Cardinals capture NFC West title with win over Eagles

Kent Somers
azcentral sports
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Dec. 20, 2015; Philadelphia; Arizona Cardinals defensive back D.J. Swearinger (36) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (92) react after a third-down stop against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

PHILADELPHIA – Put your calculators away, Cardinals fans, and there’s no need to plug every scenario into those online playoff machines.

Your team took care of business at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, beating the Eagles, 40-17. Along the way, they passed milestones like they were mile markers on the Interstate.

The victory clinched the NFC West title for the Cardinals (12-2), their first division title since 2009. The 12 victories are the franchise record for most in a season.

It was the team’s eighth consecutive victory their longest winning streak since 1948, when they won 10 in a row.

BOX SCORE: Cardinals 40, Eagles 17

After the game, some players and coaches wore NFC West Championship hats and wore T-shirts that proclaimed “The West Is On Lock.”

But coach Bruce Arians downplayed such ornaments, saying he had something much bigger in mind. “I got a closet full of them,” Arians said referring to the division championship hat on his head. “This is a nice one. I want one that says a whole lot more than this on it.”

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Clinching the division “really isn’t our goal,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of whooping and hollering in our locker room now because this is not the final one, it’s just the beginning.”

The victory did not assure the Cardinals of a bye in the first round of the playoffs, but that seems a foregone conclusion, especially after the way the Cardinals dominated Sunday night.

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Rookie running back David Johnson ran for three touchdowns and 187 yards, including 112 in the first half.

The Cardinals broke open the game in the third quarter. Leading by a touchdown, they stuffed the Eagles on the first possession, then drove 87 yards for a touchdown to take a 23-10 lead.

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The Eagles (6-8) lost two fumbles in the quarter, including one caused when rookie linebacker Markus Golden jumped on the back of Sam Bradford, jarring the ball loose.

The Cardinals added a touchdown in the final minute of the quarter, a 16-yard pass from Carson Palmer to John Brown, to take a 30-10 lead.

That lead didn’t last long, only because the Cardinals enlarged it. Linebacker Deone Bucannon returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter.

Bucannon was all smiles about scoring his first touchdown since high school, but he followed Arians’ lead, and talked about what more needed to be accomplished.

“A lot of stats,” Bucannon said, “but at the end of the day, everybody remembers who wins the Super Bowl.”

Bucannon’s touchdown allowed the crowd at The Linc to leave early and get a good night’s sleep before work on Monday.

The game was not without its scary moments for the Cardinals.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu went down with a knee injury after interception. The Cardinals did not immediately have an update on Mathieu’s status.

Johnson went down with a knee injury before halftime but returned.

Quarterback Carson Palmer, who passed for 274 yards and a touchdown left the game briefly after suffering a finger injury in the final minutes.

The Cardinals led, 17-10, at halftime but were correct in believing they should have been ahead by much more.

Receiver John Brown dropped three passes in the first half, including two that would have been touchdowns.

Photos from the Cardinals-Eagles game:

The Eagles' only touchdown in the first half came when the Cardinals had only 10-men on the field.The Cardinals, normally sure-handed, had two other drops.

No official saw 6-feet-8-inch tackle Calais Campbell stand up and call timeout, and Eagles quarterback Sam

Bradford hit tight end Zach Ertz with a 22-yard score to tie the game with 8:26 left.

Johnson produced both spectacular and scary moments in the first half.

He rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns, including a sensational 47-yard run that included at least five broken tackles.

“It was a stretch (play),” Johnson said, “and I saw guys overflowing. I cut it back, read my holes, my blocks, broke a couple tackles, got a couple stiff arms and got nto the end zone.”

That one put the Cardinals ahead, 17-10.

Cardinals recap, analysis of victory over Eagles

Johnson now has 12 touchdowns, breaking the team record for a rookie previously held by Ottis Anderson (1979) and Tim Hightower (2008).

The game didn’t start auspiciously for the Cardinals. Brown dropped a sure touchdown pass on the game’s first play.

No matter, the Cardinals still covered the 78 yards to the end zone easily. They threw a little, ran a little and did everything they wanted to against the Eagles.

The longest gain was a 36-yard pass to tight end Darren Fells. Johnson scored from 1 yard out to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 10:44 left.

The Cardinals moved smoothly on their second possession, too, until they made it to the Eagles 6. On second down, Brown dropped his second potential touchdown pass, a fade in the end zone.

A sack brought on kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who made a 28-yard field goal to give the Cardinals a 10-3 lead with 14;02 left in the half.

Photos of Cardinals fans:

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