Foles stars as Eagles stop Bucs, 31-20

Posted: October 15, 2013

TAMPA, Fla. - Chip Kelly's position last week was that an outstanding performance by Nick Foles would be favorable for all involved. He stopped short of suggesting Michael Vick cannot be unseated. But a strong game from Foles would require consideration.

Kelly now has much to consider.

The Eagles' 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers advanced their record to 3-3 and bolstered the case for Foles as a starter. He thrived in place of the injured Vick, leading the Eagles to victory while capably running Kelly's offense.

Foles completed 22 of 31 attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. He did not commit a turnover.

"We'll evaluate everything, go back and watch film, see what he did good, see what he did bad," Kelly said. "We'll see where [Vick] is. . . . I don't get into any hypotheticals, and I don't make any predictions."

Vick was active Sunday, but his pulled hamstring wasn't healed enough for him to start. He offered support for Foles after the game and said he cannot return until he's fully healthy. He said he didn't know whether he would recover in time for the Dallas Cowboys' visit Sunday.

There's increasing momentum for Foles, who helped the Eagles to a win in relief last week against the Giants and excelled Sunday after a full week of preparation with the first-team offense.

His presence did not hinder the running game - LeSean McCoy rushed for 116 yards - and every active receiver and tight end caught a pass.

"I feel really comfortable here, I feel comfortable with our personnel, our plays, everything," Foles said.

Riley Cooper (four catches, 120 yards, one touchdown) exceeded 100 yards for the first time in his career, and DeSean Jackson (six catches, 64 yards) had a two-touchdown game for the first time in his career.

The Eagles defense was inconsistent, but played well enough to keep the Buccaneers winless at 0-5. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon finished 26 of 43 for 273 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson had 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Foles completed 4 of 5 passes on the Eagles opening drive, taking them 85 yards on eight plays. It started with a 44-yard screen pass to McCoy and finished with Foles keeping the ball and running up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown. The even-tempered Foles emphatically spiked the ball after a week of punditry about how the Eagles would miss Vick's running ability. The Eagles had worked on that play all week.

"Our offense doesn't change whether Mike's in there or Nick's in there," Kelly said. "Nick executed perfectly and we knew they were going to be in a coverage that allowed us to let the quarterback run."

After the defense forced Tampa Bay into a three-and-out, LeSean McCoy fumbled at the end of a 12-yard run. The Bucs responded with a 38-yard field goal, and they took the lead two plays into the second quarter on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Glennon to Vincent Jackson. The teams traded scores to give Tampa Bay a 17-14 halftime advantage.

That's when the game shifted. Bradley Fletcher recorded his first interception of the season on the Bucs' opening drive, and Foles followed up five plays later by hitting Cooper for a 47-yard touchdown. Foles had resisted looking downfield during much of the preseason and his previous games.

But the Cooper score and a 36-yard touchdown to Jackson in the fourth quarter were examples of Foles' willingness to go deep, which is a dimension to his game that had been little seen.

Foles said Tampa Bay's defense played with two deep safeties, which is why he focused on throwing underneath early in the game. When the Bucs adjusted, the Eagles adjusted their offense.

"It's just what they were showing us," Foles said. "Chip made a lot of great play calls."

Foles is 2-5 as a starting quarterback. Both victories came at Raymond James Stadium, which Eagles fans flooded on Sunday. But Foles still has an undistinguished track record, and Vick clearly outplayed Foles during training camp and the preseason.

That's why the sentiment after the game from the Eagles was not that Foles should become the starter, but rather that the Eagles need both quarterbacks. McCoy and Jackson said the Eagles view both Vick and Foles as starters. McCoy emphasized that Kelly made clear that Vick is the starter.

"But if [Kelly] needs Nick to step in and make some plays, then he'll do that," McCoy said. "Mike's the guy we go with, he's the starting quarterback, no matter what the town says or what the outsiders want. It's Coach Kelly's call, and that's the call he's made."

Yet Kelly also has not eliminated the possibility that Foles could usurp Vick. There is no debate until Vick gets healthy, and it was unknown whether Vick will be healthy next week for the Cowboys.

The Eagles can be confident that they have two capable quarterbacks. But which one should be the top quarterback is not as clear as it was before Sunday's victory.

"I don't worry about it," Foles said. "No matter what happens, I'm going to be the same person."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|