With star cornerback Asante Samuel out with a neck injury, Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals' high-octane offense came into Thursday night's Thanksgiving tilt against the Eagles licking their chops.
After their first two offensive series ended in interceptions, the Cardinals were left licking their wounds.
Joselio Hanson corralled his first career pick, Quintin Mikell added another and Brian Dawkins added one late in the fourth quarter to help Philadelphia to a 48-20 win over Arizona at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dawkins' interception was the 34th of his career, which tied Eric Allen and Bill Bradley for the Eagles' all-time lead.
"We just found our chemistry today," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "It worked, it clicked. That's what we have been expecting all year and it didn't happen. It happened tonight. We just have to build off it." Photo Gallery : ARI vs. PHI 11-27-08
As a matter of fact, head coach Andy Reid credited Brown with getting the cornerbacks ready for Arizona's stable of pass catchers. The Cardinals came into the contest as the only team in the NFL to boast two top-10 receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
"Sheldon really got those guys going," Reid said. "He was firing everyone up out there. Asante was down and Asante is a pretty good football player. We were playing against two of the best receivers in the National Football League and I thought Sheldon did a nice job of rallying the troops and letting his veteran leadership show."
After the Eagles took the opening possession and drove 70 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 lead, Warner converted a big third down to give the Cardinals a first-and-10 at their own 46-yard line. Two plays later, linebacker Stewart Bradley tipped a Warner pass and Hanson made an acrobatic interception before returning it 13 yards down to the Arizona 41-yard line.
Hanson said that he found out on Tuesday he would be the starting left cornerback instead of Lito Sheppard. Reid said not to read too much into that, though, because it had more to do with the Cardinals and their three-receiver sets than with anything else.
Still, Hanson seemed to set the tone with that first interception.
"We proved that we're fighters," Hanson said. "We keep fighting until the end. That's all that matters. We have to keep pushing through. We still have a chance to make the playoffs. It was a tough job, but I went out there and just tried to hold my own and tried to play them tough. It felt great to make some plays on them."
After four straight Brian Westbrook running plays, the Eagles converted that Hanson turnover into a touchdown. The defense credited the offense and their time of possession as one of the keys to the defense's success.
"We can be more aggressive. We can take some chances, jump some routes and make quarterbacks throw off their back foot," Brown said. "It's huge when the offense does jump out for us.
"It forces (the opponent) to play catch up and it forces them to move the ball by throwing the ball. So, believe it or not, offense is defense too."
Suddenly trailing by two touchdowns, the Cardinals took to the air in hopes of gaining back some ground quickly.
Instead, they made matters worse.
On third-and-6 from their own 39, Warner looked deep over the middle but overthrew his intended receiver. The ball sailed right to Mikell, who returned it 12 yards to the Cardinals' 44-yard line.
The message had been sent. Warner was not just going to waltz into Lincoln Financial Field and torch the Eagles' secondary.
"I feel we have a good team," Brown said. "I've always felt that way. Make no mistake about it; we just haven't been playing well consistently. Today, we did and you saw what happened when we did do it."
In all, the Eagles' pass defense, which was helped by a bunch of quarterback hurries, held Arizona to just 90 total yards of offense in the first half.
In the second half, the Cardinals all but abandoned their running game. Arizona ran the ball just one time for one yard through the third and fourth quarters before the game got out of reach.
Arizona's second running play in the second half came with 5:10 left in regulation with the Eagles ahead by 28 points.
"I thought they played very well," Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "They had a good plan and they played well. We knew that this team had their backs against the wall, and that they were going to play that way. Give them credit. They played very well."