Eagles quarterback Nick Foles shows promise and weaknesses

Posted: December 24, 2012

Athletes often are defined more by their failures than their successes. That may be unfair, but it's just the way it is.

The Super Bowls they didn't win. The fourth-quarter comebacks they didn't engineer. The final out they didn't get. The home run they didn't hit. The last-second shot that didn't go in.

So it is with Nick Foles right now. Considering the chaos going on around him, the third-round rookie has played pretty well since replacing Michael Vick as the Eagles' starting quarterback last month.

Notched his second 300-yard passing performance in 3 weeks in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Redskins. In six starts and 27 quarters of action, he's completed a respectable 60.7 percent of his passes, has thrown just five interceptions in 265 attempts and has a 79.1 passer rating, which is better than fellow rookies Ryan Tannehill, Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden, who all were taken well ahead of him in last April's draft.

But as Foles attempts to prove that he has the right stuff to be the Eagles' starting quarterback for the next 10 years, his season has been defined by two plays. One was that badly underthrown deep ball to Jeremy Maclin that was intercepted by Leon Hall in the Eagles' 34-13 loss to the Bengals on Dec. 13.

The other was another underthrown pass to an open Maclin late in Sunday's game.

With the Eagles trailing 27-13, Foles engineered a six-play, 61-yard scoring drive that helped his team close the gap to seven points. Completed three of four passes for 41 yards, including a 10-yard completion to Damaris Johnson on third-and-7 and a 25-yarder to running back LeSean McCoy that set up a 17-yard touchdown run by Dion Lewis with just under 9 minutes left in the game.

After the defense forced the Redskins to punt, the Eagles got the ball back on their 15 with 4:15 left. Foles proceeded to complete eight straight passes, the last an 8-yarder to McCoy that gave the Eagles a second-and-2 at the Washington 17 with 28 seconds left.

With no one open, he threw his next attempt out of the end zone. On the next play, Maclin, who caught an earlier 27-yard touchdown pass from Foles and finished with eight catches for 116 yards, was open in the end zone between cornerback Richard Crawford and safety Madieu Williams. Foles saw him, but his throw was short.

Foles completed a 12-yard pass to McCoy on the next play that gave the Eagles a first down at the Washington 5 with 11 seconds left. But they had squandered their best scoring opportunity. A pass to tight end Evan Moore almost was intercepted and fell incomplete.

The game ended one play later when Foles was pressured and was called for intentional grounding as he tried to throw the ball away and buy one more shot at the end zone.

"I just have to drive the ball, continue to drive it out there," Foles said of his underthrown end-zone pass to Maclin. "Maclin ran a great route and I have to take advantage of that and get the ball out there to him. Give him an opportunity to make a play."

Foles suffered a contusion on his throwing hand in the first half. It was X-rayed at halftime, and coach Andy Reid said it was "pretty sore." But the rookie didn't use the injury as an excuse for the poor throw.

"It didn't affect my throwing at all," he said.

Said Reid: "You're going to have that at that position. You're going to have those things that you have to work through, and it's important as a young guy that you do that. I thought he handled everything for the most part very well in that second half. I thought he played better in the second half than he did in the first half. So he battled through that thing."

Foles completed 32 of 48 passes for 345 yards. He was 18-for-26 in the second half and 12-for-19 in the fourth quarter. But he also had two costly turnovers that the Redskins turned into 10 points.

Late in the first quarter, after the Eagles drove inside the Washington 30, he was flushed out of the pocket and had the ball knocked out of his grasp from behind by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The Redskins eventually cashed that in for the first of two Kai Forbath field goals.

Later in the second quarter, with the Eagles clinging to a 7-6 lead, Foles had a pass for Maclin deflected by nose tackle Barry Cofield and picked off by linebacker London Fletcher. The Redskins converted that turnover into a touchdown when Robert Griffin III hit Josh Morgan with an 11-yard scoring pass.

"I have to eliminate mistakes," Foles said. "I fumbled and threw an interception and it's the quarterback's job to make sure that we get more points on the board than the other team, and I didn't do my job today.

"It's frustrating because I'm hard on myself and I want to win. But I'm going to keep working hard and we're going to stay together. It's been a tough year, but we still have each other and I know we're going to keep going to work."

With one game left, the organization has liked much of what it has seen from Foles. But there's no way to know for sure this soon whether, going forward, he can be to them what Griffin is going to be to the Redskins and what Luck is going to be to the Colts.

But he is making believers of his teammates.

"He's so poised, man," McCoy said. "His attitude in the huddle and his leadership. You really can't tell that he's a rookie. It's his attitude. Everything is always positive and he's motivational all the time. I can see in the future he can be an outstanding quarterback. I can definitely see that in the future."

DID YOU NOTICE?

* Guard Danny Watkins was a healthy scratch for the first time since early last season. That's right. Matt Tennant, who was claimed off waivers in late October, was activated instead of the team's 2011 first-round pick.

* LeSean McCoy, who had missed four games because of a concussion, touched the ball on the Eagles' first two offensive plays. Ran for a 7-yard gain, then caught a 6-yard pass. The guy who both Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg said was going to play limited snaps, 22 touches. That was his most touches since Week 4, when he had 26 against the Giants.

* Robert Griffin III wore a brace on his injured right knee. He ran the ball just two times, which was his second fewest carries of the season. He had just one rushing attempt against the Falcons in Week 5.

* The nice recognition and play by safety Colt Anderson to break up a fourth-and-2 pass to Santana Moss on the Redskins' first possession. Unfortunately for him, he later got beat by Moss for a 22-yard touchdown.

* Bryce Brown replaced Brandon Boykin as the Eagles' kickoff returner. Didn't make any difference. He averaged just 18.5 yards per return.

* Both of Nick Foles' first-half turnovers came on third down.

* The costly holding penalty on left tackle King Dunlap on a first-down play at the Washington 12 late in the first half. It effectively killed the drive and the Eagles ended up having to settle for an Alex Henery field goal.

* Brandon Boykin got credit for his first NFL sack on that backward pass to Santana Moss in the third quarter that RGIII ended up recovering at his own 3.

* Nick Foles tripped over right tackle Dennis Kelly's feet stepping up in the pocket on a fourth-and-2 play in the third quarter.

* The nice cutback by Dion Lewis on his 17-yard touchdown run.

* The Redskins' unsuccessful attempt to get the Eagles to jump offsides on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. They ended up taking a delay of game and punting the ball away.

BY THE NUMBERS

* The Eagles scored on their first possession for only the third time in 15 games.

* In 15 games, the Eagles have scored just 38 points on their first and second possessions and have committed nine turnovers and had a punt blocked.

* The Eagles have lost 10 fumbles in the last five games. They have lost at least one fumble in 13 of their 15 games.

* The Eagles have a league-high 36 turnovers, which opponents have converted into 133 points (3.7 points per turnover). They have just 13 takeaways, which they've turned into 40 points (3.1).

* With his 345-yard performance, Nick Foles has 1,699 passing yards, passing John Reaves for the Eagles' rookie record. Foles also holds the team's rookie record for attempts (265) and completions (161).

* LeSean McCoy's 77 receiving yards were his most since an 86-yard receiving performance against Houston on Dec. 2, 2010.

* Nick Foles completed just two of six passes in the red zone against the Redskins. For the season, he's 10-for-30 for 76 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in the red zone and has been sacked two times, including once Sunday.

* Nick Foles was 12-for-19 for 106 yards in the fourth quarter. For the season, he has a 70.9 fourth-quarter passer rating. He has completed just 53.1 percent of his passes and has averaged 5.3 yards per attempt in the fourth quarter.

* Jeremy Maclin was targeted a team-high 14 times (8 catches). In the last three games, he has been targeted 36 times for 21 catches.

* LeSean McCoy, who was targeted 11 times and had a team-high nine receptions, has been targeted 61 times this season and has 49 catches.

* The Eagles have just 27 offensive touchdowns in 15 games. Only two of those 27 touchdown drives have been less than 61 yards, and both of those came in the second week, against Baltimore.

* Brandon Boykin posted his first career sack and forced fumble. The Eagles have 29 sacks this season by 11 different players.

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