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Holy Smokey: Cardinals Beat Eagles

Brown's 75-yard touchdown and late defensive stand push Cards to 24-20 win

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Wide receiver John "Smokey" Brown hauls in a 75-yard touchdown pass beyond Eagles cornerback Cary Williams late in Sunday's 24-20 Cardinals' win.

Bruce Arians wants to take his shots deep, wants to be aggressive. The phrase "go big or go home" might have entered the lexicon the same day Arians was born 62 years ago.

A field goal was all the Cardinals needed to tie the game Sunday, and five yards was all that they needed to get a first down and sustain the late drive, but details weren't going to deter the Cardinals' coach.

"When there's a touchdown involved in the play, never pass it up," Arians said. "Play smart, not scared."

So John "Smokey" Brown got the coverage the Cardinals wanted, with a safety, and the wide receiver blew past him deep. Palmer heaved the

ball nearly over Brown's head, but the rookie hauled it in for a 75-yard game-winning touchdown in Sunday's heart-pounding 24-20 win over Philadelphia at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It was right over my head, right in the basket," Brown said with a grin.

There was more – so much more – to the win, from the defense preventing Eagles passes from being completed in the end zone on the final three plays of the game, to the field-goal-forcing goal-line stand the possession before that allowed the Cardinals to take the lead with a touchdown.

The end result is what matters. The Cardinals (6-1) have again built a three-game winning streak heading into next week's game in Dallas, and maintain the full two-game lead in the NFC West over Seattle and San Francisco (both 4-3).

It's a team that clearly believes in itself, learning from the lessons of 2013.

"We're not a young team," Palmer said. "We're not an old team. We're a team that's got guys with Super Bowl rings. We're a team with young guys that really don't know how good they are yet. We'll come in Wednesday and guys aren't patting themselves on the back.

"We'll walk with a swagger about ourselves, but we'll go right back to work on Wednesday."

There is definitely still work to do. The Cardinals got an 80-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Larry Fitzgerald on the third play of the second half to take a 14-7 lead. From there, though, the offense stalled. Palmer couldn't hit receivers. Running back Andre Ellington (23 carries, 71 yards) couldn't find enough room. The Cards would punt and continually give the Eagles (5-2) the ball near midfield.

The first three drives post-Fitz produced negative-9 yards, the fourth a lost fumble.

"It was not the best game plan for what we thought we were going to get," Arians said. "But we made enough plays – and enough big plays –

to win."

That started with a defense that managed to do enough. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw for 411 yards (on 36-of-62 passing) and Jeremy Maclin had 12 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy rushed for 83 yards and the Eagles 110 total against the league's No. 1 rush defense.

The Cardinals also lost cornerback Patrick Peterson in the first half to a concussion when teammate Deone Bucannon blasted Maclin on a tackle, and Peterson – also trying to tackle Maclin – absorbed the helmet-to-helmet-to-helmet blow.

Peterson will go through the concussion protocol but tweeted after the game he was OK.

"It takes a little bit out of you, but at the end of the day, we still have a game to play," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said.

Cromartie was at the heart of it. One of his interceptions led to a game-tying field goal. Another Cromartie pick was in the Cardinals' end zone, and defensive end Frostee Rucker also forced a fumble right near the Arizona goal line preventing another score.

It was the last two Philadelphia possessions that stick out. In a 17-17 game, the Eagles drove to within inches of the Arizona goal line. On fourth down, the Eagles decided to kick a short field goal rather than try for the touchdown.

"I thought about (the TD)," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "I thought our defense at that point was playing really, really well."

Kelly wasn't wrong. He still wasn't wrong when Palmer came to the line with 1:33 on the clock and both he and Brown saw the matchup they were waiting for.

"I was just praying that I made a touchdown," said Brown, who was tackled near the goal line but got the ball in the end zone before his knee touched. "We weren't playing how we were supposed to play. I didn't want to leave it up to anybody else."

"You know it is a two-down situation," Palmer said. "We're not punting on fourth (down). We got exactly what we wanted out of the coverage and had the right play call."

Brown finished with five catches for 119 yards, topped only by Fitzgerald's seven catches for a season-high 160 yards, Fitzgerald's first 100-yard game of the season. 

The Eagles still had 1:21 to work with, and maneuvered to the Cardinals' 16-yard line. Foles took three shots to the end zone. Safety Tyrann Mathieu batted away the first, although it would have been out of bounds. Bucannon knocked away the next one. And on the game's final play, safety Rashad Johnson gave wideout Jordan Matthews enough of a shove to make sure Matthews would land with a foot out of bounds.

"That was a 59-minute, 60-second game," Palmer said.

The crowd erupted. The defense, exhausted after defending 88 Philadelphia plays, did not.

"When everybody plays this game like it's easy, not panicking and understanding what they need to do, you're just following their lead," Bucannon said.

If the defense is about confidence, the offense is about risks. Palmer completed just 20-of-42 passes, but the 20 completions were worth 329 yards, the two touchdowns and more importantly, no sacks and no interceptions.

Even with offensive fits and starts, even Arians had to smile when it was over.

"(Arians') philosophy is big plays, big strikes, guys making plays down the field, and if it's not there, we'll check it down," Fitzgerald said. "He's got his foot on the gas pedal no matter what."



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