Cardinals cannot overcome 21-point first-quarter deficit

PHILADELPHIA -- There's a first time for everything. Sometimes, though, that's not a good thing.

The Arizona Cardinals gave up 21 points to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first quarter Sunday, the first time under coach Bruce Arians that Arizona has allowed three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

And for a team whose offense has been slow to start games, that deficit proved insurmountable.

Being down by a touchdown after the first quarter is common. Being down by two isn't ideal, but it's easy enough to overcome. Being down by three touchdowns, however, with three quarters left has proved to be nearly impossible to come back from. Only eight teams have come back from a 21-point deficit at the end of the first quarter to win a game in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The last time was Week 17 of the 2011 season, when the Patriots did it against the Bills.

"They almost put the game out of reach," defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. "When you put up three scores on any team, it is very tough to come back from. We tried to scratch and claw our way back.

"We just have to regroup."

Until Sunday, Arizona had been outscoring its opponents by about four points in the first quarter this season. That margin got skewed greatly after a 34-7 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, dropping Arizona to 2-3.

Coming back from three touchdowns is tough. It's tougher when the offensive issues plaguing the Cardinals are magnified, as they were in the first quarter. Arizona went three-and-out to start the game, and then followed with a five-and-out and another three-and-out.

But quarterback Carson Palmer didn't fret.

"We still felt like we had plenty of of time," Palmer said. "But we didn't execute. We didn't do anything on offense."

The offensive line, which again started two backups in Earl Watford at right guard and John Wetzel at right tackle, struggled to create room for the run game to get going. Arizona had just 21 net yards after the first quarter. Of those, 15 came on the ground. (The Eagles finished the first quarter with 128 net yards.) And the Cardinals didn't convert a third down in the first 15 minutes. (The Eagles converted all four of theirs.)

But it wasn't the offense that allowed the three touchdowns.

Arizona's defense was overmatched against the Eagles' tight ends. Trey Burton, matched up with Cardinals inside linebacker Deone Bucannon, who played his second game since returning from offseason ankle surgery, scored the first touchdown. Zach Ertz scored Philadelphia's second touchdown after Arizona gave up a 76-yard punt return. And then Eagles receiver Torrey Smith got a step on cornerback Justin Bethel for a 59-yard touchdown catch.

While the defense gave up 21 points, the offense's inability to move the ball prevented punter Andy Lee from flipping the field.

Arizona's first punt was from its own 19. The Cardinals' second, the one that was returned for 76 yards, was from their own 35, and their third was from their own 14.

The Cardinals' offense managed just one touchdown the rest of the game, a 13-yard pass from Palmer to John Brown. Arians thought the Cardinals would regroup at halftime but they gave up a field goal on Philadelphia's first drive of the second half and then found themselves facing a third-and-15, which they didn't convert.

But the first quarter was a nightmare for the Cardinals and it proved too tough to wake up from.