williams, who had one of those two interceptions off Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. “I think (defensive coordinator Billy) Davis called a good game today.
“Some scenarios we weren’t very good in communication, but for the most part secondary-wise we played pretty good thanks to the pass rush. Without that, I don’t think it would have as dominant of a performance.”
The Eagles front-seven had five sacks and forced a fumble. They constantly put pressure on Palmer throughout the game. That made it easier for the corners to go one-on-one with the Cardinals receivers.
“Those guys stepped up and took on the challenge of playing this top receiving group and there were a lot of times when they were one-on-one today,” Davis said. “Throughout the game, I was mixing in brackets and combos and clouds over the top of them, but there were a lot of snaps where it was ‘hey get your man, you gotta hold up and they did.”
After giving up a pair of second-half touchdown passes that enable to Cardinals to overcome a 24-7 deficit, the Eagles secondary clamped down on the Arizona receivers late in the game when it mattered most.
The Cardinals started their final drive at their own 10 yard-line with 2:03 left in the game, but only got as far as their own 15. On the game’s final three plays, the Eagles defensive backs allowed no room for Cardinals receivers to get open. On fourth down, Fletcher batted away a Palmer pass to Floyd.
“Fletch made a great play on that curl route and that was huge, getting off the field like that,” said Allen, who also had an interception in the game. “When push comes to shove and it’s ‘hey make a play or keep the drive going, Fletch did a great job with that.”