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Kyler Murray throws 3 TD passes as Cardinals rally past Eagles, disrupt Philly’s playoff path

  • AP
  • Jan 01, 2024

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jalen Hurts’ desperation heave was intercepted to seal the Eagles‘ fourth loss this month and one that meant so much more.

Philadelphia’s shot at the top spot in the NFC? Gone. The bye and home-field edge goes to the 49ers. The NFC East crown? Once in their grasp, the Eagles now need help from – yikes, Washington – to win a second straight division title.

The team that opened December 10-1 and looked like a favorite to return to the Super Bowl unraveled Sunday with a 35-31 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and now faces the grim reality of opening the playoffs on the road.

“We’ve got to get things fixed,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “And we’ve got to get them fixed fast.”

Where to start is the hard part.

James Conner ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 32 seconds remaining and Kyler Murray threw three TD passes for Arizona, which rallied from a 15-point deficit.

Former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon returned to Philly and got his biggest win yet in his first season as Arizona’s coach. Granted, there haven’t been many of them for the Cardinals (4-12).

The Eagles (11-5) could have won the NFC East with wins against Arizona and the New York Giants next week. Now, Dallas can win the division with a win next week at Washington.

The Eagles could still earn the No. 2 seed with a win at the Giants and a Cowboys loss.

“Man, I’m not worried at all but there’s a lot to learn from a game like this,” defensive end Brandon Graham said.

Maybe he should be concerned. The Eagles have played more like a team bound for a quick playoff exit than one that could make a second straight trip to the Super Bowl.

There was plenty of blame to go around: a discombobulated offense that included indecisive play-calling late in the game, a running game that never got going and a defense that couldn’t get off the field.

The series of blunders included Sirianni running out of timeouts on the Eagles’ final drive and a late-game first-and-20 (because of offensive holding) that saw the Eagles run twice and try a short pass that only got them 5 yards.

“We’re in the playoffs. Lot of teams want to be in the playoffs,” Sirianni said. “We can still do some things here.”

Murray finished 25 of 31 for 232 yards and got stronger as the game progressed, overcoming a 99-yard pick-6 by Sydney Brown early in the second quarter. Conner rushed for 128 yards on 26 carries.

“With everything that’s happened, a lot of disappointment this year, a lot of tough losses,” Murray said. “But trying to finish the season off the right way.”

The Cardinals rallied from a 21-6 halftime deficit on the strength of Murray’s two TD tosses in the third quarter that tied the game at 21-all.

Hurts put the Eagles ahead in the fourth with his third TD pass of the game, a 9-yarder to Dallas Goedert.

Normally, that would be enough to win a game at the Linc. But Philly’s defense couldn’t hold on. Cornerback Kelee Ringo was flagged for pass interference and the Cardinals used the extra 29 yards to help tie game 28-28 with 5:26 left. Murray hit Michael Wilson for a 5-yard TD.

Jake Elliott kicked a 43-yard field goal with 2:33 left to give the Eagles their last lead.

Murray had plenty of time to move the Cardinals into scoring position. He hit Greg Dorch for a 36-yard gain that brought Arizona to the Eagles 5 and set up Conner’s decisive score.

The Cardinals finished with 449 yards of offense and scored touchdowns on all four possessions in the second half.

Gannon certainly had reason to gloat – his successor, Sean Desai, already had his play-calling duties stripped during this morbid stretch and turned over to Matt Patricia. No matter who is calling the shots this month, the Eagles’ defense has been steamrolled. The Cardinals rushed for 221 yards and never punted.

“We still have everything in front of us,” Hurts said.

FAST PHILLY START

The Eagles at last made solid use of 34-year-old receiver Julio Jones, signed in October to provide some depth.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection had just seven catches for 27 yards and two touchdowns entering the game. He wasn’t supposed to be a top target, of course, not with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith both topping the 1,000-yard receiving mark this season.

Jones caught a 12-yard TD pass in the first quarter and had a 22-yard TD with 16 seconds left in the second.

Hurts’ three TD passes brought his total to a franchise-record 38 touchdowns this season. He had already set an NFL QB record with 15 rushing touchdowns. Hurts in 2022 and Randall Cunningham in 1990 both accounted for 35 TDs for the Eagles.

DEFENSIVE GEM

Brown, a rookie safety out of Illinois, circled under a pass from Murray at the Eagles 1-yard line and streaked down the sideline, then zig-zagged into the end zone to give Philly a 14-3 lead. Brown reached a top speed of 21.52 mph and traveled 126.7 total yards on the 99-yard return, per Next Gen Stats.

FAKE OUT

The Eagles used a fake play off the tush push to get a first down. Hurts lined up under center on third-and-1 and flipped the ball to Kenneth Gainwell, who threw a 17-yard pass to Smith. Hurts found Jones for the 22-yard TD on the next play.

INJURIES

Cardinals CB Garrett Williams left with an ankle injury, and OL D.J. Humphries suffered a knee injury.

UP NEXT

While the Eagles try to finish strong against the Giants next weekend, the Cardinals will try to play spoiler to another playoff contender, hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

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1234T Cardinals 4-1233151435 Eagles 11-571401031

Lincoln Financial Field Philadelphia, PA

228PASS YDS184
221RUSH YDS91
449TOTAL YDS275

Arizona

OFFENSE

PASSINGCP/ATTYDSTDINTFPTS
K. Murray25/312323129
RUSHINGATTYDSTDLGFPTS
J. Conner2612812225
M. Carter76102113
K. Murray52401429
R. Moore28065
RECEIVINGTARRECYDSTDLGFPTS
G. Dortch778203615
T. McBride764802610
M. Wilson643511315
R. Moore43260125
E. Higgins22210144
E. Demercado319091
M. Carter1161613
J. Conner1151525

Philadelphia

OFFENSE

PASSINGCP/ATTYDSTDINTFPTS
J. Hurts18/231673124
K. Gainwell1/117005
RUSHINGATTYDSTDLGFPTS
D. Swift13610167
J. Hurts82501324
K. Gainwell25035
RECEIVINGTARRECYDSTDLGFPTS
A. Brown54530189
D. Goedert654712315
J. Jones223422217
D. Smith53300176
K. Gainwell4415065
D. Swift115057