Philadelphia 21, Arizona 7

TEMPE, Ariz., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Brian Mitchell brought back the game's opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown Sunday and Philadelphia protected its lead atop the NFC East with a 21-7 decision over the Arizona Cardinals.

It was the 12th kickoff return for a score, tying him with Eric Metcalf for the most in league history.


Donovan McNabb added a pair of touchdown passes to James Thrash for the Eagles (4-3), who remained a half game in front of the New York Giants in the division.

Arizona's Jake Plummer went 24 of 41 for 293 yards with one touchdown and an interception. David Boston had eight receptions for 138 yards for the Cardinals (2-5).

Plummer was hoping for one of his familiar comebacks Sunday, but those hopes were dashed when Michael Pittman lost a fumble in the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

"I planned on it," Plummer said. "We score and there's three minutes left. Our defense, the way they were playing, could hold them and we're going to get the ball back probably with a minute left. If we score there, maybe we're in that situation."


Mitchell said he felt good about his chances of returning a kickoff Sunday.

"We left after the pregame warmup and (Eagles coach) Andy (Reid) said he felt like we were going to get one today," Mitchell said. "We did see some things that we had against there kickoff coverage and didn't know it was going to open up like it did, but the guys did a great job of blocking and opened up a big hole."

Overmatched in a loss against Oakland last week, the Eagles could not have gotten off to a better start after Mitchell fielded Bill Gramatica's kickoff, broke an ankle tackle by Kwamie Lassiter and raced down the field for a touchdown.

Mitchell also helped set up another score in the second quarter, returning a punt 22 yards to the Arizona 35. Arizona was forced to use Gramatica as the punter after normal punter Scott Player suffered an undisclosed injury earlier in the second quarter.

Rookie Correll Buckhalter broke off a nine-yard run on third and four to the Arizona four, keeping the drive alive. Two plays later, McNabb found Thrash over the middle for an eight-yard touchdown and a 14-0 advantage.


Plummer finally got the Cardinals moving later in the quarter, going four of four on a five-play, 80-yard drive. He capped the march with 65 seconds left before intermission by finding tight end Tywan Mitchell for a two-yard touchdown. It was Mitchell's first career touchdown.

But the touchdown came too early, giving McNabb time to put more points on the board before the half.

Three plays after Plummer's touchdown, McNabb found Thrash, who beat rookie cornerback Michael Stone down the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds left in the half.

McNabb went 12 of 17 for 176 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the first half. He finished 19 of 33 for 238 yards while Thrash had four catches for 80 yards.

"We tried to get back to what we did earlier in the season and we connected on some different routes and got everybody involved," McNabb said.

Arizona coach Dave McGinnis thought the touchdown by Philadelphia before the half was the big blow.

"It made it a two-possession game," he said. "We were in a man-to-man situation. We were in a blitz situation. He (Michael Stone) had a safety deep, but they got past him and we had a full blitz on. They blocked it up and he (McNabb) threw it skinny in there to him and hit him."


Arizona came the closest to scoring in the second half, driving to the Eagles' one with just under three minutes remaining. But Pittman fumbled trying to leap over the goal line and rookie linebacker Derrick Burgess recovered in the end zone.

End Hugh Douglas led the Eagles' defensive charge, collecting two sacks.

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