|Larry Fitzgerald toasted the Eagles for 114 yards and a score in the Cardinals' 27-6 win. (US Presswire)|
Don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals are the hottest team in football, winners of nine of 11 and three straight to open the season. In Week 3, they flustered, flumoxed and ultimately flattened Michael Vick all the way to a 27-6 win over Philadelphia that was worse than the final score indicated.
Aside from Kevin Kolb realizing that, yes, Larry Fitzgerald is on his team and that, yes, perhaps he should throw him the ball, the Cardinals' offense was nothing extraordinary on Sunday. Unless you factor in the Eagles' impressive defensive line and Arizona's offensive line woes. Somehow, the unit the Cardinals have cobbled together is holding relatively strong -- Kolb was sacked three times, but did well on the run and stayed confident in the pocket, completing 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards and two scores.
Perhaps more importantly, long-term at least, running back Ryan Williams regained a bit of confidence after a brutal Week 2, particularly in the fourth quarter. Last week, he almost fumbled away the game agains 20353323 t the Patriots before Stephen Gostkowski missed what would've been a game-winning field goal. This week, he gained 63 of his 83 yards in the fourth quarter, with two big runs down the stretch.
Oh, and then there's Fitzgerald. After one of the worst statistical performances of his career -- one catch for four yards against New England -- Fitzgerald once more feasted on an Eagle defense that he's picked apart in the past, catching nine balls for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The league's stingiest scoring defense put on a display against the then-undefeated Eagles. Philadelphia had been playing with fire; on Sunday, the Cardinals simply lit them up, holding the Eagles to their lowest scoring output since a 24-0 loss to Dallas in the last game of the 2009 regular season.
Arizona dropped Michael Vick five times for negative 35 yards, and a unit that is second in the NFL in sacks and tied for first in fumble recoveries was once again on the prowl. The Cardinals were persistent in their handling of Vick, constantly knocking him down or causing happy feet, and Vick completed just 17 of 37 passes for 217 yards, while stud running back Lesean McCoy managed just 78 yards from scrimmage. The play of the game may have been James Sanders 93-yard fumble return for touchdown, which completely shifted all of the momentum to the Cardinals. And is any linebacker playing better than Daryl Washington, who added two more sacks?
Special Teams: B+
Jay Feely was his usual consistent self with two-for-two field goals, but the return game lacked the usual oomph. Patrick Peterson had just 52 yards on five punt returns, as the Eagles made it a point to close the running lanes. Punter Dave Zastudil helped keep field position largely in Arizona's favor, averaging more than 47 yards per punt.
After pulling off the surprise win over New England, the Cardinals could have become complacent, realizing their standing as one of the top teams in the league. Ken Whisenhunt didn't allow that, clearly. Arizona appeared to froth at the mouth as it built a 10-0 first-quarter and a 24-0 halftime lead. The Cardinals were disciplined and aggressive, sending Michael Vick on the run. When they needed a game-changing moment, they got it, and a team that closed out 2011 with a 7-2 record continues to chug along.
For more news and analysis from Cardinals blogger Jon Gold, follow @CBSSportsNFLARI on Twitter.