PHILADELPHIA — The St. Louis Cardinals finally found their missing ingredient--defense.
Neil Lomax threw three touchdown passes, two to J.T. Smith, as the Cardinals built a 28-point lead in the first half and then held off an Philadelphia Eagles for a 31-19 victory Sunday.
No one was surprised with the performance of Lomax, third best passer in the NFC. But the defense?
St. Louis came into the game ranked 26th of 28 teams in total defense, 23rd against the rush, 26th in points allowed and 28th in stopping the pass.
But the Cardinals, even without their top defender, Curtis Greer, held the Eagles to 60 yards rushing in 20 carries, not even close to the 400 yards predicted by Philadelphia Coach Buddy Ryan.
Defensive end Freddie Joe Nunn said the Cardinals were aware of Ryan's prediction.
"It came up every now and then during the week," Nunn said. "It's not something you overlook. We went out there determined not to let it happen."
The Cardinals sacked the Eagles' scrambling Randall Cunningham six times.
St. Louis (4-6), which lost the first game with the Eagles (4-6) on Nov. 1 in the last 40 seconds.
In addition to his two scoring passes to Smith, Lomax threw a touchdown pass to Roy Green, Earl Ferrell ran 35 yards for a score and Jim Gallery booted a 20-yard field goal for a 31-3 halftime lead.
The Eagles, held to 51 yards in the first half, came back to score on 16- and 27-yard passes from Cunningham to Mike Quick to cut their deficit to 31-17 with 14:22 to play.
The Eagles got two more points with 1:49 remaining when St. Louis punter Greg Cater stepped out of the end zone for a safety.
"It was one of the better games we've played in awhile, especially in the first half," St. Louis Coach Gene Stallings said.
Stallings said the Cardinals found themselves just trying to run out the clock in the second half instead of scoring.
"I guess we didn't know how to act," he said. "I was afraid we'd go out and try to protect the lead. We were playing a little afraid."
In the first half, the Cardinals simply took advantage of what the Eagles gave them, Lomax said.
"I think they blew a couple of coverages with the tight ends. And J.T. made some big catches. I was getting pass protection," he said.
Eagle Coach Buddy Ryan said: "The only thing worse than our play and my coaching was the officiating."