NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

Revisiting Cardinals' pivotal play vs. Eagles

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
9:37
PM ET
The Arizona Cardinals held a 17-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles with six seconds before halftime Sunday. What happened next sent Arizona on its way to a 27-6 victory and the Cardinals' first 3-0 start since 1974:

    [+] EnlargeJames Sanders
    AP Photo/Paul ConnorsJames Sanders (39) returned a Michael Vick fumble for a touchdown just before halftime.
  • The Eagles went with three wide receivers, two to the left side of the formation. Tight end Brent Celek lined up to the right side, on the line. LeSean McCoy was alone in the backfield behind quarterback Michael Vick.
  • Quentin Groves, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell had a hand on the ground as defensive linemen for Arizona. Safety James Sanders, subbing for Adrian Wilson, stood up over Celek. Sam Acho and Kerry Rhodes stood at the line near the left offensive tackle.
  • Vick took the snap and looked to his right, away from Acho and Rhodes. McCoy went to the strong side in pass protection even though Arizona had a numbers advantage on the weak side. The left guard and center blocked Campbell. The left tackle blocked Acho. That left Rhodes with a free path to Vick, who was looking the other way.
  • Sanders engaged Celek initially. Vick apparently wanted to find DeSean Jackson in the end zone, but Patrick Peterson and linebacker Daryl Washington had tight coverage. Vick seemed to hold the ball too long, but the on-screen clock showed five seconds remaining when Rhodes first made contact with the quarterback.
  • Sanders could see what was happening. Celek could not; his back was to Vick. Sanders shed Celek, scooped up the ball and raced up the left sideline. The Eagles would have tackled him had Washington not hustled down to block McCoy.
  • Acho was also part of the escort. He noticed receiver Damaris Johnson closing from the outside. Acho accelerated and reached his right arm forward in an effort to grab Johnson's left arm. This was at the 25-yard line. The game clock had expired. Sanders was at the 18. Acho quickly disengaged and held up his hands as if to show he hadn't done anything wrong, but he did appear to make contact with Johnson. Was it a hold? That would have been a controversial call. The chase continued. Johnson tripped at about the 12. He and Acho might have had their feet tangle inadvertently.
  • Larry Fitzgerald had picked up the chase along the sideline at this point. He was running along the sideline, helmet in hand, and actually beat Acho to Sanders in the end zone. Fitzgerald leaped and wrapped his right arm around Sanders' head.

That sequence turned a potential 17-7 halftime lead into a 24-0 blowout. I'll be interested in seeing where it ranks among impact plays for the week, as determined by the change in win probability for each team.

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