The Philadelphia Eagles got taught a harsh lesson by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth game of 2011. Back then, Eagles fans like myself weren't panicking over the team's slow start, as we thought a win over the then-lowly 49ers would put them back on track. However, San Francisco showed Philadelphia just how much trouble it was in for with a stunning comeback win - a win that launched the 49ers' rise towards the NFC title game.
Now in the third game of 2012, the Arizona Cardinals have shown Philadelphia just how much trouble it is in for, with a stunningly easy 27-6 win on Sept. 23. Just as the 2011 49ers began to prove they were for real by shocking the Eagles, the 2012 Cardinals may well wind up doing the same thing.
Last year's 49ers and this year's Cardinals don't seem that different so far. San Francisco came from nowhere last season to shock the NFL with a 13-3 record, and a near berth in the Super Bowl. No one is arguing that Arizona will go 13-3 and almost make the Super Bowl this year - but as Philadelphia knows, it has made stunning Super Bowl runs before.
The Cardinals destroyed this year's Eagles with a dominant, hard hitting defense - the same kind that the 49ers have had ever since Jim Harbaugh took over. Yet the supposed weak link for last year's 49ers was their offense, since Alex Smith had struggled at quarterback for years and lived down to high expectations. And this year's Cardinals are now being led by Kevin Kolb - another quarterback who has struggled for years and lived down to high expectations.
Smith finally came through by being a game manager, as he toned down his mistakes and interceptions and gave the defense just enough support. Likewise, Kolb has become a solid, mistake-free game manager as well - or at least that's what he looked like against the Eagles. With no interceptions, two touchdowns, high accuracy and a hot Larry Fitzgerald, Kolb was about as perfect as he could have been.
Eventually, Smith stopped being a mere game manager and was able to win games on his own. It may be too early to tell if Kolb can do the same - especially since one bad game or two could give John Skelton another chance to start. Yet if the Cardinals give Kolb enough time, maybe he will be the big winner he couldn't be with the Eagles.
No one expected anything from the 49ers when they faced the Eagles last October, while we still expected Philadelphia would achieve great things. But two months later, San Francisco was playing for the NFC title while Philadelphia had long been resting - and the genesis of it all began in that 49ers-Eagles stunner.
A year later, the same formula has emerged - or at least the beginning of it. Another seemingly lowly NFC West team has used a great defense, an efficient offense and a statement win over the Eagles to get on the NFL's radar. But will the Cardinals take full advantage of it like last year's 49ers did - and will the Eagles repeat some uglier history as well?
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- San Francisco 49ers
- the Eagles
- San Francisco
- Arizona Cardinals