Cardinals hold, Eagles hold on to fourth-straight victory

Cardinals hold, Eagles hold on to fourth-straight victory

After setting a franchise record for most consecutive attempts without an interception, Nick Foles finally made a bad decision—horrendous, in fact.

While nursing a three-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles floated a pass into the middle of the field, a desperation play made under duress. The ball was snared easily by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson in Philly territory. Trouble.

The pick would not stand however. The officials threw their yellow hankies on rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu for defensive holding, and the Eagles retained possession. By the conclusion of the game, the Cardinals were seeing another color—red—but no matter. The bottom line is Philadelphia walked out of the Linc victorious again, holding on to defeat Arizona 24-21 after another tense fourth quarter.

The Eagles improved to 7-5 on the season to keep pace with Dallas for first place in the NFC East. The team is now riding a four-game winning streak, including two-straight at home after going a more than full calendar year without a W at the Linc. Foles is now 5-1 as a starter this season, while Philly’s defense has hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in eight straight.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Birds though. For starters, Foles looked increasingly uncomfortable as the game wore on and became ineffective late. While the sophomore signal-caller connected on 21-of-34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns—zero turnovers—he was just 6-of-14 in the second half. The offense managed just two first downs over the final six possessions, excluding defensive penalties.

Foles struggled with accuracy some in the first half as well, despite hitting on 15-of-20 attempts. The QB was bailed out a few times by some excellent catches, and seemed to become increasingly indecisive as his confidence was shaken. Foles was sacked five times on the afternoon.

To be fair, Foles managed to post a 112.0 passer rating, and officially is now at 19 touchdowns without an interception—one short of Peyton Manning's record to start a season. Arizona's defense is also one of the better units in the league with Pro Bowl-caliber playmakers at every level.

Still, he certainly didn’t do the defense any favors in the second half. The Cardinals came storming back from a 17-point deficit with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters on long drives of 80 and 86 yards. It doesn’t look nearly as bad when you take into account the fact that Arizona held the ball six times in the second half, but the rally made for a tight contest when it appeared at one point the Eagles might run away with it.

The fourth-quarter comebacks are becoming a concern though. Washington was able to turn a 24-point deficit into a one-possession game two weeks ago. That being said, the Birds were able to hang on in the end.

The Eagles got to punt the ball away after Foles’ would-be miscue, followed by a Cardinals four-and-out. There was too much time left on the clock for kneel-downs after the quick turnover, so on third down the second-year passer looked to pass. Foles hit the deck for a sack, and it looked like Arizona would get one last chance until the zebras intervened. Another defensive holding gave Philly 1st-and-10.

Ball game.

The Cardinals were livid after the referee’s calls, racking up some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as time was winding down. It was somewhat understandable given what appeared to be ticky-tack penalties, especially after Bradley Fletcher avoided a flag for contract on Arizona’s final play from scrimmage.

Yet what truly did the Cards in were turnovers. Carson Palmer was stripped by Trent Cole, one of two sacks for the ninth-year veteran—he now has five over the last four games. Nate Allen and Cary Williams added interceptions, bringing Arizona’s total giveaways to three. The Eagles didn’t have any.

It wasn’t pretty, but this is the quality win observers have been clamoring for. Arizona came in riding a four-game streak of their own and ahead in the Wild Card standings. The Eagles and Foles bested them, and are officially on a roll heading into a big matchup against 7-5 Detroit.

Welcome back to meaningful December football, folks. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Notes

• One week after destroying Trent Cole on a 60-yard touchdown reception to Washington’s fullback, the reserve safety blew up Brandon Boykin to break Larry Fitzgerald free for a 43-yard score. Later, Chung drilled Cary Williams. Chung is not just bad at football, he’s bad for his teammates’ health. Get well soon, Earl Wolff.

• Brandon Graham also had two sacks in the game after going weeks without making a big play. DeMeco Ryans had one as well, giving Philly five for the game.

• Zach Ertz enjoyed a breakout game. The rookie tight end set career highs with five receptions, 68 yards, and two touchdowns. Brent Celek also got into the end zone. Good game plan by Chip Kelly. Arizona has now allowed 14 touchdowns to players listed as tight ends this season.

• Although, what’s with using Brad Smith in a Wildcat formation down by the goal line, Chip? The Birds were driving before Smith bobbled the snap on first down. The loss killed the momentum, and the Eagles were forced to settle for three points.

• Glad to see DeSean Jackson returning punts again. He took one to the house that was called back for a holding penalty. He’s their most explosive returnman by far and should be back there at least 50 percent of the time. Jackson also went over 1,000 yards receiving with 36 on three catches.

• LeSean McCoy had 19 carries for 79 yards—a reasonable 4.2 average against the NFL’s second-ranked run defense. The All-Pro back added five receptions for 36.

• White-hot coming into the game, Arizona QB Carson Palmer was 24-of-41 for 302 yards with three touchdowns and two picks. Future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches for 72 yards, while the emerging Michael Floyd hauled in five for 99—both players scored.

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

Best of NHL: Senators beat Blues, jump Flyers to take over 2nd wild card

ST. LOUIS -- Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored twice to lead the Ottawa Senators over the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bobby Ryan also scored for the Senators, who won their fourth straight at Scottrade Center for the first time in team history. Mike Condon made 19 saves.

Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Carter Hutton made 18 saves.

Stone's third goal in four games at the 2:35 mark of the third period was the winner. Exactly a minute after Steen tied it, Stone stole Jaden Schwartz's pass to score his 14th goal of the season, giving the Senators a 4-3 lead.

With the win, Ottawa is currently in possession of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, leapfrogging the Flyers, who are idle this week (see full recap).

Stars hold on for 7-6 win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars gave up an early goal for the third straight game. However, this time they quickly bounced back, took two big leads and held on for a win.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves had a goal and two assists each and the Stars got a wild 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Dallas fell behind just 27 seconds in as Derek Stepan scored on the Rangers' first shot. On Monday, the Stars gave up a goal 19 seconds into a 4-1 loss at Buffalo, and Minnesota scored 1:19 into a 5-4 win at Dallas on Saturday night.

In this one, the Stars rallied and led 4-1 and 7-3 before pulling out their third win in nine games (3-5-1) (see full recap).

Dubinsky scores twice as Jackets beat 'Canes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Brandon Dubinsky hadn't scored a goal since Dec. 9 at Detroit, a 17-game stretch during which he had chances but couldn't find the back of the net. The drought ended Tuesday night, maybe helping Columbus end a team-wide lull in the process.

Dubinsky scored in the second and third periods, Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist and the Blue Jackets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1.

The Blue Jackets got their third win in seven games since ending a 16-game winning streak and pulled even with Washington atop the unforgiving Metropolitan Division.

"We wanted to reset for sure," Dubinsky said. "We haven't played that well, obviously, in the last six or so games. We wanted to get back to the way we play,” (see full recap).

Matthews caps 3-goal burst, Leafs top Sabres
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews, Leo Komarov and Matt Martin each scored in a nine-minute span in the second period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Tuesday night for their 10th win in 13 games.

Toronto came back after trailing 2-0 through 20 minutes, getting its first victory this season when behind after one period (1-8-1).

It wasn't all rosy for the Leafs, though. Top defenseman Morgan Rielly left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for Toronto, and James van Riemsdyk also scored.

Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane and William Carrier each scored for Buffalo. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson allowed four goals combined on 32 shots (see full recap).

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores 36 as Raptors down Nets, 119-109

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores 36 as Raptors down Nets, 119-109

NEW YORK -- DeMar DeRozan had 36 points and 11 rebounds, Cory Joseph scored a career-high 33 and the Toronto Raptors beat the free-falling Brooklyn Nets 119-109 on Tuesday night.

Toronto won its fourth straight game and extended Brooklyn's losing streak to 11 in a row. The Nets have not won since Dec. 26.

Terrence Ross added 15 points for the Raptors, who opened the game with an 11-0 run but fell behind after the first quarter.

Brook Lopez had 28 points for the Nets. Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 14 apiece.

Toronto took a 92-85 lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back. DeRozan led the way with 10 points in the third period, equaling LeVert's total in the quarter.

Lopez and Joseph each scored 14 in the second (see full story).

Mavericks edge Bulls, 99-98, for 3rd straight win on late Matthews' 3
CHICAGO -- Wesley Matthews made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes had 20 points, Seth Curry added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Dallas trailed 98-96 after Jimmy Butler made a long jumper over Matthews with 23 seconds left, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle decided against a timeout and Deron Williams drove into the lane before kicking out to Matthews for the 3.

Chicago had one last chance, but Dwyane Wade missed a potential game-winning jumper from the corner on his 35th birthday as time expired (see full story).

Dragic scores 21 and Heat stun Rockets, 109-103, despite Harden's triple-double
MIAMI -- Goran Dragic had 21 points and eight assists, Wayne Ellington scored 18 off the bench and the Miami Heat overcame another triple-double from James Harden to beat the Houston Rockets 109-103 on Tuesday night.

Dion Waiters scored 17, Tyler Johnson had 16 and James Johnson added 15 for the Heat. Hassan Whiteside finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds.

Harden had 40 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Rockets (32-12), his 13th triple-double of the season. He shot 12 for 30 from the field and got his triple-double with an assist to Montrezl Harrell with 12.6 seconds left, an uncontested dunk with the Heat simply waiting for the clock to run out.

Harrell had 13 points for the Rockets, who got 12 from Patrick Beverley.

There were 19 ties and 15 lead changes in a game that was back-and-forth for 42 minutes, before the Heat finally took control (see full story).

Leonard's 34 points rally Spurs past Timberwolves, 122-114
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a strong start by the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 122-114 victory Tuesday night.

Leonard's fourth straight 30-point game helped him become the first San Antonio player to score 950 points in the season's first half since Tim Duncan in 2003.

Coming off a career-high 38 on Saturday against Phoenix in Mexico City, Leonard was 12 for 17 from the field.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting, spoiling Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau's 59th birthday.

San Antonio had difficulty with Minnesota's explosive starting lineup. Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added 21 points and 14 assists. Zach LaVine scored 18, Gorgui Dieng had 17 and Andrew Wiggins 10 (see full story).