Nick Foles at least gives Eagles some hope for future

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nick Foles looks for an open receiver against Buccaneers.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Nick Foles looks for an open receiver against Buccaneers.
Posted: December 11, 2012

TAMPA - Maybe it's the start of something big for Nick Foles and maybe it's not. At this point, it's way too soon to tell.

The shaggy-haired rookie threw for 381 yards in Sunday's 23-21 win over the Bucs, which is better than not throwing for 381 yards. But there is a long list of NFL washouts who threw for 300 yards at least once before moving on to the insurance business.

Considerably more impressive is what he did in the fourth quarter, engineering two scoring drives in the final 7 1/2 minutes to bring the Eagles back from an 11-point deficit and help them avoid the ignominy of their first nine-game losing streak since the 1968 Birds, who lost their first 11.

But even that has to be taken with a grain of salt considering that the Bucs came into the game ranked 32nd in the league against the pass. For the numerically challenged, there are 32 teams in the NFL.

Bottom line, the jury still is out on the kid. Bottom line, it's probably going to stay out for a while. But a performance like Sunday's at least gives owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman hope that he might be The One.

"You guys are seeing Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said after catching a 1-yard touchdown pass from Foles with no time left on the clock to beat the Bucs. "I think the sky is the limit for him."

Foles finished his fourth start with 32 completions in 51 attempts. Threw two touchdown passes for the first time in his young professional career. Extended his interceptionless streak to 142 passes.

After the Eagles fell behind 21-10 on a 4-yard touchdown run by Doug Martin with 7:21 left in the game, Foles brought them back with back-to-back scoring drives, the first an 8-play, 72-yard march that ended with him hitting tight end Clay Harbor for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 3:55 left, and the second a 13-play, 64-yard drive capped by his game-winner to Maclin.

"How important is this for a young guy?" head coach Andy Reid said, repeating the question in his postgame news conference. "It's a step forward. He's coming off, I thought, a positive game against Dallas. He put together a good game here against a defense that's tough, and he had to battle.

"It just wasn't a smooth event. We had our ups and downs, the ebbs and flows of the game, but he hung with it. It looked like he made people around him better and himself, he got better."

Trailing by 11, Foles completed six of seven passes, including the scoring toss to Harbor, to get the Eagles within five. When his pass to Dion Lewis on the two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, it meant the Eagles would have to score another touchdown to win.

No problem. Taking over on their own 36 with 2:44 left after the defense forced the Bucs to punt, the offense moved down the field, with Foles hitting Maclin for 23 yards and then 9 yards on a third-and-10.

Foles, who earlier in the game became the first Eagles rookie quarterback since John Reaves in 1972 to run for a touchdown, kept the drive alive by running for a first down on fourth-and-1.

Later, on another fourth-down play at the Tampa 23, he completed a 22-yard pass to Jason Avant to give the Eagles a first down at the 1 with 2 seconds left.

Foles ended up picking out the play that the Eagles won the game on.

"We were going over a series of different plays and he said, 'I want that one,' " offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "I didn't quite hear him at first. I said, 'Who said that? [Did] you say that?'

"Usually when a quarterback wants something specific, you're going to allow him to do it. He's going to take ownership of it."

Foles made it work. He took the snap and ran to his right, finding Maclin, who ran a quick out-route on Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson.

"I just like a movement play in that situation because it changes the throwing lanes," Foles said. "If you're in the pocket, a guy can undercut it, whereas if you're on the run, there's no undercut. I just like movement plays. It just felt good. It was the first play that came to my head."

Foles, who was sacked just once in each of his previous two starts, spent much of Sunday's game under duress. He was sacked six times, including three times on the Eagles' first 18 offensive plays.

But he maintained his composure, buying time in the pocket by stepping up to avoid rushers or scrambling and throwing on the run.

Foles had eight completions of 20-plus yards, including four in the fourth quarter.

"He made some great, some big throws," Reid said. "It looked like he rallied the crew in there and everybody stepped their game up. The offensive line had a couple of breakdowns in the middle of the game there, but he was able to rally those guys or they rallied around him, whichever way it went. It looked like Nick really did well, made good decisions, and made big plays."

Reid isn't deluding himself. He knows he will be coaching the Eagles for just three more games and then will either be fired or will fall on his sword. He knows he won't be around to see how the Nick Foles Story turns out in Philadelphia. But he's happy for the kid. Wherever he is next year - coaching in San Diego or Arizona or Kansas City, or on a chaise longue by the pool at his Dana Point, Calif., home - he will rooting for Foles to make it.

"For a young guy to step up to the plate like that and kind of stick your chest out after you've been knocked down, and get back up and go, he showed great intestinal fortitude and all the intangibles you look for."

DID YOU NOTICE?

-- Rookie wide receiver Marvin McNutt was activated for the first time this season. He spent the first 11 games on the practice squad and was inactive last week. He was in the game for about 10 snaps and was targeted twice, but didn't have any catches.

-- The Eagles lined up in three different formations on their first three offensive plays.

-- Akeem Jordan and Clay Harbor both whiffed on punt returner Roscoe Parrish and ran into each other on Parrish's 30-yard return early in the second quarter.

-- King Dunlap gave up two of the first three sacks of Nick Foles. He was beaten outside by Michael Bennett on the first one and inside by ex-Eagle Daniel Te'o-Nesheim on the second.

-- Right guard Jake Scott gave up his first sack as an Eagle in the third quarter when he was beaten by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who nailed Foles for an 8-yard loss.

-- The Eagles juggled their linebackers, benching weakside linebacker Akeem Jordan, moving strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks to WILL and putting Jamar Chaney, who started two games earlier this season at WILL, at the SAM.

-- The nice block by wideout Jeremy Maclin on Leonard Johnson on Foles' 10-yard touchdown run.

-- The nice block by wide receiver Riley Cooper on Dion Lewis' 28-yard catch-and-run late in the second quarter.

-- Nnamdi Asomugha's long day. He got beat several times in coverage, including Mike Williams' 1-yard touchdown catch and a 28-yard catch-and-run by Vincent Jackson. Asomugha had inside leverage on Jackson and the Bucs wide receiver still managed to get inside position on the cornerback and run away from him.

-- The Bucs converted all three of their third-down opportunities on the 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 21-10 lead.

-- Foles completed six of seven passes on the first of the Eagles' two fourth-quarter scoring drives, including an 11-yard touchdown throw to tight end Clay Harbor.

-- The Eagles used more four-wide receiver sets than they have in any game this season.

BY THE NUMBERS

-- Nick "Usain" Foles became the first Eagles rookie quarterback to score a rushing touchdown since John Reaves in 1972. That's right. Neither Donovan McNabb nor Randall Cunningham had a rushing TD as rookies.

-- Alex Henery's franchise-record streak of consecutive field goals ended at 22 when he missed a 58-yard attempt late at the end of the first half. He made a 53-yarder right before that, but it was negated by a false start.

-- Foles hasn't thrown an interception in 142 pass attempts.

-- Bucs rookie Doug Martin became the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles this season. He had 128 yards on 28 carries.

-- The Eagles, who gave up only three rushing touchdowns in their first 10 games, have allowed four in the last three games.

-- Nine of Bryce Brown's 12 rushing attempts gained 1 yard or less.

-- Foles completed 10 of 15 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown on third down. Since replacing Michael Vick, he's 29-for-48 for 410 yards, one TD and no interceptions on third down. That's a 94.9 passer rating.

-- Foles completed three of seven passes in the red zone, including two for touchdowns. He is 5-for-12 with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone since taking over for Vick.

-- The Eagles converted three of five red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. In the last five games, they are 9-for-14 in the red zone.

-- The six sacks given up by the Eagles were the second most this season. They gave up seven sacks in their loss to the Saints. Last year, the Eagles didn't give up more than four sacks in a game the entire season. With 42 sacks already, they are on pace to give up 52, which would be the most by the Eagles since 1998, when they allowed 56.

-- The Eagles failed to force a turnover for the fifth straight game and the eighth time this season. They

haven't had an interception in seven games and have just two in the last 11 games.

-- Damaris Johnson's muffed punt was the Eagles' 29th turnover of the season. They've had just two games without a giveaway.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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