Eagles

Johnson, Fitzgerald help Cardinals beat mistake-prone 49ers

Johnson, Fitzgerald help Cardinals beat mistake-prone 49ers

BOX SCORE

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With Carson Palmer sidelined by a concussion, the one-win Arizona Cardinals turned to Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and an opportunistic defense for a much-needed victory.

Drew Stanton threw two touchdown passes to Fitzgerald in the quarterback's first start in two years, Johnson ran for two scores and the Cardinals capitalized on San Francisco mistakes to beat the 49ers 33-21 on Thursday night.

"We were a hungry team, a team that knows that we dug a hole for ourselves and we had to win this game," coach Bruce Arians said.

The Cardinals (2-3) got 17 points off three turnovers by the 49ers (1-4) -- two interceptions by Blaine Gabbert and a fumbled kickoff return by Chris Davis -- and also had one drive extended by a running-into-the-kicker penalty.

Those three scoring drives totaled just 41 yards, but proved to be enough to beat the sloppy 49ers as the Cardinals survived a week with without Palmer out with a concussion.

"I don't think anybody played well on offense. Nobody," Niners coach Chip Kelly said. "I don't think we protected well enough, I don't think we threw it well enough and we had too many drops and two interceptions."

Stanton didn't produce much, going 11 for 27 for 124 yards. But Arizona didn't turn the ball over and got 157 yards rushing from Johnson to get the win. Johnson added 28 yards receiving, and Fitzgerald caught six passes for 81 yards as that duo combined to gain 266 of the team's 288 yards from scrimmage.

The defense did the rest with the two interceptions and seven sacks.

"We've been saying all week it just starts with one. Just get one win and try to stack them," defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "We've been a team in the past that can rip off a bunch of them. ... Now we have to figure out what we can do to keep that ball rolling."

Quick turnaround
The game changed in a span of less than 4 minutes starting late in the second quarter. Campbell's interception of a deflected pass set up Arizona's first score on a 21-yard pass from Stanton to Fitzgerald with 1:40 left in the half. Davis' fumble of the second-half kickoff then set up Johnson's 4-yard run that put Arizona up for good.

"We got the momentum going," Stanton said. "Unfortunately, I think, it's one of those things as an offense you're waiting to make a play, and got that spark from the defense. Then to come out in the second half and get the ball right there was huge."

We want Kap
There were several thousand empty seats at the game but the fans who did show up were frustrated by what they saw. At one point in the third quarter, a chant of "We want Kap! We want Kap!" started up as fans wanted to give former starter Colin Kaepernick a shot at quarterback. Gabbert responded by leading an 82-yard TD drive fueled in part by his 24-yard run.

The chants started again after Gabbert threw his second interception.

Gabbert finished 18 for 31 for 162 yards and Kelly would not address whether it was time to make a quarterback change.

"We're 1-4. We're going to look at everything," he said. "We have to make sure we're giving our team the best chance to go out and win."

Favorite target
Jeremy Kerley, acquired two weeks before the start of the season in a trade with Detroit, has quickly established himself as Gabbert's most trusted receiver. After nine straight punts to open the game, Gabbert completed four passes for 63 yards on one drive in the second quarter, capped by a 9-yard TD pass to Kerley.

Punt party
The first quarter featured six drives, six punts, zero points and only five completed passes as both offenses struggled mightily. Gabbert and Stanton missed open receivers, had other throws dropped and neither offense could generate much of anything.

Sack party
Markus Golden and Campbell each had two of Arizona's seven sacks as the Cardinals put constant pressure on Gabbert. Pass protection had been one of the few positives on offense for the 49ers, who had allowed just three sacks the first four games.

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."