Eagles' physical CBs hold ground vs. Cards' WRs

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Eagles' physical CBs hold ground vs. Cards' WRs

Kelly: 'When you win the turnover battle it's huge'

December 1, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Bradley Fletcher (left) and Patrick Chung celebrate the Cardinals' turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 24-21 win on Sunday. (AP)

It was a big play. Like much of the interaction between the receivers and the defensive backs on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, it was also a physical play.

Late in the fourth quarter, with under two minutes left and the Cardinals trying to continue a drive, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer dropped back on 4th-and-5 and threw toward receiver Michael Floyd on the right side. Floyd was covered by cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

There was quite a bit of contact between Fletcher and Floyd on the play, which resulted in an incompletion. Whether it was incidental or intentional, harmless or egregious, it didn’t matter. No flag was thrown. The Cards turned the ball over on downs and the Eagles beat Arizona, 24-21 (see Instant Replay).

“I was holding my leverage -- my inside leverage -- and I was holding my ground,” Fletcher said. “That’s when we had some contact right there. When I saw the ball, I wanted to make the play.

“You’ve got to get there when the ball gets there. It’s a timing deal.”

Fletcher said “some games are different than others” and that players “get a feel” for how the referees might call the game. In this case, Fletcher said they figured out pretty quickly that the officials would allow some contact.

Given that, someone asked, would Fletcher have been surprised if a flag had been thrown on that play against Floyd?

“Um,” Fletcher said with a smirk, “I was just trying to drive the ball.”

Gotcha. The Eagles, um, drove the ball often on Sunday. In advance of the game, they were asked about Floyd and his teammate, Larry Fitzgerald. And with good reason. Floyd and Fitzgerald entered the contest with a combined 99 catches this season, and Fitzgerald has dominated the Eagles in the past (see story).

Floyd finished with five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, while Fitzgerald had five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Considering how well Fitzgerald has performed historically against the Eagles -- he averaged over 100 yards per game against them for his career before Sunday and totaled nine touchdowns in the first five meetings -- it was a better-than-usual outcome for the Birds’ secondary.

“I thought they did a really nice job,” Chip Kelly said. “It was such a big matchup for us coming in with [Fitzgerald] and [Floyd]. It’s a tough group. [Fitzgerald] had one the one long run there where he bounced off him a couple times. But besides that, I thought they did a real nice job of limiting him throughout the game. We knew that was going to be a tough matchup for us. I thought Cary [Williams] played really, really well. And I thought having [Fletcher] back really helped us.”

Safety Nate Allen picked off Palmer on the Cards' second possession for his first interception since the 2011 finale against Washington. Williams also had a pick when he jumped a route in the third quarter on a short throw by Palmer that was intended for receiver Andre Roberts. That play also included some contact -- which was fine as far as Williams was concerned.

“That’s what you like as a [defensive back],” Williams said. “You want to be as physical as possible to try to make the game as physical as possible and go out there and play football. That’s why you’ve got the shoulder pads and helmets on. I think the refs did a good job of just allowing us to play."