GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals' defense didn’t care Sunday how much real estate it had to defend against the Eagles.
For the entire first half, the Cardinals were digging in somewhere on average around the Eagles' 20-yard line when Philadelphia took possession on offense. But that changed in the second half. After the Eagles’ opening drive in which they started at their own 20, Philadelphia began the next five drives between its 42 and Arizona’s 48.
That stretch yielded 10 points, putting Philadelphia up 17-14 in the process.
“You never want to give them the ball at midfield three or four times in a row, but (the defense) came up huge,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
Arizona’s offense was ineffective for most of the final 30 minutes, except for touchdowns book-ending the half and a field goal late in the fourth. In one stretch, Arizona had four three-and-outs in a span of five drives. The other drive lasted four plays and ended when running back Andre Ellington fumbled the ball away.
“We know what’s at stake and the offense is struggling a little bit,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “We just have to keep us in the game.”
Besides giving up a touchdown and a field goal, Arizona forced the Eagles to punt twice and intercepted quarterback Nick Foles once.
With their backs against a short field, the Cardinals were bound to give up some points but they relished the chance to make a stand.
“We look at it as an opportunity to show out, an opportunity to shine out there,” linebacker Alex Okafor said. “We take it as a challenge and we love stuff like that because we know it’s on our shoulders and we have to win the game.”
Arizona held Philadelphia to two three-and-outs when the Eagles started drives near midfield. On a drive that started at the Eagles' 49, the Cardinals allowed seven yards. On the drive that began at the Arizona 48, the Cards held the Eagles to -4 yards. Both resulted in punts.
Okafor said Arizona’s defense didn’t change their strategy or schemes when backed up on short fields. It played at one speed the whole game.
While Arizona basked in the chances to flex their defensive muscle in those situations, the Cardinals understand how easy it could’ve been for Philadelphia to break the game wide open.
“I mean, that’s as critical as it gets,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “The cool thing about a short field is there’s only so much field for them to work with. The offense’s plays get limited. They can only do so much, especially the Eagles. They don’t really have that power game. They’re more of a finesse game. And it works for them but in the red zone as long as you play the boots and the play-action and our guys up front play the run well, you can do a good job of stopping them.”