TEMPE, Ariz. — Three weeks ago, it looked like Boomer Esiason's career was over. Now he's the hottest quarterback in the NFL.
Esiason threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including a 24-yarder to Marcus Dowdell with 14 seconds left, to give the Arizona Cardinals a wild 36-30 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Esiason, benched after three losses to begin the season, returned when Kent Graham was injured in the ninth game. Since then, has led the Cardinals to three consecutive victories, throwing for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns in three games.
"We've had some amazing things happen to us the last three weeks," said the 35-year-old Esiason, whose arm strength was questioned throughout training camp. "It's nice to play with these guys, because they all want a piece of it."
After the Cardinals (6-6) took a 29-20 lead on Larry Centers' two-yard touchdown catch with 2:45 left, Derrick Witherspoon returned the kickoff 95 yards for a Philadelphia score. Johnny Thomas then recovered an onside kick for the Eagles (7-5), who took the lead on Gary Anderson's 32-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining.
Esiason took over from there with no timeouts, leading Arizona on a six-play, 66-yard drive in only 38 seconds. Completions to Dowdell, Rob Moore and Frank Sanders moved the ball to the Eagles 24. Dowdell then beat Troy Vincent and caught the winning pass along the sideline in the end zone.
"Boomer just knows how to win," Arizona linebacker Eric Hill said. "He went in there and got the job done. Now we can go on the road and feel we can compete with anybody."
Esiason completed 24 of 43 passes for 367 yards, including 13 for 16 for 180 yards in the fourth quarter.
"The Cardinal teams of old and maybe even earlier this year might have thrown in the towel, but this team didn't," Coach Vince Tobin said. "The thing that makes me proud as a coach is how this team has time and time again found a way to come back and win."
The Cardinals prevented the Eagles from moving into a first-place tie with Washington in the NFC East.
"It was a crazy game," said Philadelphia quarterback Ty Detmer, who was 21 for 38 for 322 yards. "There was still a lot of time left, and Boomer is a veteran who's been in that situation a lot of times."
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\o7 Boomer Esiason has gone from mediocrity to greatness in three weeks. A look at his last threegames:\f7
Opp Att Cmp Yds TD New York Giants 26 18 260 2 Washington 59 35 522 3 Philadelphia 43 24 367 3 Totals 128 77 1,149 8