The Philadelphia Eagles will finally get to face their old friend Kevin Kolb on Sept. 23. But although Eagles fans like myself are more focused on what Kolb will do, beating the Arizona Cardinals doesn't just require stopping him. The more important Cardinals offensive star to stop is Larry Fitzgerald - which has been easier said than done for Philadelphia.
Fitzgerald has had his way with a bunch of teams over the years, but the Eagles are a special case. Not only did he lead the Cardinals over the Birds in the 2009 NFC title game, he also had his way with them last Nov. 13 in Arizona's comeback win over Philadelphia. As such, he cannot be allowed to get free and burn the Eagles yet again.
Fitzgerald's seven catches, 146 yards and two touchdowns helped the Cardinals rally over the Eagles in Nov. 2011, which helped finish off Philadelphia's season. Of course, it wasn't as painful as when he killed the Birds' Super Bowl dreams almost three years earlier, with his nine catches, 152 yards and three touchdowns.
But that killer Fitzgerald hasn't shown up so much this season, as he only has five catches in two games and no touchdowns. In addition, he only had one catch when the Cardinals faced the New England Patriots on Sept. 16 - yet they won in Foxboro anyway.
The Eagles have puzzled everyone by going 2-0 despite having nine turnovers. Likewise, it is puzzling how the Cardinals can win even without Fitzgerald doing anything. But if Philadelphia ever stops turning the ball over, and if Arizona can get Fitzgerald to be his old dominant self, these two teams could be truly dangerous.
Perhaps facing the Eagles will get the star receiver going, as it has in the past. And perhaps the chance to get revenge on Fitzgerald and bring Kolb down to Earth will make Philadelphia less clumsy. But if the Eagles' defense can't clamp down like it has in its first two games, then the offense really can't survive so many turnovers again.
To best clamp down, the Eagles must do what they've been spectacularly unable to do in the past - stop Fitzgerald. But they didn't have the personal to stop him in 2009 like they have now, and the secondary was too cluttered to do much damage against him in 2011.
With Nnamdi Asomugha and former Cardinal Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie now settled into their roles, and with Fitzgerald perhaps a step down from a few years ago, perhaps the tide will turn this time around. It has to, or else Philadelphia can't do something else it hasn't done in its last few meetings with Arizona - win.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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