Quarterback Kurt Warner sits on the bench during the Cardinals' loss in Philadelphia Thursday night, as the Cards failed to clinch a division title.
PHILADELPHIA – The NFC West crown will have to wait.
The playoffs are still going to happen for the Cardinals, although the clinching moment could come Sunday when the Cards are sitting at home as long as the 49ers lose at Buffalo. Arizona's chance to celebrate on its own terms imploded Thursday night, when the Cards walked into Lincoln Financial Field and were run over in a 48-20 loss to the Eagles.
Whether it was the short week of preparation or playing in the East or simply catching the Eagles in an inspired moment, the Cardinals (7-5) were playing catch-up the whole time in front of the national TV audience on NFL Network.
"There's no excuses," safety Adrian Wilson said. "We get paid to go out there and play. You have to prepare for any situation. Regardless if it was a short week or not, we weren't doing our job.
"Obviously, today wasn't a good day."
The Eagles (6-5-1) hadn't scored on 21 straight possessions coming into Thursday night, yet motored easily through the Cardinals on their first two drives. Both ended with Brian Westbrook touchdowns.
By the time the first half was over, the Eagles scored on four of five possessions and piled up 219 yards and 19 first downs. That set the tone for a game in which the Eagles finished with 437 yards.
Quarterback Kurt Warner wasn't sharp either, throwing interceptions on the Cards' first two possessions – one pick into heavy coverage and the other overthrown.
Warner did throw a touchdown pass to extend his streak to 20 straight games with three TD tosses, setting a new franchise record. But it echoed the empty comeback the Cards had in New York earlier this season, with Arizona chasing for 60 minutes.
Warner finished 21-for-39 for 235 yards, and while he had his touchdowns, he also had three interceptions.
"It was not the game we wanted to play," Warner said. "I came out and forced one early, got intercepted, and it started things. We just didn't have our game, and I think it was across the board. We didn't show up.
"It was a hard (short) week, but you still have to find a way to put the product on the field."
The Cardinals did have momentum with 14 minutes left, getting the ball back on a punt down two touchdowns. But wide receiver Anquan Boldin – who had two drops on the night – lost a fumble after a catch, giving the ball to the Eagles at the Arizona 19-yard line.
Philadelphia scored a touchdown five plays later to seal the Cards' fate.
Boldin, who had another fumble the Cardinals managed to keep, called it "probably the worst game I have ever had" and blamed himself for the loss.
There was plenty of blame, however, for a team that coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged "came out flat."
"Obviously it wasn't a very good night," Whisenhunt said. "We've got some work ahead of us to do. Hopefully we will respond like the last time we came off a tough two-game stretch."
The last time the Cards dropped two straight was their Eastern swing to play the Redskins and Jets. The Cards went on to go 5-1 in their next six games.
The Eagles' game certainly mirrored the debacle against the Jets.
The Eagles' week started when quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched in a bad loss to Baltimore, but McNabb responded with a fantastic performance, going 27-for-39 for 260 yards and four touchdowns.Westbrook, mired in a slump himself and battling ankle and knee injuries, scored four touchdowns total and had 110 yards rushing.
With the loss, the Cardinals not only will have a difficult time being a threat to move up as a playoff seed, but are in danger of falling to the NFC's fourth seed. Chicago currently leads that division with a 6-5 record going into the weekend's games and plays division rival Minnesota, which is also 6-5.
"We are still leading our division," veteran defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "We have 10 days to stew on this, but you know what, we'll watch the film but we'll put this behind us real quick."
Then Robinson squeezed a bit of humor out of the disappointing night.
"Not a whole lot of people have the NFL Network," Robinson said, "so that's the good thing about it."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 11/27/08. Updated 11/27/08.