PHILADELPHIA — The Arizona Cardinals clinched their first NFC West title since 2009 by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 40-17 Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Cardinals (12-2) can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs if they beat the Green Bay Packers next week at home.
The Eagles (6-8) must beat the Redskins (7-7) next week to be tied for the lead in NFC East going into the final week of the season, when they play at the New York Giants (6-8), and the Redskins play at Dallas.
The Cardinals held a 17-10 lead at halftime, and after the Eagles started the second half with a three-and-out, Arizona moved downfield for another touchdown. The eight-play, 87-yard drive featured one big play — a diving, 29-yard catch by wide receiver Michael Floyd, who came down with the ball on the Eagles 1-yard line.
Rookie running back David Johnson — who rushed 29 times for three touchdowns and a career-high 187 yards, including a 47-yard scoring run — scored on the next play to give Arizona a 23-10 lead with 9:48 left in the third quarter.
After the Eagles turned the ball over twice on fumbles, Arizona moved in for another touchdown at the end of the third quarter on a 16-yard pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver John Brown to make it 30-10.
The Cardinals delivered the knockout punch when safety Deone Bucannon intercepted a pass from Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to make it 37-10 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Palmer completed 20 of 32 passes for 274 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Bradford completed 28 of 41 passes for 361 yards with two TD passes and two interceptions. Philadelphia wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught eight pases for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Eagles running back DeMarco Murray, who left Dallas for a $40 million contract, didn’t have a single carry until midway through the third quarter. He finished with two carries for 3 yards.
The Cardinals took the opening kickoff and marched downfield with little resistance from the Eagles, a drive that included a 36-yard completion to tight end Darren Fells, who carried cornerback Byron Maxwell on his back for the final 20 yards. That set up Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 Arizona lead with 10:44 left in the opening period.
The Eagles answered with a nice drive of their own, but it stalled on Arizona’s 18 and they had to settle for Caleb Sturgis’ 36-yard field goal, which made it 7-3 with 6:00 left in the first quarter.
Arizona got those three points back on their next possession, but that was a moral victory for the Eagles as it appeared the Cards were headed for another easy TD before defensive end Fletcher Cox sacked Palmer and forced the field goal.
Then the Eagles tied the game thanks to two big plays — a 22-yard carry by running back Ryan Mathews that set up a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz that made it 10-10 with 8:26 in the first half.
But the Cards went back on top because of the extra effort of Johnson and the poor tackling of the Eagles — Johnson ripped off a 47-yard run where he shook off the tackle attempts of at least four Eagles, and he made it all the way to the end zone to give Arizona a 17-10 lead. Then the Cardinals made a defensive stand at the end of the half, stopping the Eagles on fourth down on the Arizona 8 to preserve their lead.
NOTES: Eagles CB Eric Rowe left the game in the first half with a concussion and did not return. … Coming into the game, the ready-for-prime-time Cardinals had won four of their 11 victories at night. … Nine different Eagles have come up with interceptions this season, which was tied for second in the NFL. … Arizona QB Carson Palmer set a franchise record with his 31st TD pass of the season last week vs. Minnesota, surpassing the 30 thrown by Kurt Warner in 2008. … Dallas was eliminated from the division race on Sunday, which means the 2003-2004 Eagles remain the last team to win consecutive NFC East titles.