Zone Read: Eagles-Cardinals, the Day After


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Still in uniform, a downtrodden Jordan Matthews sat in a folding chair facing his locker stall Sunday evening, replaying the Eagles’ final incompletion over and over again.

He didn’t have many answers, but was trying to come up with a scenario in which he could have caught the game-winning touchdown against the Cardinals.

“There’s no rhyme or reason, no science to it,” said Matthews. “Just gotta find a way. I don’t know what else to say. Just gotta find a way to make a play.”

With one second on the clock, Nick Foles took the snap, backpedaled frantically away from pressure and chucked a ball up for grabs towards the back left corner of the end zone. Unexpectedly, Matthews had gotten free. He leaped, but was met in the air by safety Rashad Johnson, who forced him out of bounds. The ruling was incomplete, and the game was over.

“It was just a ball to the corner of the end zone,” Matthews said. “Nick made a great throw, gave me a little bit of space, and I’ve just gotta be able to come down with it, get both feet in for my team. …At the end of the day, Nick gave me a chance, and I’ve gotta go make a play for the team.”

If Johnson hadn’t pushed him, would he have gotten in?

“Yeah, but it doesn’t matter,” said Matthews. “I’ve still gotta make the play, bottom line.”

The truth is there really wasn’t anything Matthews could have done. He attacked the ball in the air and made the grab, but really had no chance of landing in bounds. Like many of his teammates, the rookie was just trying to hold himself accountable in the aftermath of the Eagles’ 24-20 loss.

Said Foles: “The last throw, I’ve got to make sure it was in bounds. Jordan came down with a great catch, but I’ve got to make sure I keep him in bounds to give us a chance to win.”

Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles stuck to his guns and attacked down the stretch. He sent seven after Foles on the Matthews incompletion. Bowles did the same on the previous play. The Eagles got Zach Ertz matched up with Deone Bucannon, but the rookie broke up Foles’ pass.

“I just had a wheel route,” said Ertz. “Nick threw it up there. I didn’t really see it until the last second, so I wasn’t able to get a true jump under it. Deone made a heck of a play.”

Added Chip Kelly: “We felt like we took a shot at the end zone. We got the one tip in the corner with Ertz matched up with a dime linebacker, so it could’ve been there. They executed, we didn’t. Good play by Deone.”

Of course, the game was not really lost on that final drive. The Eagles blew several opportunities throughout the game. There were the obvious ones, like when Josh Huff fumbled at the Cardinals’ 7-yard-line in the second quarter. Or Foles’ interception in the end zone when the Eagles had the ball at the Arizona 25 on the very next drive.

Late in the fourth quarter, the offense got all the way to the Cardinals’ 2, but had to settle for a field goal. On 2nd-and-4 from the Arizona 5, it looked like Chris Polk picked up a first down, but the officials ruled that he was short, and Kelly did not challenge.

“I thought I had it,” said Polk “But we didn’t challenge it. I guess [they ruled] my knee was down when I extended it.”

Explained Kelly: “They said they couldn’t get an accurate look from the cameras.”

On 3rd-and-inches, the Eagles handed it off to McCoy on an inside run with Foles operating from the shotgun.

“A guy hit me as soon as I got it,” said McCoy. “I slipped off him. By then, it was clogged up. They did a good job of stopping it.”

“We actually had a pretty favorable look, but they just played it really well,” said center David Molk. “They shot the backside gap, crashed down, and it’s tough. It’s a big spot for where the ball ends up going usually.”

After Nate Allen forced and recovered a fumble in the third, the offense took over at the Arizona 48, but went three-and-out. They started two other second-half possessions at their own 42 and own 49, respectively, but went three-and-out both times.

The Eagles totaled 521 yards and piled up 27 first downs, but only had 20 points to show for it. Turnovers (three), penalties (11 for 103 as a team) and missed opportunities. That’s what cost them a shot at improving to 6-1 going into next week’s matchup against the Houston Texans.

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