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Notes on Nick: Foles struggles mightily against Cowboys

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

Had Nick Foles followed up his five-touchdown performance in Week 15 with another strong performance last Monday against the Oakland Raiders, he and the Eagles offense may have rested in this afternoon's Week 17 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. That didn't happen. 

While Foles and the Eagles did secure a 19-10 Christmas day win over the Raiders, the offense struggled to move the ball against a bad Raiders team. So despite the fact that the team's Week 17 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys didn't mean anything in terms of the team's playoff standing - the Eagles, win or loss, had locked up a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs - Foles and a majority of the team's starters, well, started the game. 

Here are my in-game notes on an abbreviated appearance from Foles: 


 First Quarter

Drive One

  • After the Cowboys deferred following winning the coin toss, Foles and the Eagles began their first drive on their own 23. 
  • Foles connected with Alshon Jeffery for an eight-yard gain on the opening play of the game. This came after Foles failed to connect with Jeffery at all in Week 16 and Jeffery didn't speak to the media following the win. 
  • Following an end-around to Nelson Agholor and a run from LeGarrette Blount, Foles connected with Zach Ertz on a play-fake for a 16-yard gain. 
  • On first-and-10, DeMarcus Lawrence beat Pro-Bowler Brandon Brooks and affected the pass from Foles. Foles and the Eagles were lucky of two things on this play. The first is that Foles' hand was going forward when he was hit, so it wasn't a fumble, but rather an incompletion. The second is that no one was in the area that Lawrence tipped the ball to. 
  • On third-and-seven, Foles had a wide-open Torrey Smith streaking across the middle of the field. He fired a pass that hit him in stride and Smith simply didn't catch it, which he's had a problem with all year. When Smith has held onto the ball this year, he's demonstrated some of the explosiveness that made him a star in Baltimore early in his career. Unfortunately for him, he hasn't held onto the ball much. 
  • Pederson has the Eagles stay on the field on fourth-and-seven in Dallas territory, which, given that the game didn't mean much of anything results wise, wasn't a bad choice. However, the Eagles offensive line was beat fairly badly on the play, and Foles got what I used to refer to as "lava feet" in the pocket, before attempting to reset and firing a high pass that Smith ended up having to play defense on. 

Drive Two

  • The Cowboys, like the Eagles, turned the ball over on downs on their opening drive. That set Foles and company up on their own 42 for their second drive. Lawrence burst through the line of the first play, forcing Foles to throw it Kenjon Barner's feet.  
  • On third-and-12, Foles used a Carson Wentz-esque hard count to draw the Cowboys into the neutral zone. 
  • Now facing a third-and-seven, Foles fired the ball where Trey Burton was supposed to be, but Burton slipped, so the throw, by a fair margin, was incomplete, bringing an end to the drive. 

Drive Three

  • To open their third drive, Foles was forced to backpedal, but found Ertz for a nine-yard gain. 
  • Following a Blount run for first-down, Foles dropped a catchable snap from Jason Kelce on first down. 
  • On second-and-14, Foles rolled out and tried to force the ball to Jeffery. Instead, he underthrew the ball (by a lot) and it was intercepted by Chidobe Awuzie: 
  • To a degree, you understand that Foles is trying to build chemistry with Jeffery in a meaningless game, but boy, that was bad. Agholor also appeared to be open. 

Drive Four

  • Foles came back out for the fourth drive, and handed off to Blount, who ran for a three-yard gain to get the Eagles out to their own 23. 
  • Following a Zach Ertz false start, Foles hit Corey Clement on a screen pass, before Clement sliced-and-diced for a first-down. Unfortunately, a block-in-the-back from Kelce erased the play and backed the Eagles into a second-and-21. 
  • On second-and-21, Foles targeted Smith again, who ended up having to knock the ball down. Had he not, it would have been a pick-six for Xavier Woods.
  • In Foles' final pass of the afternoon, he connected with Agholor for a seven-yard gain, one that amounted to nothing in a third-and-21 situation. 


Week 17 Takeaways

  • In four series, Foles went 4-11 for 39 yards and one interception. He very well could have had two interceptions, the second of which would have been returned for a touchdown. This is the second consecutive game that he could have easily had multiple interceptions, as the Raiders also missed out on a potential pick-six. 
  • As Adam Caplan noted on Twitter, Foles is just 23-49 with one touchdown and two interceptions in his last five quarters of football. It's also worth noting that those five quarters didn't come against teams that will be playing in the playoffs. 
  • It absolutely made sense to start Foles and much of the first-team offense in an attempt to get some momentum for the playoffs. But it's fair to wonder if that decision didn't end up backfiring, especially for Foles. 
  • To win a divisional round playoff game, it feels like the Eagles will need Jay Ajayi to run for over 150 yards, and the team's trio of running-backs to run for over 200 yards. Perhaps that happens once, but the idea of it happening multiple times and the Eagles making an improbable Super Bowl run never made much sense. 
  • Not that this is especially important right now, but even though Foles is under contract for the 2018 season, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Nate Sudfeld is the team's Week 1 starter next season. The team spoke highly of him in recent weeks, and it's possible Carson Wentz isn't ready to start the season. If the Eagles kept Foles in 2018, he would carry a $7.6 million cap-hit. If they cut him after June 1, they would only have $3.6 million in dead-cap. You do the math. 
  • The Eagles really got screwed when Wentz went down so late in the season. On one hand, Wentz playing as deep into the season as possible allowed the team to win more games. On the other hand, it really pushed them out of having an opportunity to pursue an external quarterback to play late in the season and in the playoffs. Had Wentz went down in Week 8, perhaps the Eagles could have placed a call to Tony Romo and gauged his interest in coming out of retirement for a potential Super Bowl run. There would have been ample time for him to learn the offense and get back in football shape, if he would have been interested. If that sounds crazy, the Eagles once called Troy Aikman late in the season to attempt to lure him out of retirement. 
  • Sports radio may have this debate, but I would be pretty shocked if the Eagles even entertain the idea of not starting Foles in the playoffs. 


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