If it's any consolation for Eagles fans after watching the somewhat uninspiring performance of Nick Foles against the Cowboys on Sunday, at least Carson Wentz's chances of winning the MVP award got a lot better.
We knew Wentz was good, and knew he lifted the whole team, but now it's clear exactly how much.
With their playoff seeding locked in place, Sunday was supposed to be just a minor tune-up for the Eagles, a chance for Foles and the offense to build confidence for the postseason and erase the memory of their dreadful showing on Christmas night against Oakland.
Well, the vehicle obviously needed more than a tune-up and, unfortunately, the part that is needed won't be available until next season. That's not the fault of Foles. He's a backup. He has to play only when something has gone terribly wrong. If the Eagles lose in the playoffs because Foles isn't as good as Wentz, that is simply the natural order of the NFL.
That said, hoo boy, he was bad.
It went beyond simply the stats, and those were bad enough in their own right. He completed just 4 of 11 attempts despite not being asked to convert very much aside from little swing passes and crossing patterns. He was high again on several of his attempts, was intercepted once when he tried to throw on the run and didn't put enough oomph on the ball, and could have been picked off a couple of more times as well.
"Obviously, as a whole, it's not exactly what we wanted, but there's a lot to build on," Foles said. "I'm confident we'll build on it."
Foles played all four series of the first quarter before being lifted from the game, and he had the benefit of having the regulars out there with him with the exception of running back Jay Ajayi. The Eagles didn't convert any of the three third-down attempts in the quarter, which, combined with the Oakland game, makes Foles 1 of 17 on third-down tries in those two games.
But again, the numbers weren't the worst part. Foles just didn't seem comfortable, and teams can feel that about their quarterback the way a horse knows the difference between having a good jockey and a stable boy on its back.
Admittedly, it wasn't a day made for comfort. Game-time temperature was 18 degrees with a wind-chill of 4 degrees. It was one of those days on which the ball can feel like a chunk of concrete in your hands. Even with that excuse, however, Foles was shaky. He dropped one snap and he shuffled his feet nervously in the pocket, and there was no telling from one play to the next where his throws were going to go. If the idea of playing their starting quarterback in this meaningless game was to lend added stability to the offense, it didn't succeed.
"We as an offense expect to execute better. This wasn't acceptable," Foles said. "But we also know what we're capable of, and how talented we can be because of how we play together. We're going to keep our confidence high. There's no reason not to be confident."
We'll leave that one where it is for the moment. There are definitely a few reasons for doubt among those outside the locker room. The team's job is to maintain an air of confidence regardless, and that will be the message for the next two weeks. The players saw Foles throw four touchdown passes against the Giants on Dec. 17 and they'll choose that memory over the fresher failures, even if it did come against the defense ranked 32nd in the league.
"I know that throughout my career, I haven't always played great games. I've been in games where execution hasn't gone like you want it," Foles said. "The key is you remain confident because you know who you are. It's not like we go out there and say, 'Hey, we're not going to play to the best of our ability today.' We went out and played as hard as we could. We didn't execute, but that's stuff we can fix."
There are some things the Eagles can fix, and some things that, as said earlier, are beyond the healing ability of a tune-up. There are things that will have to wait until next season.
For now, however, it will have to be dink, dunk, and defense that must carry the day. There is no other way, and the Eagles have to hope that formula holds together and that their opponents come apart. It could happen, but Sunday's game didn't make it seem more likely.