GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Philadelphia Eagles never got nearly close enough to Arizona on Sunday to stage another thrilling comeback.
They fell behind the Cardinals early and never caught up. Their bid to stay undefeated and start a season 3-0 for the first time since 2004 came to an ugly and embarrassing end with a 27-6 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"The Cardinals played better than we did today," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Clearly better. I didn't have my football team ready to play today and they did. Hats off to them. I did a terrible job this week. We have to go back and get better."
They couldn't play much worse.
With the possible exception of the defense, which allowed just two touchdowns and only three second-half points, the Eagles played terribly. The Cardinals, who improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1974, not only beat the Eagles, they beat them up.
Virtually every Eagles offensive play ended with quarterback Michael Vick, tight end Brent Celek or some other player absorbing a vicious hit from linebacker Daryl Washington and the rest of the Cards' aggressive, swarming defense.
"I've been on this team for a while," said Celek, who is in his sixth season. "I've taken hits like this and I've taken losses like this before. It's all about how you respond to these kinds of situations. I'm not worried. We have a good football team and we'll bounce back. It's still a long season."
Arizona dominated from the outset, using a pair of touchdown passes by ex-Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb to take a 17-0 lead. Kolb, who was traded to the Cardinals prior to last season in exchange for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick, tossed an 8-yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Floyd that deflected off middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and Rodgers-Cromartie. Kolb then fired a 37-yard TD pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Kolb completed 17-of-24 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Fitzgerald was his favorite receiver, catching nine passes for 114 yards and a TD.
"This feels good," Kolb said. "It really does. The biggest thing is being 3-0. To be 3-0 aainst the teams we've played, in the fashion that we've won, it's been exciting and it sure feels good."
The Eagles, who have been troubled by turnovers this season, committed three more to run their season total to 12.
One of the miscues essentially decided the game.
Despite their early ineptitude, the Eagles looked ready to climb back into the game. Vick led the offense to the Cards' 1-yard line with 16 seconds left in the first half. On third down, safety Kerry Rhodes stormed into the Eagles' backfield on a blitz and hammered Vick. The ball popped loose and safety James Sanders scooped it up on a bounce and used a block by Washington to sprint 93 yards to the opposite end zone on the final play of the half to put the Cards in front 24-0.
"I just came free and I was able to get the ball out," Rhodes said. "I thought we all played well, though we still haven't played our best. For us to still win, that just goes to show how good we are when we play together as a team."
That was just one of many hits Vick absorbed. The Cardinals got five sacks, including two by Washington, and were credited with 13 total quarterback hits.
In some instances, the blame belonged to the makeshift offensive line. Center Dallas Reynolds made his first career start in place of injured Jason Kelce. Demetress Bell started at left tackle ahead of injured King Dunlap.
On other plays, Vick simply held onto the ball too long.
"I'm not concerned at all (about the hits)," Vick said. "I'm just going to keep fighting along with my teammates. The thing about this team is we are very resilient group of guys. We stick together regardless of what happens. We know that next week we can be the absolute opposite of what happened today."
The Eagles (2-1) will get a chance to bounce back next Sunday night against the NFC East rival New York Giants (2-1) at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles figure to play with a lot of emotion. If facing the defending Super Bowl champions isn't motivation enough, the Eagles also will honor former safety Brian Dawkins at halftime.
"This was a tough loss, but we're still 2-1," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "The good thing is that we're playing a division rival and we'll be back home in front of our crowd next week. I don't think we'll have any problem at all turning the page. It's a long season and we just have to keep fighting."
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