Linebacker O'Brien Schofield celebrates a key fourth-quarter, fourth-down stop against the Rams last weekend in the overtime win.
PHILADELPHIA – Momentum is a fickle thing, especially in the NFL.
It's impossible not to see the ebbs and flows within a game, and some weeks it's more apparent than others (see: Cards' trip to Baltimore, Oct. 30). Momentum that lasts longer than that, well, it's not as easily carried, not when a week exists between games.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals will play the Eagles Sunday hoping that their dramatic overtime win against the Rams last week to snap a six-game losing streak will mean something.
"When you look at a team like ours," said linebacker O'Brien Schofield, "where we have a mix of veterans and young guys and have a game where there is so much adversity and no one gives up and you push through as a team – something we hadn't done before and we had been in those situations before –I think you can ride the momentum of knowing how to finish games and how to stick together."
The common message this week was about building on what they did. It sounds easy in theory, although coach Ken Whisenhunt has noticed a pep in practice and certainly, the mood around the Cards feels anything but 2-6.
The task in Philadelphia makes the optimism a bit murky. The Eagles (3-5) are coming off a disappointing home Monday night loss to Chicago and their plans to win the NFC East seem to be on life support. Quarterback Michael Vick hasn't been the MVP candidate he was last season when he usurped Kevin Kolb as starter, and the Eagles have struggled to stop the run and have turned the ball over far too many times in the red zone, short-circuiting their own success.
For a team many thought would end up in the NFC Championship game, it's been a rough first half of the season.
"In Philadelphia, there is always going to be an expectation to win," Vick said. "We expect that out of ourselves, just like our fans. There is always going to be pressure to win here. It's something that will never change, and we all, at some point, get accustomed to it."
Even with their victory last week, the Cardinals have their own mountains to climb. While both teams have undergone significant change, the Cards' last visit to Lincoln Financial Field – Thanksgiving of 2008 – turned into a 48-20 rout in favor of the Eagles. The Cards have already lost twice back East this season, although in both cases, the team should have won against the Redskins and Ravens.
The Cardinals have lost 11 straight road games overall, and they will start backup quarterback John Skelton for a second straight game because of Kolb's turf toe. Skelton missed some opportunities in his first start of the season but did complete 20-of-35 passes and didn't turn the ball over.
"If we can handle their front four," Skelton said, "we should be OK."
The hope is that running back Beanie Wells can also improve on his game of last week, when he had just 20 yards in his worst showing of the season while playing on a sore knee.
The offensive production has to increase because the defense will be severely tested. Between Vick and playmakers like running back LeSean McCoy and wide receivers Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, repeating last week's effort of preventing any touchdowns is unlikely.
Then again, the Cards hope to be buoyed by a little momentum.
"Whenever you have plays in a game like that, where we haven't made them but in this game we did," Whisenhunt said, "it shows if you execute them the right way, you can be successful."