HomeDa Birds NewsEagles vs Cardinals: Gannon's Revenge, Defensive Changes, Big Plays

Eagles vs Cardinals: Gannon’s Revenge, Defensive Changes, Big Plays

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PHILADELPHIA – There was no bloodlust or sacrifice of Jonathan Gannon at midfield. Instead, the unpopular former defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles returned and was greeted by hugs and well wishes from Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Nick Sirianni.

The post-game hug between Gannon and Sirianni was also part of the New Year’s Eve experience at Lincoln Financial Field but the more energetic part of it came from the former as Gannon’s Arizona Cardinals stunned the Eagles 35-31, after rebounding from a 21-6 halftime deficit.

Arizona used a ball-control offense built on the powerful running of James Conner, who had 128 of the Cardinals’ 221 yards on the found, putting the punctuation on things with a two-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds remaining.

“I think he probably thought about the Washington game last year where Washington was able to control the clock and keep our offense off the field,” Sirianni said of Gannon. “He probably thought about that. You’ll have to ask him. I don’t know. But good game plan by them and they obviously executed and hats off to them.”

The Cardinals’ time of possession advantage was 39:39 to 20:21.

 

    
Sydney Brown about to take off.USA Today

“[Conner] is one of our premier players,” Gannon said. “Thought Michael Carter had a really good game too. He had some big-time runs in there, made a couple guys miss. There are certain games when we set it up ‘hey, this is what needs to happen kind of a game.”

The Eagles did advance enough for a desperation heave in the end zone after the Connor TD as time expired but that was intercepted by Joey Blount.

The loss sent the Eagles to 11-5 on the season with one game remaining and will need to beat the New York Giants next week at MetLife and a loss by Dallas at Washington to win the NFC East.

Otherwise, the Eagles will have the No. 5 seed in the conference and will have to go on the road in the wild-card round.

“It’s been done,” Sirianni said of going on the road. “All those teams have been able to do it. Obviously, you always want to play at home. You always want to win the division. You always want to play at home. Path might be harder but shoot, our goals are ahead of us.

“We have to get things fixed and we have to get them fixed fast. We are not where we want to be right yet as far as how we are playing right now and how we are coaching right now but we’ve got time to get it fixed and we’ll get back to work tonight and tomorrow.”

SHOWING OFF

Sydney Brown was once clocked at over 22 miles per hour in college at Illinois and the Eagles’ rookie safety got an opportunity to show off his speed and athleticism when the pieces fell into place with Arizona just outside the red zone at the Philadelphia 24-yard line.

Reed Blankenship had to leave for a few plays when he was banged up, putting Brown in at safety. Perhaps Kyler Murray realized a backup was in the game and tried to signal rookie Elijah Higgins to adjust his route. The communication midfield and Murray threw a corner route near the end zone while Higgins broke inside. The result was an easy interception for Brown at the 1-yard line.

That’s where the fireworks began. Brown zigged and zagged through traffic, traversing the field by running 126.7 yards, per NextGenStats, the most distanced traveled on a pick-six since Week 5, 2018 (Marcus Maye, 140.7 yards) while hitting a top speed of 21.52 MPH, the fastest of any Eagles’ ball-carrier this season.

SWIFT-Y

D’Andre Swift finished the day with 61 rushing yards on 13 carries, surpassing 1,000 (1,049) for the first time in his four-year NFL career. It’s the second consecutive season Philadelphia has had a 1,000-yard rusher (Miles Sanders in 2022), the first time the Eagles have had that in the backfield since LeSean McCoy in 2013-14.

JULI-OH!

The Eagles have struggled to find any production from their third receiver this season, be it Quez Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus, or Julio Jones. That changed on Sunday against the Cards with Jones generating two touchdowns on his two targets.

It was the 14th multi-touchdown game of Jones’ Hall of Fame-level NFL career and his first since Oct. 18, 2020, at Minnesota when he was with Atlanta.

SHANE STEICHEN

With Sirianni and Gannon here why not complete the reunion and get Shane Steichen involved? The former Eagles’ offensive coordinator was busy trying to lead his Indianapolis Colts to a win over Las Vegas, so Philadelphia got him involved in spirit.

Facing a 3rd and 1 with 32 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles lined up to convert with a tush push but unveiled a wrinkle, by pitching it out to running back Kenny Gainwell, who retreated a bit and uncorked a 17-yard left-handed pass to DeVonta Smith.

On the very next play, Jalen Hurts hit Jones for a 22-yard touchdown.

The Eagles first showed the Gainwell throw in training camp back on Aug. 22 against Steichen’s Colts. In that practice, Gainwell hit tight end Grant Calcaterra and revealed after the session that it was a Steichen play inserted into the offense in 2022 that the Eagles never got to.

Related: ‘Worry? Concern? No!’ Sirianni Explains Eagles Embarrassing Collapse vs. Cardinals, Loss of Control of NFC East

DEFENSIVE DECK CHAIRS

It’s time to admit after 17 weeks that the Eagles’ defensive personnel just isn’t good enough, especially in the back seven.

It should get better with the expected return of linebacker Zach Cunningham, who was close to going this week, and Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, who probably won’t return until the playoffs because of the poor turf at MetLife.

In the meantime, the Eagles must figure out what they want to be. They used their typical variable fronts on Sunday plus linebacker looks with Nick Morrow and Shaw Leonard as well as Morrow and Ben VanSumeren and Nolan Smith and dime looks.

In the secondary, they played conventional, nickel, big nickel, small dime, and everything else but the kitchen sink, and players could not play fast in their roles.

Matt Patricia should shorten up the rotation.

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