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NFL 2014: Cardinals & Eagles Flying High
As the NFL season enters the quarter mark, three teams remain undefeated -- Arizona, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. And since 1990, when the current playoff format was adopted, 75.2 percent of teams (91 of 121) to start 3-0 have qualified for the postseason.
The Cardinals and Eagles have set the pace in the NFC thanks to their resiliency and ability to make big plays in important moments.
"One of the reasons why both teams are undefeated is that they've both been able to come from behind," says NFL Network analyst BRIAN BALDINGER. "And they're both making big plays on both sides of the ball. Ultimately, when its crunch time, these two teams are making big plays at key parts of the game."
For just the third time in the past 41 seasons (1974, 2012), the Cardinals have started a season 3-0. And with a bye in Week 4, the Cardinals will finish the first month of the season with a perfect record, marking the third time since the 1970 merger that the franchise posted an undefeated record in September (1974, 2012).
"For us to go undefeated in September is a huge step forward," says Cardinals head coach BRUCE ARIANS. "I love the resiliency of our football team and the focus they bring every single day to work."
Arizona has allowed 45 total points (15.0 per game) through the first three games of the season, tied for the second-fewest in the league (Cincinnati, 33).
"It's good to be 3-0, but we're not satisfied because we're trying to get somewhere," says Arizona defensive coordinator TODD BOWLES. "We're trying to get to the playoffs and the Super Bowl."
The Cardinals and Bengals are the only two teams who have allowed 17 points or fewer in all three games. It is just the sixth time in franchise history dating back to 1940 -- and the first time since 1974 -- that the Cardinals have allowed 17 points or fewer in each of the first three games of a season.
"I think the reason the Cardinals have been successful is they've been opportunistic on defense," says NFL Network analyst DANIEL JEREMIAH. "You have to give Todd Bowles a lot of credit for what the Cardinals have done."
The Cardinals have played some of their best football in the fourth quarter this season, outscoring opponents 30-0. Arizona has trailed in the second half of all three games, including entering the fourth quarter while behind in each of the team's first two games. The Cardinals became the first team since 1982 (Green Bay) to start 2-0 after trailing entering the fourth quarter in both games and not allowing a single fourth-quarter point.
"We now understand how to win ballgames," says Arizona cornerback PATRICK PETERSON. "We know how to finish out the fourth quarter. That's what it's all about in this league."
The teams with the best fourth-quarter point differentials this season:
Philadelphia is 3-0 for the first time since 2004 when the Eagles last appeared in the Super Bowl. That season, the club finished 13-3, claimed the NFC East division title, earned the top seed in the conference, won the NFC Championship Game and advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX.
"Our whole motto is one down, one to go," says Philadelphia head coach CHIP KELLY. "We're fortunate right now to be 3-0. The guys should feel really good about themselves but we've got to get back to work."
The Eagles have overcome deficits of at least 10 points in each of the team's first three games and are the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 when trailing by at least 10 points in all three games. That includes wins in the club's first two games when Philadelphia trailed by at least 14 points in the second half. The Eagles are the only team in league annals to start 2-0 after trailing by at least 14 points in the second half of each game.
"In this league, you have to win the close ones," says Philadelphia running back LE SEAN MC COY. "That's what the good teams do. They find ways to win the close ones."
Philadelphia has scored 101 points (33.7 per game), the second-most in the league (Atlanta, 103), and is the only team in the NFL to score at least 30 points in all three games. Since Kelly took over as the head coach in 2013, the Eagles have scored at least 30 points in a game 11 times and are 9-2 (.818) in those contests.
"We're a family and we stick together," says Eagles quarterback NICK FOLES, who leads the NFL with 978 passing yards. "There's great camaraderie. We lean on each other instead of blaming each other. That's what football should be about. You go into work each and every day with these guys. You want to have each other's backs."
Philadelphia has scored 74 second-half points -- the most in the league -- and the club's +50 point differential after halftime leads the NFL.
"For the Eagles, what they do at halftime is special," says Jeremiah. "With Chip Kelly and what they've been able to do coming out of halftime, the adjustments they make, that to me has been why they've been successful."
NFL teams with the best second-half point differentials this season:
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NFL 2014 - Cardinals & Eagles Flying High