THE RETURN of Nick Foles this week would have at least piled a stick or two of fresh kindling on the Eagles' flickering playoff hopes, but like so much else lately, Foles' collarbone tests did not go the way the team had hoped.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Foles "is not healed," and won't play Saturday against Washington. "We will move forward without him," Kelly said. "He's going to start throwing a little bit more, but he's out right now."
A source close to the situation said that Foles' tests yesterday showed "continued healing, but not enough to play professional football without significant risk."
The source said Foles will be examined again later this week, and if the collarbone isn't tender, the quarterback will get another scan next Monday. The source emphasized that Foles will have to be completely pain-free for that to happen.
So, it seems unlikely Foles is going to be ready to play in the regular-season finale at the Giants, either.
The 9-5 Eagles, with virtually no wild-card hopes and needing the Colts to beat the Cowboys to get them back into the NFC East title picture, are left to rally around Mark Sanchez. The backup has thrown nine interceptions in seven games and is averaging a pick for every 25 throws, one of the NFL's worst ratios, worse than that of the guy who replaced him with the Jets, Geno Smith.
Sanchez also seems to struggle with downfield accuracy, or accuracy on any throw down the sideline. The disparity at quarterback between Sanchez and Russell Wilson, and then between Sanchez and Tony Romo, has been the difference between winning and losing the past 2 weeks. (Granted, the Eagles' secondary play has enhanced that disparity.)
Kelly was asked yesterday what he saw from Sanchez when he rewatched the game.
"Like most people, I saw good and bad," he said. "I saw some of the throws - the throw to for the long run was a real big-time throw. There were a couple of throws on the sideline that I thought he made, but then there were some other throws, the throw to that he missed , the throw . So I saw some good and some bad."
The second-and-9 miss of Celek, when the Eagles were trying to fight back from a 35-24 fourth-quarter deficit, prompted TV analyst Cris Collinsworth to intone, "Gotta be able to hit that one."
Kelly contended the Eagles have gotten good enough quarterbacking to win the past 2 weeks. But with Foles not ready, it hardly would benefit Kelly to say otherwise.
"There's been good and bad at every position, and I think we have to be more consistent overall, and Mark will be the first to tell you that, and I think everybody else here will tell you that," said Kelly, as somewhere in the background, the ghost of Andy Reid murmured about everybody having a piece of the pie.
Kelly said teams are dropping deep, taking away the long pass.
"I don't think anybody lets us get behind them anymore," Kelly said. "People are playing coverage from the top down, as opposed to last year; we saw a lot more press-man last year . . . If you watch the tape, the safeties are a lot deeper, and people are playing a little bit deeper on us now."
Of course, that ought to mean receivers open underneath pretty consistently. Hard to tell that by watching the Eagles.
Foles and Sanchez have thrown 19 interceptions in 14 games, and the Eagles have lost 15 fumbles. Asked about Sanchez's miscues, Kelly said: "I don't think there's a general theme to them . . . Sometimes we're off just a hair."
Kelly's offense ran only 53 plays against Dallas, after managing only 45 against Seattle. He said the common factor was third down, offensively and defensively, extending drives and ending opposition drives.
Sanchez has attempted 88 fewer passes than Foles, is playing behind a healthier offensive line, yet has been sacked 16 times, to Foles' nine.
Outside linebacker Trent Cole, who has missed only four games in his 10-year Eagles career, suffered a broken metacarpal Sunday, a source close to the situation said. Cole is considering whether to have surgery on the broken hand, that likely would sideline him for Saturday's game at Washington, the source said, because of the risk of the incision getting infected. (The same would seem to be true of Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, who also suffered a broken hand in the game, though the Cowboys have not ruled out Murray for their upcoming game against Indianapolis.)
Brandon Graham came in for Cole when Cole was injured Sunday and likely will get his first start since 2012 if Cole can't play against the Redskins.
The Eagles talked all week of knowing the stakes for Sunday's night's game; a few even acknowledged that the loser between the Birds and Dallas probably wouldn't make the playoffs. Yet, at home, they spotted the Cowboys a 21-0 second-quarter lead, an absurd deficit in such a critical circumstance.
"I don't think our team came out flat," Chip Kelly said. "I don't think our team didn't play with energy. We didn't execute. And if they didn't have effort and they didn't have energy, we wouldn't have gotten back to be up 24-21. But it's about sustaining and it's about eliminating the mistakes and not putting yourself in harm's way.
"So we were up 24-21, and then they go on a long drive to score, we have to go out and respond offensively, and then we turn the ball over" on an interception. "So it's more self-inflicted things, but I don't think it was anything about our guys not being ready, and not understanding what the stakes and the game were all about."