Nick Foles entered Sunday's game as the Eagles' greatest hope to save this season. In the end, those expectations were far too unrealistic and Foles performed simply like a rookie QB playing on the road behind a leaky offensive line in his first NFL start.
Two things were learned from Foles' debut as a starter:
He needs a lot of work.
Michael Vick was not the primary reason for the Eagles' woes on offense this season. He was just one of the many problems created by Andy Reid's decisions, Marty Mornhinweg's play-calling, and Howie Roseman's evaluations.
Even if Vick returns from his concussion for Monday night's game against the Panthers, Foles will be heard from again this season.
"He's a young guy, a rookie, so there were a couple of rookie mistakes," Reid said Monday. "But there were some positive things, too."
The mistakes were plentiful, although Foles did not get much help from his teammates. Brent Celek dropped two passes - the first, of course, was tipped and turned into an interception. Tight end Clay Harbor had a drop, as did wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
But too many of Foles' throws were off target for his performance to be labeled anything but poor. His second interception, as detailed below, was not all his fault. But he should have just taken the sack rather than throwing off his back foot into no man's land. Later in the second quarter, on third down at the Redskins' 23, Foles had plenty of time in the pocket but inexplicably chucked the ball out of bounds.
On the next drive, Foles had Harbor wide open when he rolled out after a play fake, but his throw was too high. There were a number of other missed opportunities, some not of his doing. In the third quarter, the Eagles drove to the Redskins' 14 and could have cut the margin to 17-10. But on third down, LeSean McCoy stayed in to block Ryan Kerrigan and he couldn't, and the defensive end stripped Foles. McCoy recovered, but the Eagles had to settle for a field goal.
Foles did have a few bright spots, as Reid mentioned. There was a strong 15-yard throw to Riley Cooper on the run. There was an on-the-button 21-yard toss to Damaris Johnson over the middle on third and 17. All of his throws to Celek were on target. And as simple as it may seem, he throws a mean screen pass. On both of McCoy's 20-yard-plus catches, Foles did a nice job of drawing pass rushers before he dumped off to the tailback.
Rewind the tape
Foles' second interception came in the first quarter with the Eagles in Redskins territory. The Eagles faced third down and 21, though. Washington blitzed linebackers Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson up the A gap. Robinson ran a stunt and McCoy picked it up, but he couldn't hold his block for long. Center Dallas Reynolds was run over by Riley. With pressure in his face from both linebackers, Foles aired a pass to DeSean Jackson, who was double-covered. The throw sailed and safety Brandon Meriweather made the easy pick.
In the spotlight
Fletcher Cox has 14 more tackles than the next closest defensive linemen - Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins. He led the Eagles with eight tackles against the Redskins and recorded one of the team's two sacks. Aside from DeMeco Ryans, Cox has been the Eagles' most consistent producer on defense this season. The rookie defensive tackle did a fine job of keeping the Redskins' Robert Griffin III in check when he tried to run inside. Cox cut down Griffin three times near the line. One of his tackles on the quarterback came 20 yards downfield after Nnamdi Asomugha and Mychal Kendricks took bad angles and knocked each other over.
If McCoy can't recover from his concussion, Bryce Brown could start Monday night. He has been steady despite his relative inexperience. He ran five times for 35 yards against the Redskins and had two rushes called back on holding penalties. On his first carry, Brown could have been dropped for a loss when an unblocked DeAngelo Hall raced into the backfield. But the rookie stepped out of a tackle and managed to gain 5 yards. Brown also returned kickoffs for the first time and averaged 22 yards a return.
The move from right guard back to his natural position at right tackle helped Dennis Kelly only marginally, but there was improvement. First, the good: He made a strong block when Brown ran 13 yards in the second period. He held off Kerrigan nicely when Foles stepped up and hit Johnson for 21 yards. Now the bad: He completely missed a block on a screen pass to Jackson in the first. He was called for holding, negating a 13-yard Brown run, also in the first.
All season we've chronicled how Vick has done against the blitz. So how did Foles do against the Redskins? Not great. He completed 9-of-19 passes for 93 yards with an interception when he was blitzed. He was also sacked once.
What Andy said
On how the six-game losing streak has affected him:
"I can't tell you I'm the happiest guy. I don't like to lose, and that's an understatement."
What Andy meant
"It's made me so nauseous that I recently turned down a free cheesesteak from Tony Luke's."