NFC East: james sanders

Wrap up: Cardinals 27, Eagles 6

September, 23, 2012

A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' first loss of the season, 27-6, Sunday in Arizona to the still-undefeated Cardinals:

What it means: Well, the Eagles won't be going undefeated, is what it means. After winning each of their first two games by the thinnest of possible margins, the Eagles got too far behind Sunday on the road against a very good Arizona defense and could not come back this time. The good news is that their number of turnovers fell by one again. After turning it over five times in the season opener and four times last week, they turned it over just three times Sunday. So if this holds up, they won't have any turnovers at all in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions.

The turning point: With six seconds left in the first half, the Eagles trailed 17-0 and had the ball on the Cardinals' one-yard line with third down and goal to go. At the very worst, it appeared, they were set to go into the second half down 17-3, and they were surely thinking about 17-7. But safety Kerry Rhodes came unblocked around the edge and Michael Vick never saw him. The hit forced the ball out of Vick's hands and onto the ground, where James Sanders picked it up and ran all the way back the other way for a touchdown. The Eagles went into the half down 24-0 and could not put anything together in the second half against that ferocious Arizona front.

Kolb's Revenge: Former Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, who lost his job to Vick in 2010 and was traded to Arizona before the 2011 season, had to start the game due to an injury to Arizona's starting quarterback, John Skelton. Kolb was 17-of-24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns against his former team, leaning hard on top wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who caught nine of the passes for 114 yards. Kolb is more game-manager than anything else in Arizona's conservative game plan, but it must have felt good to light it up a bit in the first half against the team that traded him.

Control: The Eagles actually outgained the Cardinals 308 yards to 292. But Arizona held the ball for 34:33 to win the time-of-possession battle, and of course by turning the ball over you make it easier on your opponent. As already mentioned here, the most crucial touchdown of the game didn't require the Arizona offense to gain even a single yard.

What's next: The 2-1 Eagles host the 2-1 New York Giants next Sunday night in one of the key early games in the NFC East race. The Eagles have won seven of their last eight games against the Giants going back to 2008, but lost last year's game in Philadelphia 29-16.

Halftime thoughts: Giants muscle up

January, 8, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Well, Saints-Lions this one ain't. The New York Giants lead the Atlanta Falcons 7-2 at halftime of their wild-card round playoff game here at MetLife Stadium, and they do so because they were able to crack the Falcons' defense once and the Falcons haven't been able to crack theirs at all.

It's been a defensive struggle both ways, as the Giants' defensive front has dominated the Falcons' offensive line the way it knows it needs to and the Falcons' defensive front has returned the favor against a shaky-looking Giants pass protection unit. The first points of the game were a Falcons safety when Giants quarterback Eli Manning was called for intentional grounding in the end zone while under pressure, and neither offense was able to score until Manning found Hakeem Nicks in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 2:47 left before halftime.

The reason the Giants were able to get those points is that they found something in the run game. Manning escaped trouble and ran for 14 yards earlier in the drive (remarkable, considering he only ran for 15, total, in the regular season). And running back Brandon Jacobs' 34-yard run was the biggest play of the first half. Jacobs also converted a big fourth down just before the touchdown pass with a spin move after being stuffed behind the line.

The Giants ranked 32nd in the NFL this year with 89.2 rush yards per game. But they have 75 already in this game, and if they can keep having success on the ground, they have to like their chances.

The Falcons will get the ball back to start the second half, but as of now there's little proof that that will help them. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been pressured from the sides and especially up the middle, with Giants defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard having delivered big hits already. He hasn't had time to look downfield and find his big-time receivers for big plays, which means the Giants are executing their defensive game plan exactly the way they want to. The Giants have more work to do, but to this point things have gone about as well as they could have wanted them to go. They have weathered the early assault from the Atlanta front and found a way to overcome it.

Two injury situations to watch: Atlanta safety William Moore and Giants safety Deon Grant both have left the game. James Sanders has stepped in for Moore, and there seems to be little drop-off there. But if rookie Tyler Sash has to play the rest of the game in Grant's place, the Giants' secondary could be very vulnerable. If, that is, Ryan gets enough time to take advantage of it.