Turnovers key Eagles' 24-21 win over Cardinals

Protecting their turf: Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham sacks Cardinals QB Carson Palmer as (from left) Mychal Kendricks, Patrick Chung, and Bennie Logan close in.
Protecting their turf: Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham sacks Cardinals QB Carson Palmer as (from left) Mychal Kendricks, Patrick Chung, and Bennie Logan close in. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: December 03, 2013

It took just three plays for the Eagles to force a turnover in their first game in two weeks. It was clear that an idle week had not disrupted the Eagles' November momentum.

Their hot streak continued into December on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles' 24-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals marked the team's fourth consecutive victory and kept them in the thick of playoff contention.

The Eagles forced three Cardinals turnovers and did not commit a turnover. In a fourth-quarter game that included more late-game struggles, the turnover differential helped the Eagles escape with a 7-5 record.

"When you win the turnover battle in this league, it's huge," said coach Chip Kelly, whose team has a staggering plus-13 turnover differential in its seven wins.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians spoke a few yards away from Kelly and delivered an identical message, except his came with the bitterness of having watched a four-game winning streak snapped.

"You can't turn the football over, and we lost this football game with self-inflicted wounds," Arians said.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles continued his efficient play, finishing 21 of 34 for 237 yards and three touchdowns. His most impressive statistic was zero turnovers, which remained that way because a penalty nullified a fourth-quarter interception. Foles now has 19 touchdowns this season without an interception, the best start to a season by any quarterback other than Peyton Manning.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns, but his afternoon was marred by two interceptions and a fumble. Those turnovers were the difference between the two quarterbacks.

"The Oregon teams that I faced in college prided themselves on not turning the ball over much. I knew when [Kelly] came in here, that would be something that he would really stress," Foles said. "If it's not there, it's not bad to throw it away and live to play another down. That's something that you just have to keep ingraining in yourself."

Arizona's stout rushing defense held running back LeSean McCoy to a total of 79 yards on 19 carries, but the Cardinals actually had the inferior defense Sunday.

The Eagles defense allowed three touchdowns in a game for the first time since Oct. 6, but their five sacks tied a season high and their three turnovers marked their seventh multiple-turnover game this season.

"I think the players are making plays; it's always players over scheme," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.

"The D-line is getting all over the quarterback, making it very difficult for him to set his feet and throw like he wants, which makes the ball a little more inaccurate. And then rerouting at the line, so the timing and the rhythm of the offense, we're disrupting that."

The first turnover came on the game's opening drive, when Trent Cole jarred the ball loose while sacking Palmer. Cole had his second-consecutive two-sack performance Sunday.

The Eagles responded by throwing to the tight ends on four consecutive plays, including a 6-yard touchdown to Zach Ertz. The Cardinals have struggled against tight ends this season, and the Eagles took advantage. Ertz led the team with five catches for 65 yards and two scores. Tight end Brent Celek caught the Eagles' other touchdown.

"Going in, we knew we were going to get our number called a little more than usual," Ertz said. "We needed to take some pressure over [DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper]. Every team focuses on them, and we needed to step up this game."

Nate Allen's first-quarter interception was his first since 2011. It did not result in points, and Arizona tied the game in the second quarter with Larry Fitzgerald's 10th score against the Eagles in five career games.

The Eagles built a 24-7 lead with touchdowns by Celek and Ertz before the scoring stalled in the third quarter.

The Eagles have not scored a fourth-quarter touchdown during their four-game winning streak. Jackson had a punt return for a touchdown called back because of a holding penalty early in the fourth.

Two Arizona touchdowns in the second half sandwiched an Eagles interception, and the Eagles struggled to run out the clock. They were fortunate when an Arizona holding penalty reversed an apparent interception thrown by Foles.

Arizona's potential game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter finished with an incompletion. The Cardinals sideline wanted a penalty on cornerback Bradley Fletcher. They were similarly irate when a flag was thrown for a defensive holding on a third-down play on the ensuing drive that effectively ended the game.

"Refereeing did not determine us losing the football game," Arians said. "We didn't make enough plays."

The Eagles did. It was enough to extend a winning streak that stretches more than one month - and will be tested when the 7-5 Detroit Lions visit next week.

"You're playing meaningful games in December," Kelly said. "It's one down, one to go, and that's our philosophy."


BY THE NUMBERS

Eagles' record this season based on turnover margin:

6-1

When they win the turnover battle. On Sunday, Arizona committed three turnovers; the Eagles none.

1-1

When even in turnovers.

0-3

When they lose the turnover battle.


Defense delivers and stands as Cards fold

EAGLES 24 | CARDINALS 21
zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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