By Joseph Santoliquito
Phoenix, AZ (CBS) — No one bothered looking up at the scoreboard. They all seemed oblivious. The Eagles were drubbed into such a dazed stupor on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals that the whole offense began walking off the field at one point in the second quarter getting ready to punt.
On third down.
During one juncture, the Eagles were out-gained alone by Cardinals’ superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald with 105 yards receiving to the Eagles’ 65 yards of total offense.
The turnovers—and a depleted offensive front—were bound to catch up to the Eagles and it did against the Cardinals on Sunday, resulting in the Birds losing their first game this season in a forgettable, rancid 27-6 thumping at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cardinals appear to be legitimate, the early surprise in the NFL surging out to a 3-0 start, the first time they began 3-0 since 1974. The Eagles fell to 2-1 and have some concerns with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants up next.
Against Arizona, the Eagles appeared flat from the outset. It didn’t help that they turned the ball over three times (for a season total of 12 after three games), playing behind a revamped offensive line that could ill afford making any errors.
“It’s absolutely on me, I have to get my football team ready to play, I did a terrible job this week,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said afterward. “They got us on a few blitzes. They got us a few times and it was a combination of things. I can’t tell you it was absolutely one thing. Every snap, there was a new experience. We came out here and we didn’t play well. That’s my responsibility. We have to go back and detail our work better than what we did and I have to make sure we have to do that.”
Michael Vick ran for his life the entire game. He was sacked five times in getting pounded by the overpowering Arizona defense, especially by linebacker Daryl Washington who was all over the field. After each hit, Vick got up slower and slower. Vick completed 17 of 37 for 217 yards, for a game that was essentially over by halftime.
“[Vick] got hit too much and I could help out there,” Reid said. “Some of that is my responsibility there.”
Vick feels he can withstand the kind of punishment he endured against the Cardinals.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Vick said. “Just keep fighting and try to help my teammates as much as I can. Hopefully, we can get it together, but the thing about this team is that it’s a very resilient group of guys. We stick together. We know that next week can be the absolute opposite of what happened today.”
Kevin Kolb, meanwhile, took great delight in ripping his former team. Kolb, who had a reputation for being skittish, was 17 of 24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns. He was firmly in control, frequently escaping the Eagles’ pass rush and finding Fitzgerald nine times for 114 yards.
Then with the game in hand, the Cardinals’ ground game led to their final score.
Two Eagles turnovers led to 14 Arizona points. With less than five minutes left in the first quarter, a Damaris Johnson fumble on a punt return translated into a Kolb eight-yard touchdown strike to Michael Floyd on a third-and-five play.
The impromptu ending came early, delivered painfully when Kerry Rhodes blindsided Vick on a corner blitz jarring free the ball, which was picked up by James Sanders in stride and returned for a 93-yard touchdown.
That was it.
“There were people responsible for that, but we all take responsibility for that,” Reid said. “We thought we could throw the ball and do a better job in that area. I thought our guys battled in the second half. We just dug ourselves a hole.”
The 14-point swing typified a game in which the Cardinals seemed far more charged up than the Eagles were, treating this early-season showdown between two undefeated teams like a playoff game.
On Arizona’s opening series, Kolb directed a 7-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a Jay Feely 47-yard field goal. The Johnson fumble and Floyd touchdown gave the Cardinals a 10-0 advantage. With 7:30 left in the half, Kolb’s 37-yard connection to Fitzgerald, roaming free with the luxury of Eagles’ single coverage, gave Arizona a 17-0 lead.
Inside of a minute in the half, the Eagles mounted a bid to climb back into contention. Vick had some to time to string together a few completions, and it appeared the Eagles would get on board when Vick hit DeSean Jackson for a 14-yard reception to the Arizona one-yard line.
Jackson was either not aware of where he was on the field or he curled up as if anticipating a shot, putting his head down. That split-second lapse gave Rhodes time to wrap him up just short of the goal line preventing a touchdown.
Vick followed with a pair of incompletions intended for Jackson. On a third-and-goal, with :06 left in the half, Vick, who didn’t seem to look left, dropped back and Rhodes came looping around the left end untouched.
Vick had no idea what hit him. Rhodes slammed into Vick’s back with such impact the ball went flying loose. There was Sanders to scoop it up and take it down the sideline with token resistance from the Eagles.
“It was a situation where I should have been looking to get the ball out of my hands if things weren’t there,” Vick said. “I tried to hold on to it and make a play and just took a hit. I knew [Rhodes] was coming, and I was just hoping the back would pick him up but I was still trying to make a play. That’s my responsibility.”
Washington terrorized Vick, most of the time pushing his way through the middle for five tackles and two sacks.
A pair of third-quarter Alex Henery field goals were the only points the Eagles could muster.
Offensive Quick Hits … Rookie WR Damaris Johnson led the team with five receptions and 84 yards … Over his last 14 games, TE Brent Celek has accumulated 67 receptions for 996 yards and five touchdowns … RB LeSean McCoy moved past Randall Cunningham and into 19th on the team’s all-time scrimmage yards list with 4,524. He and Ricky Watters are the only players on the list with fewer than 50 games played … QB Michael Vick has 7,912 passing yards with the Eagles, moving past Roman Gabriel and into ninth on the franchise’s all-time list … The Eagles offense has accounted for 1,250 net yards through the first three games of the season which is the fourth-highest total through three games in team history.
Defensive Nuggets … The Eagles defense has not allowed a touchdown in the second half of a game yet this season, and have held opponents to 2-7 in the red zone … The Eagles sacked Kevin Kolb three times, including 1.5 from DE Jason Babin, who now has 21.5 as an Eagle, supplanting Darren Howard for 17th on the team’s all-time list … DEs Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp also contributed a half sack each. Cole now has 69.5 in his career … The Eagles have held all three opponents to 17 or fewer first downs.
Birdseed … P Chas Henry tied a career long with a 62-yard punt. He now has three 60-plus yard punts this season.