Let's take a look at what went right and what went wrong in the Sunday night win.
1) David Johnson - When Chris Johnson went down with his injury, I honestly wasn't worried. I remember telling friends that David Johnson, the rookie out of Northern Iowa, was more than capable of carrying the team's run game. Well, DJ proved exactly that against the Eagles by churning out a monster performance. Rushing 29 times for 187 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson dominated the game from start to finish behind a solid performance from his offensive line. DJ also leads the team in overall touchdowns, as he has 12 on the season. He is heating up at just the right time, too, as the playoffs are right around the corner. The team will surely be leaning on him in the coming games.
2) Turnovers - Turning over the ball has been a major problem for the Cardinals all season. As I've mentioned in previous posts, they've actually been at the top of the league in turnovers per game. Against the Eagles, however, they not only protected the ball at all time, but were actually able to force four turnovers against the Eagles - two fumbles, and two interceptions (one of which turned into a pick-6).
3) The Defensive Effort - Bradford and the Eagles never stood a chance. The Cardinals defense was over him all night. S/$LB Deone Buccannon had a pick six, S Tyrann Mathieu added one interception of his own, DE Ed Stinson and LB Markus Golden recorded sacks, the team won the turnover battle, and while 17 points may seem uncharacteristically high for the Arizona defense, 7 of those points came off one 78 yard play in the 4th quarter with the game all but wrapped up. I have absolutely no complaints from James Bettcher's defense.
4) Carson Palmer - Another strong game from the Cardinals' signal caller helped the team in their blowout. Palmer might not have put up the numbers Cam Newton did, but the MVP candidate once again quietly orchestrated his team's victory. 20-32, 274 yards, and one TD - that's all we need to win.
5) Offensive Dominance - Directly relating to Palmer, the offense was simply fantastic all night. They were on the field for 37:28 of the 60 game minutes, and had 28 first downs, compared to the Eagles 19. They were 8-14 on 3rd down, and averaged 6.7 yards per play, which puts them at the top of the league in that category. This is the type of play that will carry the team far in the post-season.
6) NFC West Champions - The Cardinals reached 12 wins for the first time in franchise history, and the division title for the first time since Kurt Warner clinched it in 2009. It's feels good to be king.
1) Injury scares - This late in the season, injuries are the last thing you want to see happen on the field. The Cardinals had a few major injury scares in the game. David Johnson left the game with a knee injury in the 1st half, Carson Palmer was pulled for a few snaps due to a jammed finger, and worst of all, Tyrann Mathieu made a premature exit after crashing to the ground awkwardly following an interception off QB Sam Bradford. The team is still awaiting a Monday diagnosis. Mathieu is arguably the defense's best player, and any loss of playing time will definitely affect the team negatively.
2) Kicking/Punting - It's hard to complain about this in a win, but for the sake of analysis, K Chandler Catanzaro and P Drew Butler had down days. Catanzaro's kickoffs were consistently short, allowing the Eagles to run the ball out more times than they should have, and he even missed an extra point, which is something he absolutely cannot do in a playoff game. And Butler, who had recently put together a string of solid performances, regressed by averaging 39 yards on his four punt attempts. Not a disastrous outing, but not great either.
1) Dropped passes - John Brown dropped three passes, two of which would have been touchdowns. Michael Floyd dropped two of his own. Even the ever-reliable Larry Fitzgerald had an on-target drop. I'm going to go ahead and attribute this to the cold Philadelphia weather, because I really don't know why this was a problem throughout the game. Hopefully the team leaves this behind in Philly.