Times will not get much worse for Eagles fans than they did on Sunday. With a chance to take an early lead in the NFC East, the Eagles and their fans were reminded by a pedestrian Cowboys team that the team is in a rebuilding phase.
In an ugly 17-3 loss to the division rival Dallas Cowboys, Nick Foles was as bad as an NFL quarterback can be short of committing multiple turnovers (which his replacement in the final moments of the game, Matt Barkley, definitely did).
I heartily praised Foles’ attributes after last week’s game, and genuinely believed he might be the quarterback of the future for this franchise. I still would not discount him based on one game, but he was disturbingly bad.
All the positive attributes Foles had previously displayed were absent. He was indecisive, he was inaccurate, and he seemed shaken. The fact that he seemed rattled is the most troubling because he had been so unflappable as a rookie and in the last two weeks. That he would be rattled in this game, when he had handled so many seemingly more difficult situations with no problems is inexplicable.
In Tampa Bay, during a road game against a very good defense, Foles earned Offensive Player of the Week honors. Sunday, against a very bad defense that was also missing its best player, he looked like he did not belong on an NFL field.
There were open receivers waiting for the ball, but an indecisive Foles could not or would not pull the trigger. When he did, he misfired. He took sacks when he could have thrown the ball away and generally seemed mentally deficient even before he suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter.
As the hallmarks of his short career have been quick decision-making and an even keel, this performance was truly bewildering.
Foles’ teammates themselves said they did not help him, with receivers dropping balls and the offensive line failing to protect him well, but the lion’s share of Sunday’s offensive impotence belongs to Foles.
The Cowboys defense had been ranked 30th in the 32-team NFL entering the game Sunday and the Eagles offense had been ranked second. The result was inexplicable.
The Cowboys used man coverage against the Eagles receivers, including the sometimes-dangerous DeSean Jackson, and put eight defenders in the box to control the NFL’s leading rusher, Lesean McCoy. Once it became evident that Foles and the receivers could not beat the man coverage, the Cowboys simply keyed on McCoy and the Eagles offense was dead in the water.
It is interesting to note that Chip Kelly’s Oregon team played USC three times when current Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was in the same role for USC. Oregon scored 150 points in those three games. The Eagles three-point effort Sunday gave Kelly another reminder that the PAC-12 and the NFL are a little different.
The lone bright spot on yet another gloomy day at the Linc was the defense. Granted, the Cowboys were one-dimensional because they were short-handed given the injury to starting running back Demarco Murray, but holding the team to 17 points is still an accomplishment.
The Eagles defense forced a big turnover in the third quarter, which could have turned the game around had the offense been alive, but alas, Demeco Ryans’ interception resulted in a deflating Alex Henery field goal. That is the hallmark of a mediocre NFL team: one unit plays well one week, another plays well another week, but they are unable to perform simultaneously and consistently.
The Eagles defense has now held three consecutive opponents to 21 points or fewer. It won’t be very good at any time this season, but it can be said the group is improving. Looking at this team, it is better than last year’s squad because it at least seems to care. It hangs in the balance whether they will weather this storm and overcome it or lay down beneath the pressure as they did last year, with no resistance.
Michel Vick will start this week, and probably will play well against the hapless Giants because he is rested. He might even play well for a few more games after that, until his next inevitable injury. It will be up to Chip Kelly and the veterans in the locker to hold this group together and to shepherd the team through this stormy Week 7.
The temptation to deem Nick Foles another Bobby Hoying is strong. I, for one, am not ready to do that. One bad game does not define a young NFL quarterback. I know Vick is not the answer. I do not yet know that Foles isn’t.
With the Giants coming to town, the Eagles must end their historic home losing streak immediately and get back on track.
Chip, time’s yours.