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Spadaro: Eagles improve to 5-0 with physical, game-winning drive

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

GLENDALE, AZ – The Eagles opened Sunday's game at Arizona with the same kind of rev-it-up offense that highlighted the team's opening four victories and it looked for a minute like it might be that kind of game for Philadelphia. On the first drive, the Eagles went 64 yards on 11 plays and scored on a Jalen Hurts quarterback sneak. On the third possession, the offense started at its 13-yard line and marched 16 plays in 7:20, again scoring on a Hurts sneak.

Twenty minutes into the game, the Eagles led by 14 points, the offense looked like it could do what it wanted to do and the defense, with a C.J. Gardner-Johnson interception already registered, appeared to have quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals' offense already figured out to the delight of a huge Eagles crowd at State Farm Stadium.

It didn't last.

And all of a sudden, the Eagles found themselves in a tie game in the fourth quarter with 9:43 to go and it was time to see how a football team that had faced little fourth-quarter adversity in 2022 would react. They went to the ground. They played smash-mouth football, and it led the Eagles to a 20-17 win, a nail-biter to the moment that Arizona backup kicker Matt Ammendola pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right with 22 seconds remaining in the game.

Philadelphia is now 5-0, with the 4-1 Cowboys visiting Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night in an NFC East showdown.

"We knew that it was going to be a physical game," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "We knew we had a really physical team. We knew our identity is to be physical. And when we need to the most, we were."

With the ball and the chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, the Eagles ran the ball right down Arizona's throat.

From the 25-yard line, running back Miles Sanders carried for 8 yards, and then for 3 more to gain a first down. Quarterback Jalen Hurts gained 9 yards and Kenneth Gainwell followed with punishing gains of 11, 6, and 3 yards to set up a third-and-1 play from the Arizona 35-yard line. Hurts picked up a yard on a quarterback sneak for a first down and after Sanders was stopped for no gain, Hurts stood tall against zero-blitz pressure from Arizona – the Cardinals came after the Eagles at the line of scrimmage all day – and delivered a strike to tight end Dallas Goedert in the middle of the field for 16 yards to the Cardinals' 20-yard line.

Three more runs – gains of 7 for Sanders, 2 for Hurts on the edge, and a first-down pickup on third down on another Hurts sneak – brought the Eagles to the two-minute warning and the Arizona 10-yard line.

First down. Goal to goal. A game of time – the Cardinals had three timeouts remaining – and strategy, a late-game moment from which the Eagles will no doubt savor. From the shotgun, Hurts handed to Sanders for a 3-yard gain up the middle to the 5-yard line. Cardinals timeout, their second. Time remaining, 1:52. Third-and-goal from the 5. Hurts took the snap and rolled right against Arizona pressure and threw for wide receiver Quez Watkins at the goal line. Two Arizona defenders converged on Watkins to force the incomplete pass and with 1:48 to go, placekicker Cameron Dicker – in his first NFL game – booted a 23–yard field goal to cap the 17-play, 70-yard drive that ate up 7:58 of the clock.

A key to that final Hurts pass was that Arizona was charged with its third and final timeout with two defenders on the field with injuries, so when the Cardinals had possession of the ball again, they had zero timeouts remaining and 1:45 to go.

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray went right down the field, though, passing for 31 yards and running once for 15 yards to open the drive and then sprinting 9 yards before sliding on a second-and-10 carry with 36 seconds to go on the clock. Murray, thinking he had gained 10 yards and a first down on the play, went to the line of scrimmage to spike the football to kill the clock. But he was wrong. The spike, on third-and-short instead of first down, as Murray thought, brought Arizona to a fourth-and-1 situation, and the call was to bring on Ammendola for a game-tying field goal attempt.

His kick sailed way, way wide, and the Eagles won for the first time in Arizona since the 2001 season.

Whew …

"It's a great win," said Goedert, who had eight receptions for 95 yards on nine targets. "A win is a win and you can do it in a lot of ways. Today, we had that last drive and we were physical and just ran the ball, got some good looks, and then moved it down the field and left it for our kicker. 'Dicker the Kicker.' He got it done."

So did the defense, with some help from Murray, who made the mental mistake of thinking he had gained a first down on his second-and-10 run.

"We wanted him to stay in the pocket and beat us throwing the football. Limit his running. Don't give up big plays, and that's what we did," said safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had a first-half interception against Murray. "At the end there, it was situational football. We're always practicing that. Coach is big on situational football and that's what he's talking about. That's what we're practicing those situations for.

"It worked out for us. We need to clean up some things, but that's the way it always is. The bottom line, we won the game and that's all that matters."

It was the team's first win in Arizona since 2001 – five games, including playoffs – something not lost on center Jason Kelce.

"Yeah, kind of crazy. They've generally had a good team and they're tough to beat here," said Kelce, who exited the game in the first half due to injury but returned after halftime. "We had a lot of our fans here and it was great, but it's just tough coming across country and winning. That last drive, we just said, 'We're going to be physical and find a way to run the ball and we did it. Jalen had the big completion to Dallas and that was huge, so it all worked out.

"You win in a lot of ways in this league. Today, we won in the fourth quarter and that's going to be good for us."

Good, for sure. The Eagles are 5-0 in the heavyweight NFL division with 4-1 Dallas coming to town for a Sunday night showdown.

"There are always tough games in this league. Every one of them," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "Today, we found a way to win. We'll take it every time that way."

The Eagles extended their win streak to open the season with a 20-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. It was the team's first win at State Farm Stadium.

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