ReFo: Cardinals @ Eagles, Week 13
After the Cowboys victory on Thanksgiving the Eagles were in desperate need of a win to keep pace in the NFC East. Going up against one of the best defenses in football, Nick Foles kept his perfect touchdown-to-interception ratio (albeit luckily) and the defense did just enough at the end to come away with a 24-21 victory. In the end the Cardinals downfall was their offensive line. With a combined grade of -10.6, they gave Palmer little time and less chance to succeed.
With the win the Eagles sit tied atop their division with a week 17 matchup with the Cowboys looming large on the horizon. Next week they stay home and face the NFC North leading Lions. It should be quite the offensive battle with both teams averaging 25+ points per game and 400+ yards per game.
The loss drops the Cardinals to 7-5 and now a game back of the last wild card spot with the 49ers victory over the Rams. The Cardinals travel back home to face St. Louis in week 14 in a must win divisional game.
Arizona — Three Performances of Note
Another day, another red grade. Bradley Sowell just is not an NFL tackle at the moment. He provided little hindrance to Trent Cole’s monstrous day. Two sacks, a hit, and three hurries led to a -4.6 grade for the second year tackle. It became a nightmare though for the Cardinals when Sowell’s play rubbed off on Daryn Colledge. The left guard allowed a sack, two hits, and a hurry en route to a -3.7 grade. Multiple times the duo on the left side allowed pressure to seep between them on a slide protection. After his poor performance, Sowell is now dead last among tackles in pass blocking efficiency at 89.4.
There may be no more versatile cornerback in the league right now than the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson(+3.8) and he certainly showed that on Sunday. The third year cornerback shadowed DeSean Jackson, allowing one catch for 25 yards on four targets and had two passes defended. That one catch came on a play with 2:22 left in the 2nd quarter where Peterson was in good position, but Nick Foles made a perfect throw to Jackson’s back shoulder to beat the coverage. The fact that Peterson can match up against a physical receiver like Andre Johnson one week and then a speedster like Jackson just weeks later and come away successful against both is astonishing. Jackson came into the game averaging 90 yards per game and over 100 in his last three games and Peterson held him to his third lowest receiving total of the season.
Jump Ball King
Sunday was about as classic a Carson Palmer performance as you’ll see. All the problems that have plagued him throughout his career were present, but he was still able to make enough plays to put up big yards and give his team a chance in the end. His biggest problem on Sunday was forcing throws. The veteran quarterback just wasn’t throwing to open receivers the majority of the time. Of his 17 misses, one was thrown away, one was hit as thrown, two were dropped, one was thrown behind a receiver, and twelve were forced into close coverage. Forcing over a quarter of your passes is just an unsustainable rate. This was especially apparent on his deep balls. Palmer went two of eight on passes targeted over 20 yards downfield with two interceptions and a grade of -4.3. The touchdown pass was the only one of those attempts that could be described as open. All the others were prayers and unsurprisingly the Eagles caught just as many as the Cardinals.
Philadelphia — Three Performances of Note
In the 5+ years PFF has been grading Trent Cole, we’ve never once given him a pass rushing grade as high as his +7.9 against the Cardinals. Now there is the disclaimer that he was going up against our worst graded left tackle this season, but beating any NFL player the way he did is impressive. He had two sacks, a hit, five hurries, and a forced fumble on just 29 pass rushing snaps. The most impressive part of his performance to me though was the one snap he spent at defensive tackle. Lined up over right guard Paul Fanaika, Cole was behind him running free at Carson Palmer within 1.5 seconds. After Sunday Cole is now our fourth ranked 3-4 outside linebacker.
Cary Williams hasn’t made many fans in Philadelphia with his play this season, but if he can keep playing like he did Sunday I’m sure they’ll start to come around. The sixth year cornerback had just three positively graded games coming into week 13 and was in the top 10 for yards allowed among cornerbacks. Against Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald though he looked like a different player. Williams allowed five catches on eight targets for 38 yards, intercepted a pass, and had another pass defended for an overall grade of +3.3. On his five completions, only two went for first downs. It was the type of performance that makes you wonder how he graded at -1.0 or below in seven of his last eight games.
Zach Ertz finally showed why the Eagles drafted him with the 35th overall pick last April despite having Brent Celek already penciled in as the starter. The rookie played his normal allotment of snaps(37 out of 77) on Sunday, but he made the most of them like no other game this season. Five catches on six targets for 68 yards and two touchdowns. In the first quarter he beat DROY candidate Tyrann Mathieu in the corner of the end zone for the Eagles’ first touchdown and then later he burned Rashad Johnson on a beautifully run corner-post route for a touchdown early in the third quarter. The Stanford product’s +3.1 grade is by far his highest of the season and he now has more yards than Celek (342 vs. 319) despite running 97 fewer routes.
– Nick Foles continues to struggle with pressure. On 15 pressured dropbacks he went four of ten for 41 yards(52.5 QB rating) and took five sacks.
– Daryl Washington was all over the field with eight stops and three pressures, but his two missed tackles and poor coverage led to an overall grade of -0.8.
– The Eagles’ backup pass rushers were dominant. Vinny Curry(+3.9) picked up five pressures in 20 rushes while Brandon Graham(+2.4) picked up three pressures in six pass rushes.
PFF Game Ball
Trent Cole set the tone early with his strip sack and never took his foot off the gas pedal. It was the type of dominant performance we haven’t seen from him since 2011 and well deserving of the game ball.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner