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How Quickly Fortunes Change for the Arizona Cardinals

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The Christmas Evening game for the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles changed the fate of the two organizations.

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Harken back to the Sunday Night Football game in Philadelphia on December 20, 2015.

The 11-2 Arizona Cardinals, having clinched the NFC West title and looking to secure a 1st round bye in the playoffs---vs.---the 6-7 Philadelphia Eagles who were tied with the Washington Redskins for 1st place in the NFC East and looking to make their push for the playoffs.

The Cardinals won the game 40-17 behind the stellar rushing of rookie David Johnson (29/187/3TDs) and solid passing of Carson Palmer (20/32/274/1 TD).

The Eagles, with Chip Kelly as head coach and GM (with former GM Howie Roseman in exile) had traded rookie sensation Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford. To quote Lindy’s 2105 Pro Football edition: “Kelly feels Bradford is more capable of taking the Eagles to the Super Bowl than Foles. However, Kelly is taking a big risk. Bradford is coming off back-to-back ACL injuries to his left knee. But if he can stay healthy, he might be the bridge from good to great that Kelly is looking for.”

In the nationally televised SNF game, Bradford threw for 28/41/361/2 TD/2 int. and WR Jordan Matthews haled in 8/159/1 TD.

On the defensive side for the Cardinals, Deone Bucannon recorded a team leading 11 tackles and had a pick six TD interception. The game, however, ended on Bradford’s second interception of the day, this time by Tyrann Mathieu, who baited Bradford in textbook fashion up the left sideline. Mathieu jumped the route and snagged the pick, but, alas, while trying to advance the ball ruptured his ACL.

From that point on---the Cardinals were not the same team. Carson Palmer struggled with a broken index finger and the defense badly missed its catalyst---the Honey Badger. The Cardinals went 1-1 to end the season 13-3 and then went 1-1 in the playoffs, getting trounced by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game.

From that point on the Eagles went 1-1 and were beaten out for the NFC East title by Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins who won their last three games to finish 9-7. The Redskins lost 35-18 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at home. In addition, the following week, after a stunning Hail Mary from Rodgers to Jeff Janis to tie the game versus the Cardinals---the Cardinals won the coin toss and then won the game on a Hail Larry and a Shovel Pass Fitzgerald.

Sam Bradford had managed to start 14 of 16 games for the Eagles in 2015---and was so strong down the stretch that, even despite a NFL high 50 drops, Bradford set Eagles’ franchise records in completions and completion percentage.

So, just when things were looking up for Bradford---the Eagles’ owner fired Chip Kelly and re-instated Howie Roseman as GM. With that---in the 2016 NFL Draft, Roseman traded up from #8 to #2 to select QB Carson Wentz. Following the draft, an irate am Bradford asked to be traded, and was finally dealt to the Vikings when Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee in training camp.

According to Lindy’s 2017 Pro Football issue: “Bradford was exceptional last season considering he arrived via an emergency trade eight days before the opener. He went 7-8 and set the NFL’s single-season completion percentage (71.6) and posted a career high 99.3 passer rating throwing 20 TDs and only 5 interceptions.”

Meanwhile---heading into the 2017 season---the Vikings, still unsure of when Teddy Bridgewater could return to full health---signed Case Keenum to be Bradford’s backup. Down in Philadelphia, Howie Roseman released backup QB Chase Daniel and talked Nick Foles into returning to the Eagles amidst Foles’ retirement contemplations.

Both backup QB moves proved to be extraordinarily fortuitous for the Vikings and the Eagles. After Sam Bradford lit the Saints up in Game 1 passing for 27/32/84.4%/346/3 TDs… in game 2 versus the Bears Case Keenum replaced Bradford after Bradford re-injured his knee… and Keenum astonishingly, won 11 games including the miracle playoff win over the Saints to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game where they were trounced by Nick Foles (subbing for injured MVP candidate Carson Wentz) and the Eagles--- who then went on to become the MVP of the Super Bowl when the Eagles artfully managed to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots.

So---today---we learned that the Cardinals #1 QB target, Kirk Cousins, is going to sign with the Vikings. In another report we learned that the Cardinals offered Drew Brees a 2 year $60M (fully guaranteed) contract---which Brees turned down to re-sign with the Saints for 2/$50M. Then---we learned that the Cardinals have agreed to terms with Sam Bradford.

It has also been reported that when the Cardinals interviewed Vikings’ OC Pat Shurmer---Shurmer told the Cardinals that Sam Bradford would have been his top QB choice if he had become the Cardinals’ head coach.

Meanwhile---it appears that Tyrann Mathieu and the Cardinals are working on a restructured contract to keep the Honey Badger in Arizona. Quite frankly, the Honey Badger has not quite been himself since tearing his ACL in Philadelphia back in December of 2015---a game which---in retrospect---changed a number of fortunes for the Cardinals and Eagles and several of their key players. However, the Cardinals awarded Mathieu his lucrative 2nd contract two years ago because the Cardinals have always believed the Honey Badger will return to his 2015 Defensive MVP candidate form.

If the Cardinals want to keep adding key players from that fateful game---well, it just so happens that WR Jordan Mathews (who claims the Eagles misdiagnosed his ankle and knee injuries---which he recently had repaired), RB DeMarco Murray (who went on to lead the AFC in rushing in 2016 for the Tttans), RB Darren Sproles (who is coming off ACL and broken arm injuries, but is adamant about returning to play in 2018) and TE Brent Celek (whom the Eagles just released)---are all on the market…and all of them have something in common---they are very familiar with QB Sam Bradford.

Strange things can happen in Philadelphia the week before Christmas. The Eagles fans once savagely pelted Santa Claus with snowballs. Thus, in light of today’s events, his year the Cardinals are hoping to keep Santa Clause alive, happy, safe, and warm and well in Arizona.