In the Arizona Cardinals’ 27-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the game arguably came down to two plays at the end of the first half.
Both were made by Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes.
The Cardinals led 17-0 but Michael Vick was driving the Eagles toward the end zone in the final seconds of the first half. With 24 seconds left, he completed a pass to speedy receiver DeSean Jackson, who appeared on his way to a touchdown. But Rhodes stood his ground in the shadow of the goal line and wrestled Jackson to the turf at the 1.
Two incomplete passes later, Rhodes blitzed off of left tackle, smacked Vick and forced the ball free. Arizona safety James Sanders picked it up and ran 93 yards for a touchdown as the clock expired.
Instead of the Eagles and their high-powered offense heading to halftime trailing 17-7 but with a renewed spirit, they were all but dead at 24-0. It was a 14-point turnaround thanks to two crucial plays by Rhodes.
“It’s just part of the team. When your number is called, you have to make the play,” Rhodes said. “For me, everyone else is making plays, so why not me? I have to make a couple myself.”
And for all the talk about Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb facing his old team, this one was really about the Cardinals defense.
That defense is why Arizona is one of only three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL.
Yes, the Arizona Cardinals are 3-0 and the feel-good story of the league. Roll out Rodney Dangerfield. Cue the obligatory comments:
“No one respects our defense,” linebacker O’Brien Schofield is quoted as saying in the linked azcentral.com Bob Young column. “No one respects our team, and that’s okay. You have to earn respect.”