GLENDALE, Ariz. – If the Eagles had any chance to erase what to that point had been a terrible first half, it came on their final drive of the second quarter, one that featured, for the first time all game, crisp execution by the offense.
There was Michael Vick completing a 26-yard pass to Damaris Johnson on a crossing route. There was a 13-yard completion to Jason Avant. There was Vick gashing the Cardinals defense with a 20-yard run deep into Arizona territory. There was a Vick completion to DeSean Jackson that set the offense up with a first-and-goal situation from the 2-yard line with 16 seconds remaining in the half.
Trailing by 17 points, the Eagles needed to get something on the board.
Instead, the final three plays turned into a football disaster.
Two incomplete passes, both of which were hurried attempts from Vick set up a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 6 seconds remaining on the clock. Vick took the snap from center Dallas Reynolds and was blindsided by safety Kerry Rhodes. Vick coughed up the football and it bounced right into the hands of safety James Sanders, who went 93 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown as Arizona took a 24-0 lead into the half.
"I wasn't sure what happened. I knew there was something going on in the backfield, which usually is not a good thing, and I looked up and the guy was running the other way with the ball," said right guard Danny Watkins after the 27-6 loss "We were right there, ready to score."
Said left guard Evan Mathis: "If we score there, yeah, we feel like we're in the game. We always feel like we're in the game. But a score there gives us some momentum."
Instead, it was an epic mistake and poor handling of the final minute of a half. The Eagles could have used the timeout they burned prior to the first play of the second quarter, but there is no sense in looking back. The Eagles bungled a very workable situation.
Running back LeSean McCoy accepted responsibility for Rhodes coming free on the blitz, but the truth is that it was on the entire team. Head coach Andy Reid said as much after the defeat.
"Everybody takes a little bit on that one," said Reid.
Vick never had a chance on any of his three passing attempts. A blitz from the left side of the offense forced a throw out of the back of the end zone on first down. Heavy pressure up the middle force Vick to throw away another attempt on the right side for Jackson on second down.
Then came the fateful third down and the snuffing out of a late-half rally.
"We kept fighting and battling, but that was a big swing," said Mathis. "You're talking about a 14-point swing. That's tough to overcome. We didn't execute there when we were ready to score. In those situations, you have to be able to convert and we didn't do it."