As we sit on this flight back to Philly for one final two-day trip of the season, it jogs the memory of the last trip to Philly – which was only one day. That’s because the game was at night. A Thursday night to be exact, Thanksgiving night, when the Cards were knocked around pretty good, 48-20, and everyone wondered just what the Cardinals were going to be able to do in the playoffs a month later.
It was 2008 of course, and while the Cards had trouble keeping it on the road in that stretch run, we all know what they did in the playoffs. And that was the last time the Cardinals played the Eagles as well, hosting them in the NFC Championship game when Tim Hightower worked the perfect screen pass for the go-ahead touchdown. Funny thing was, even though the Eagles dominated the Cards every which way in that regular-season game, I always thought the Cards would win the playoff game.
It was that kind of season.
This season is different. Both the Eagles and Cards are struggling. The best subplot of this game – Kevin Kolb’s return – probably won’t happen. Kolb is officially questionable, but he hasn’t practiced at all since the Friday before the Ravens game. Besides, with all the problems he has had on the field, I don’t know if you would want to put him in this maelstrom of drama if he wasn’t totally healthy.
Instead, the Cards are trying for an upset. No one seems to think the Cards have a chance, although if they do win, even with all their troubles, they’d have the same record as the Eagles. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago?
— No Kolb would leave John Skelton of course, and while he has gone 3-0 in his home starts, his two road starts were not so good last season. He struggled mightily against both the Panthers – who were so bad they had the No. 1 overall pick, even after beating the Cards – and the 49ers.
— Before we even get to Sunday, Cardinals play-by-play man Dave Pasch has a huge assignment – he has to call the Penn State-Nebraska game for ESPN. Pasch knew his assignment last Sunday, just when the Penn State scandal was beginning to come to light.
“It’s just being prepared for anything,” Pasch told the New York Daily News. “Who knows what’s going to happen from now until Saturday, let alone from kickoff until the end of the game?”
A big job, but Pasch is so good he’ll pull it off. One subplot is already off the table – Urban Meyer, normally the third man in the booth with Pasch and Chris Spielman, won’t be there after his father passed away this morning.
— How will the Cards defend Michael Vick? Someone actually asked defensive coordinator Ray Horton if he would change personnel just for Vick, a query that brought a chuckle from Horton. He wasn’t about to reveal state secrets. Besides, containing Vick isn’t easy regardless.
“You can spy him, you can account for him, but he is going to get out because he is so elusive and, unless you have played this guy … you see it on film and you think, ‘I can get there,’ ” Horton said. “And you don’t.”
— Cornerback Michael Adams, who was close with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, said DRC was hurt that the Cards traded him away. DRC seemed to echo such a sentiment talking with Philly reporters this week.
“I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder since the Cardinals were the team that decided to trade me,” DRC said. But, he added, “I’m going to go out there and give it my all, like I do every week. I’m trying to treat this game like any other; I’m not going to let it affect my play. It’ll be nice to see some of my old teammates and friends, but at the end of the day it’s business.”
— If the Cardinals can keep it close, the Eagles can be had late – Philly has been outscored 60-24 in the fourth quarter.
— Of course, that only matters if the Cards keep it close. The first quarter is Arizona’s Achilles heel, getting outscored 48-23.
— A piece on FootballOutsiders.com says that Levi Brown is tied with the Rams’ Rodger Saffold for the most sacks allowed this season, with 8½. Obviously there is no true way to measure exactly what happens – the story acknowledges there are times when it is tough to tell, and there are times, for instance, when Kolb has dropped back so far he is out of the pocket. But everyone knows Brown needs to play better.
— The great under-the-radar news for the Cards: How much better running back Beanie Wells feels. Actually practicing full today means a lot, not only to Beanie but to this game. The Eagles can be run on (Matt Forte cracked 130 yards against them Monday) and it’s a crucial part of the Cards’ offense these days.
One last thing: My most memorable moment in Philly. No, it wasn’t Adrian Wilson crushing Donovan McNabb and breaking his ankle on the first series of the game, only to have McNabb play on it and throw four touchdown passes. No, this was the 2001 game, and going down on the field at Veterans’ Stadium and watching Jake Plummer hook up with MarTay Jenkins on an improbable Hail Mary-esque TD pass with 17 seconds left to beat the Eagles.
Man, I’ve never heard such a loud stadium get quiet so fast.
Tags: Dave Pasch, DRC, Eagles, Kevin Kolb, Levi Brown, Michael Vick
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