Downed in the Desert: Eagles fall to Cardinals in Arizona

Everyone in the building knew Mike Vick was dropping back to pass. So the quarterback couldn’t have been that surprised when Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes plowed into him off the left edge, causing a disastrous fumble that was returned 93 yards for a touchdown.

“It was a situation where I should have been looking to get the ball out of my hands if things weren’t here,” Vick said. “I tried to hold onto it and make a play, and I just took a hit.”

The Eagles were looking to score and cut into Arizona’s lead. Seconds later, the air had been slashed from their tires. The Eagles walked into the locker room down 24-0 at halftime.

“That definitely took a lot of momentum from us,” DeSean Jackson said. “It was 17-0 and we had a chance to go in and score a touchdown to make it 17-7. That definitely hurt.”

The Eagles looked all out of sorts in their 27-6 loss to the Cardinals yesterday in the desert. They committed three more turnovers, putting their three-game season total at 12. On the Vick fumble, the Cardinals brought an extra rusher. No one picked him up.

“They brought one more than we had blockers,” left guard Evan Mathis said.

LeSean McCoy was the one that should have picked Rhodes up. However, the running back admitted he was fooled by the defense, which faked the blitz with two different players before the snap. McCoy said the key to improving doesn’t mean making major adjustments. It’s about making smarter decisions on the field.

“Adjustments? It’s as simple as being disciplined,” McCoy said. “Small things, blocking the right guy, holding onto the ball … I feel like a team can stop an offense but we’re giving them possession of the ball, that’s something totally different.”

Fitzgerald the Eagle killer

Believe it or not, the Eagles’ defense actually had a nice game plan for Larry Fitzgerald. The star receiver didn’t get much when he lined up on the outside, where he was blanketed by both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. But the Cardinals moved Fitzgerald all over the field — flanking him on the left side, on the right side, in the slot and putting him in motion. The strategy worked to the tune of 114 yards and a touchdown.

“I was going to shadow him [Fitzgerald],” Asomugha said. “[Defensive backs] Coach [Todd] Bowles, he said, ‘Let’s just stay on our sides, and keep Boykin in the nickel.’ That was our plan, but they were able to take advantage of some things.”

Most of Fitzgerald’s yardage came on short, inside routes.

“They didn’t really take too many shots down the field,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.

He racked up 105 of his 114 in the first half, including a 37-yard score. The touchdown was a miscommunication between Asomugha and Kurt Coleman. The two had a brief exchange on the sideline after the play.

“It was my fault,” Coleman said. “I’ll take the heat for that and we’ll get better next week and come back stronger.”

Fitzgerald now has nine touchdowns in five career games against the Eagles. He is averaging 114 yards per contest.

“It is our coaching staff,” Fitzgerald said, when asked why he’s had so much success. “They asked me to move around and come out onto the practice field and play Z and play F, so they are constantly force-feeding me new opportunities.”

Redemption for Kolb

Kevin Kolb, the once prized pupil of Andy Reid, looked extra animated on the field. He yelled at the ref after a questionable false start call. He commanded the huddle with poise and pumped his fist after chucking his second touchdown pass.

Kolb, who had his starting job usurped due to injury in Philadelphia, is 1-0 against his former team. He finished 17-of-24 for 222 yards and two scores, with no picks (127.4 QB rating). It was clearly his best game as an NFL quarterback.

“It feels good, it really does. I’m going to enjoy it, don’t get me wrong,” Kolb said. “But the biggest thing was being 3-0. To be 3-0 against the teams we’ve played, in the fashion that we’ve won, it’s been exciting.”

Kolb was able to out-duel the man that stole his job in Philly, Mike Vick.

“I think Kevin played great today,” Vick said. “I think he came out and played like the way he was supposed to and he did a great job leading his football team and of putting points on the board, squeak some out, some way. We have to find a way to do the same thing.”

As impressive as Kolb looked at times, it should be noted that the Arizona coaching staff suited their game plan to his strengths. They never asked the weak-armed Kolb to throw deep down the field, something the Eagles cornerbacks were quick to point out.

“He [Kolb] controlled the game. Run the ball, throw the ball, just getting little yards,” Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “They didn’t really take too many shots down the field, just dink and dunk, and he got into a rhythm that way.”

Reid gets heated with refs

In one of the strangest plays in recorded NFL history, the Eagles were forced to accept a holding penalty. It was so strange that injured Eagle Jason Kelce immediately tweeted, “Did they just force us to take a holding penalty?”

Here’s what happened: Darryl Tapp sacked Kevin Kolb for minus-8 yards, but the officials flagged Arizona for holding on 2nd-and-16. The Eagles wanted to decline the penalty and take the resulting sack. They couldn’t. And the TV cameras panned to Reid yelling those exact instructions at the replacement official who made the call.

After a lengthy delay and discussion, the holding call was enforced to make it 2nd-and-26. Obviously, Reid would have traded the two yards, instead of having Arizona replay the down. After the game, Reid said all the right things, but read between the lines.

“I can’t,” Reid said when asked to explain the play. “That one I can’t explain. I honestly don’t have an answer for you. I just can’t answer that question.”

Offensive line struggling

The Eagles were down two starters on the offensive line coming into Sunday’s game. With King Dunlap (hamstring) out and Jason Kelce (knee) lost for the season, the team was forced to throw Dallas Reynolds in at center and Demetress Bell in at left tackle.

Credit the Cardinals for an outstanding defensive plan. They were flying around all over the field and applied pressure to Mike Vick seemingly at will. They sacked Vick five times and hit him 13 times.

“It’s disappointing,” said Reynolds, who was starting his first pro game at center. “We’re going to improve and I’m going to improve.”

“This was a very good defense,” Bell said. “They had a lot of talent and a very good scheme. We’ll have to see the tape.”

One thing Bell will see on tape is his two offensive holding penalties. The Eagles rank No. 1 in the entire NFL in that department, with nine holding calls on the year.

There also appeared to be a few miscommunications along the makeshift line.

“They got us on a few blitzes,” Andy Reid said. “It was a combination of things. I can’t tell you that it was absolutely one thing every snap though.”

Early on, it certainly looked like Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington were having their way with Reynolds. But, according to his quarterback, the new center did a nice job.

“There weren’t any miscommunications,” Mike Vick said. “I think he did a great job of identifying guys.”

Why not run it with Shady?

The Eagles called 25 pass plays against five running plays in the first half. For the game, the Eagles threw the ball 37 times and rushed it 21 times.

Why the discrepancy there, coach?

“Obviously, we thought that we could throw the ball and do a better job in that area, but we didn’t,” Andy Reid said. “In hindsight, it would have been okay to run the ball a little more.”

LeSean McCoy touched it just 13 times and still churned out 70 yards, for a 5.4 yard average. McCoy seemed mildly surprised about the run-to-pass ratio, but he’s not one to question the coaches.

“Sometimes it goes like that. Who knows?,” McCoy said. “I don’t live like that, I just go with the plays that are drawn up for us. We just got to do better, as simple as that.”

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