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Eagles' defense puts pressure on Cardinals' Palmer

Trent Cole, Brandon Graham each sack Carson Palmer twice.

Bennie Logan and Brandon Graham sack the Cardinals' Carson Palmer during the second quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Bennie Logan and Brandon Graham sack the Cardinals' Carson Palmer during the second quarter. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

COMING OFF of their Week 12 bye, the Eagles' defense knew it would be challenged with a different type of quarterback in Arizona's Carson Palmer. Unlike the mobile quarterbacks they faced during the month of November, Palmer was less of a threat to run, which allowed the Eagles to rush the 33-year-old veteran.

With numerous blitz packages throughout their 24-21 victory against Arizona yesterday, the Eagles sacked Palmer five times and forced three turnovers en route to the defense's eighth straight effort in which they allowed 21 points or less.

"I think we're starting to get a consistent pass rush and not letting the pocket collapse around guys like that and then forcing the ball to maybe be thrown a little bit quicker," coach Chip Kelly said after the win. "I think we're getting more opportunistic out back. Guys are catching balls. Maybe sometimes they went through our hands earlier in the year, and I know we talk about it, sometimes it comes in bunches.

"But again, when you win the turnover battle in this league, it's huge. And when we're not turning it over offensively and we continue to create them on the defensive side of the ball, it's a positive for us."

After winning the turnover battle yesterday, defensive coordinator Bill Davis credited his defensive line for pressuring Palmer with three- and four-man rushes. Despite giving up some big plays in the second half, Davis said the final score is what matters to his defense.

"Our defensive line stepped up and got all kinds of pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. Now, we pressured a few times and we maxed-dropped some and got pressure with a three-man rush. It was a nice day for the defensive line. The coverage was also tight. They made plays like you knew they would. At the end of the day, the scoreboard said we had three more points than them, so that's good."

After the Eagles won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, the defense was off and running on Arizona's first offensive drive. The Eagles' first sack came from linebacker Trent Cole whose hit caused Palmer to fumble. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan recovered and less than a minute later, the Eagles' offense converted the turnover into seven points.

"Trent was out there playing all day and we were both feeding off of each other" said linebacker Brandon Graham, who also recorded two sacks yesterday. "Trent got that first one and I was like, 'Man I can't wait, I've got to go out there and get one.' Every game we always say we're going to start it off, and Trent definitely did."

The Eagles continued to apply pressure on Palmer and forced another turnover on Arizona's second possession of the first quarter. With the pass rush coming, Palmer threw a deep pass intended for wide receiver Michael Floyd that was intercepted by safety Nate Allen and returned 43 yards to the Eagles' 48.

"It was big, real big. That's every week," Allen said of the effect the pass rush had on forcing three turnovers. "Our guys up front do a good job at pressuring the quarterback and they make it easier for us back there in the secondary."

After the game, Allen admitted he was relieved to record his first interception since the 2011 season finale against Washington.

"It felt good to get back on the board and I'm going to keep playing until I get my hands on some more," Allen said.

In the fourth quarter, Cole got his second sack of the game and the 76th of his career, tying him with defensive end Clyde Simmons for the second-most in franchise history. Reggie White is the team's all-time lead with 124 sacks in eight seasons.

"It's great with those numbers, but right now I'm just glad to be where we're at as a team and winning games and knowing what this team can do, and doing it," Cole said.

Davis said he wasn't surprised by Cole's performance.

"I have watched Trent put pressure on the quarterback the whole season and I was always saying the sacks will come. Now they are coming," Davis said after Cole recorded his fourth and fifth sacks of the season. "Trent always collapses his side of the pocket. Turnovers and sacks come in bunches and he is working and getting them."

Cole said it took some time for him to adjust to the 3-4 defense and he's happy to finally see his hard work pay off on the field.

"I told myself at the beginning of the year that I was going to make it work regardless, and that I was going to pick my foot up for the Eagles," Cole said. "Hard work pays off, keep your head straight, work hard, stay humble and you'll get the reward."

Eagles' cornerback Cary Williams made a key interception in the third quarter, his third of the season. Williams also credited the defensive line for bringing the heat and forcing Palmer to make throws.

"I think the pass rush was huge today" Williams said. "I think guys were getting him off his mark, getting their hands in his face and got to him early, forcing a couple of turnovers. The pass rush really affected [Palmer] and I think the defensive line has been tremendous all year, especially helping us out in the secondary and today we were able to make [Palmer] pay."