Just when it looked like the Philadelphia Eagles might get their season headed in the right direction, Chip Kelly’s Birds played flat for 60 minutes.
The Eagles scored just a measly field goal in an awful 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. It was Kelly’s first loss to either an NFC opponent or NFC East opponent, and it puts the 3-4 Eagles a full game back behind the Cowboys in the division race.
The defense played exceptionally well, holding Tony Romo & Co. in check all game. But the offense couldn’t get rolling behind either Nick Foles or Matt Barkley, totaling just 278 yards and zero touchdowns. It was the ninth consecutive home loss for the Eagles, a team that is still searching for its identity under Kelly, and it was the fewest points the Eagles scored since a 24-0 loss to the Cowboys to close out the 2009 regular season.
Nick Foles and Matt Barkley Reminded Us of Koy Detmer and Mike McMahon
Back in 2005, the Philadelphia Eagles lost a Monday Night Football contest to the Seattle Seahawks by a 42-0 score. In that contest, Koy Detmer and Mike McMahon ran around for 60 minutes, turning the ball over in any way possible.
Today’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys was very much a replication of that game.
Detmer/McMahon: 17-of-39 (43.6%), 145 yards (3.72 YPA), 0 TD, 4 INT, 14.3 passer rating
Foles/Barkley: 22-of-49 (44.9%), 194 yards (3.96 YPA), 0 TD, 3 INT, 30.5 passer rating
Foles and Barkley get the slight edge because Detmer and McMahon also fumbled twice, and in this game, the Eagles at least scored.
But there weren’t many positives to take away from the quarterback situation. Foles looked as inept and as lost out there as any Eagles quarterback in recent memory. He missed open receivers (think Jason Avant on the near-interception), took ridiculous sacks when given six or seven seconds of protection and was called for a brutal intentional grounding on the first drive of the game.
Perhaps, this tweet encompasses the game best:
This game was lost when Nick Foles missed Jason Avant in the endzone. Hit that pass, I think #Eagles have a strong chance of coming back
— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) October 20, 2013
Foles mercifully left the game due to a head injury, giving way to Barkley. Barkley picked up right where Foles left off, although Barkley added in a mix of turnovers. He threw three official interceptions, a fourth that was called back and a near-fifth. Any possible QB controversy involving Barkley was likely squelched with today’s performance.
It should be noted that Foles was reportedly playing with an undisclosed groin injury, the severity of which is unknown. But the numbers don’t lie, and Foles was downright awful in this one. If Michael Vick is healthy for Week 8 against the New York Giants, there’s no way Kelly could turn down that opportunity.
The Running Game Was Ineffective
Last week, LeSean McCoy didn’t seem to be stopped by Nick Foles’ lack of mobility. He still rushed for 116 yards on 25 carries while adding two receptions for 55 yards. That’s 171 total yards on 27 touches, giving him an average of over six yards per touch.
But McCoy never found his rhythm against the Dallas Cowboys, a team he historically performs well against. He totaled just 55 yards on 18 carries, averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per rush. He didn’t score at all and was held to 26 receiving yards on six catches. McCoy’s longest run was for just 10 yards.
That may be a product of Foles’ lack of mobility, which means he doesn’t present the dual-threat versatility of Michael Vick, and thus, defenses can stack the box more against McCoy. But Dallas also ranked just 25th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per attempt, and McCoy should have been able to play better against this unit.
The Defense Held Dallas in Check
This loss wasn’t on the defense, that’s for sure. The Philadelphia Eagles’ much-maligned secondary held Tony Romo in check. He did throw for over 300 yards, but he was intercepted twice (although one was a Hail Mary pass to close out the first half) and threw just a single touchdown pass.
Jason Witten caught only four passes for 48 yards, which is a major victory for the Eagles considering no-name tight end Tim Wright lit them up for a 7-91 statline. No Romo completion went more than 26 yards. And the running game averaged just 2.8 yards per rush.
The 17 points the Eagles surrendered was the fewest they’ve allowed since Week 5 of 2012, a 16-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. DeMeco Ryans played particularly well, chasing down Romo for a sack and recording a big interception and a 36-yard return. It’s a shame the wasted defensive effort came when the offense turned in a no-show.
Chip Kelly Continues to Ignore His Tight Ends
In the offseason, Chip Kelly made great strides to upgrade his tight end corps.
He kept veteran Brent Celek, a player many thought may be a training camp release due to his salary. He drafted Zach Ertz out of Stanford with the 35th overall pick. And one of his big offseason signings was Houston Texans fullback/tight end James Casey, a versatile player who can line up at multiple spots on the field.
But Kelly has barely used his tight ends at all, despite the monumental offseason loss of Jeremy Maclin to a season-ending injury. Celek had one catch for nine yards. Ertz was more involved, catching three passes for 33 yards. But he’s still averaging fewer than two catches per game, which is disappointing considering where he was taken in the draft.
And Casey is a mere afterthought. Many thought the Eagles would employ loads of two and three-tight end sets during the season. Instead, Casey has had to settle for a snap or two per game, if lucky. He’s caught one pass for 12 yards this season after catching 34 passes for 330 yards in 2012. Why the Eagles signed Casey to a three-year, $12 million deal is a complete mystery.
A Quarterback Controversy Will Continue in Philadelphia
Nick Foles didn’t put to rest the quarterback debate in Philadelphia. As awful as he played, many (myself included) still believe he is the best option to start for the Eagles.
It’s unknown how much his injury affected his play today. But as poorly as he played, he didn’t turn the football over. He still has a passer rating of 101.9 for the season with six touchdown passes, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions. He is completing 58 percent of his passes (a huge drop after this performance but still higher than Michael Vick), and he releases the football substantially faster than Vick.
The most important thing is that Foles has a chance to be the quarterback of the future; while it is looking slimmer that Foles is the answer, very few people would argue Vick is the quarterback of the future. He’s 33 years old and broken down. Letting Foles start for the remainder of 2013 is the wisest decision.
The drop-off from Vick to Foles is minimal, if at all, and there may not be a drop-off. Foles likely isn’t the answer to the QB solution, and the Eagles will heavily target a player like Marcus Mariota or Johnny Manziel in the upcoming draft if so. But there’s only one way to find out what the team has in Foles, and that’s by starting him from here on out.