Philadelphia Eagles bathe in optimism, trounce Arizona Cardinals


The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 4-1 on the season after a big Week 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Four days before the Philadelphia Eagles met the Arizona Cardinals in their second home game of the season, the city was abuzz about the recognition the nation’s sports gurus were starting to give our local warriors. WIP mid-day hosts Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie giddily reported that both and had the Eagles third in their power rankings, and then happily debated whether the team could beat the New England Patriots “right now.”

Callers added their views; one designated the perennial Super Bowl contenders the “Belicheats.” DeCamara and Ritchie fairly giggled. Some Nervous Nellie cautioned that it was still early, and the power rankings reflected that. In fact, both lists had the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 1, but one had the Detroit Lions at No. 2 (with the Green Bay Packers No. 5), and the other Green Bay No. 2 (with Detroit No. 6).

Philadelphia’s well-known optimism continued Thursday, however, when the Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch sang a song of Carson Wentz’ improved passing on third downs and in the red zone. He was sixth in the league on third downs with a 107.2 rating and already had five red zone touchdowns.

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The tone of a Zach Berman piece suggested that journeyman-turned-slot corner Patrick Robinson would be able to handle the Cards’ future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.

Friday the four principal football writers unanimously picked the Eagles to defeat the Desert Redbirds by an average of six points, and Boomer Esaison was discovered to have Philly second in his “CBS Sports Minute” rankings. The print Inquirer sounded a quarter-note of caution about Alshon Jeffery not quite impressing on “jump balls” (Jeffery’s doing fine), but in general, everything Eagles was coming up roses.

On Saturday the most negative, credible comment I could find was Les Bowen’s observation that the Eagles might have to make do with LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement as their only running backs against the Cardinals, due to injuries. The print Inquirer headline for his piece used the phrase “thin backfield,” which seemed a stretch, especially considering the battering ram job Blount did on San Diego: 16 carries for 136 yards.

Oh, and the weather forecast for Sunday, for Arizona’s first outdoor game this season, was for rain.

Then there was a game

So, in a slightly annoying drizzle, the Eagles shot out of the starting blocks. Wentz pulled the Arizona defense offsides with a hard count on 3rd-and-5 of the Eagles’ first possession. Blount ran for six yards on his first carry, and by the time the dust settled after about a quarter, the home team had converted two 3rd-and-11 plays in a row, and Wentz had thrown for three touchdowns, one each to Trey Burton, Zach Ertz, and Torrey Smith, the last a 59-yard slant pass and run in front of the Cards’ Justin Bethel.

In the second quarter, the Eagles “stalled” a bit, narrowly missing 3rd-and-long conversions on a 15-yard run by Kenjon Barner when 17 were needed and a five-yard run by Wentz when ten were needed. Temple’s Haason Reddick made an ankle tackle when the field was otherwise open for the quarterback to the first down marker.

Arizona managed a touchdown pass and a field goal attempt that was blocked by Robinson as the first half ran out. Philly led, 21-7.

Would the balloon pop?

Early in the third quarter, Wentz pulled a play out of the Donovan McNabb playbook and threw a ball at the feet of a wide-open Zach Ertz. Jake Elliott had to kick a 36-yard field goal. Oh, brother, we’d seen this before. But…

Fitzgerald caught a second ball. For a loss.

Fox announcers Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston then bantered back and forth on the theme of the Eagles as “Bully of the East,” neglecting their earlier, more effective internal rhyme – “Beast of the East.”

The Beast then produced a 72-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Nelson Agholor, who juked his way past defender Budda Baker near the goal line. Arizona appeared doomed. At that point, Wentz had booked 269 yards passing and four TDs.

Then Blount broke a run for 37 yards.

With a bit over four minutes left, Johnston declared that Philly had “dismantled” a “good” Arizona offense. At game’s end Wentz had hit eight different receivers; Blount and Barner had combined for 97 yards on 19 carries.

Related Story: Agholor has finally arrived for Eagles

The aggressive defensive standouts, Robinson, Nigel Bradham, and Brandon Graham should not go without sufficient mention, either. And at the very end (excluding Wentz kneel-downs), Rodney McLeod separated the Cards’ J.J. Nelson from an apparent touchdown catch at the goal line, creating a touchback. The final score became 34-7.

The optimism bathing the Philadelphia Eagles drained not a bit.