Philadelphia Eagles Success Still Steams Arians
It’s another trip to the west, and another difficult game on the schedule. But some things are finally falling the Eagles way. Injured players are getting healthy, some quickly enough to be in the discussion of whether they can play this week. A western trip is always grueling, but coming off a bye week, the sting of travel is somewhat subdued. But even a year later, you can almost feel the heat from Arizona, and it’s not the desert sun. The Philadelphia Eagles success still steams Arians, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians to be exact, and this year he means to fix that.
This is not to say that the Eagles won’t have a say in the outcome. They certainly will. The Arizona Cardinals are not lucky, they are simply very proficient. They’ve lost one game to the Denver Broncos in Denver, where nobody seems to win during the regular season. They’ve beaten the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers, both at home. They are a team that does not make mistakes, does not give up rushing yards easily, does not give up points, and has been successful no matter who lines up behind the center.
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A year ago, the Cardinals traveled east to Philadelphia, and were in hot pursuit of post-season play. Carson Palmer was the quarterback then, but the Cardinals were in a situation similar to one the Eagles find themselves in. They were winning, but Palmer was forcing passes and entered the game against the Eagles with 16 TD passes, but 15 interceptions. He threw a trio of touchdown passes on that day – one each to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and tight end Jim Dray. However, he also tossed two interceptions. Foles countered with a flawless three touchdown performance of his own, two found the waiting hands of tight end Zach Ertz, with the other to tight end Brent Celek. Nose tackle Bennie Logan also recovered a Palmer fumble.
The game was decided by three points, 24-21. The Eagles grabbed three turnovers in Lincoln Stadium to win that game. Amazingly, the margin of victory was an Alex Henery 32 yard field goal. The weeks leading up to the game was a surprising confrontation between, not players, but head coaches. Arians was considered a veteran of fundamental and “orthodox” football, while Chip Kelly was quickly gaining a reputation for pulling the NFL into the 21st century. Some folks, particularly those with deep roots in traditional football, did not embrace the idea of change. And thus the setting for the 2013 meeting was set. Add to that a virtually flawless season by newcomer quarterback Nick Foles, facing a veteran Arizona quarterback who had trouble with interceptions in Carson Palmer, and you had a showdowns of Old vs. New.
“It’s a great college offense” – Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians
This year, the butter has been applied to the Eagles fingers. Palmer enters the game with six touchdowns and one interception. Foles enters the game with ten touchdowns but seven interceptions. A year ago Cardinals running back Andre Ellington sat out the game with a knee injury, this year he is expected to start. In that game, both teams managed five sacks. While the Eagles have shown an even better ability to generate pressure on their quarterback, they have been remarkably adept at avoiding sacks against Foles.
Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
There is no love lost between Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Don’t forget that it was Arians who made the now famous quote
"“I still think it’s a great offense. It’s a great college offense when you put a great athlete back there. But when you’re facing great athletes, with the speed that’s in the NFL who are chasing these guys, unless you’re superhuman, you’re going to get hurt sooner or later-not hurt, but beat up and bruised up, and you don’t want your quarterback feeling bruised up when he’s trying to throw and be accurate.”"
When confronted with Arians thoughts, Chip Kelly gave a response that pretty much spelled it out:
"“I don’t care what other people think. It doesn’t bother me. To spend time to think about what someone else thinks is counter to everything I’ve ever believed in my life. If I believe what other people think, that means I value their opinion more than I value my own. That’s not the case. And we don’t run read-option if you want to get really technical. We run a zone-read play every once and a while. It’s just like saying our offense is a power offense because we run the power play, or the old Green Bay Packers, their offense was the Green Bay sweep offense. It isn’t. Everybody’s got a bunch of plays they run offensively. Everybody’s got a quick game. Everybody’s got screens. Everybody’s got dropback. Everybody’s got out of pocket. Everybody’s got power, counter, inside zone, outside zone. I’ve never looked at it as an offense.”"
After the loss in 2013, Arians did not let go of the loss immediately as most hoped he would. The day after, Arians had unkind things to say about the officiating. He was quoted as saying there “were obviously very, very many problems” with the officiating in the Cardinals’ 24-21 loss at Philadelphia.
Afterwards, he was asked if he felt the calls will cost the Cardinals a playoff spot, Arians said, “It possibly could, but I think a lot of things have to happen here in the last four weeks. I would hope that we give up all that talk this week and just focus on the St. Louis Rams.” Then, amidst more questions about whether he was satisfied with the answers to his questions about the referees, Arians admitted “No, I just get madder.”
“No, I just get madder.” – Arians
It’s clear that the Cardinals did not make the playoffs as a result of the loss to the Eagles. It’s clear that Arians saw that victory taken from him by bad calls. And it’s common knowledge that the Eagles had a road game to Arizona this season. The only presumption is that Arians has had this date circled for months in anticipation of pay back.
I don’t care what other people think.-Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly
In the meantime, the Arizona Cardinals and coach Arians have had a year to steam, steep, and struggle with the memory of the loss, the game that got away, the almost-had-a-chance-to-get-into-the-playoffs kind of season that nagged deep in their craw. The loss placed the Cardinals smack dab on the path out of the playoffs. Had they tied with New Orleans at 11-5, it would likely have been the Arizona Cardinals who made the trek to Philadelphia. That contest would have decided the team to face the Seattle Seahawks. What might have been if only they had won that game.
“Let’s not be crybabies. Don’t blame it on the refs, blame it on your preparation.” – Eagles cornerback Cary Williams
But that can be said of any team on any Sunday. Bad calls happen all the time to each and every team, and tend to balance out at the end of a season. Good teams find a way to overcome challenges. Perhaps it’s only good teams with college offenses that can do so.
Cary Williams endeared himself to the Eagles fans with a strategically placed comment after that game.
"“Let’s not be crybabies. Play the game, dude “,Williams said. “Don’t blame it on the refs, blame it on your preparation that week. I’ve never been a fan of coaches sending stuff into the refs unless it was blatant. To me I didn’t think there was anything blatant out on the field.”"
And so, the stage is set for a rematch. The game is clearly a very important one to Arians and the Cardinals. Pehaps even moreso to the Philadelphia Eagles, whose success in last year’s game was tainted by the post-game comments of an angry head coach who is a sore loser.