Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Takeaways from Philly's 17-3 Loss
With first place in the NFC East and potentially an NFL starting quarterback job on the line, Nick Foles was nothing short of dreadful. The second-year passer may have single-handedly cost the Philadelphia Eagles a comfortable lead in the division while simultaneously shutting the door on any quarterback controversy.
The Dallas Cowboys escaped Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday with a 17-3 win on Sunday, and Foles served it on a platter. Whatever buzz the Eagles’ backup created with magnificent performances in New York and Tampa Bay the past two games already seems like a distant memory after he fell on his face in a huge rivalry game.
Of course, the problem for Philadelphia is there isn’t necessarily anybody better. And how much stock exactly should one put in a single performance—no matter how terrible—in light of everything else that’s happened?
We examine all of that and more in this week’s takeaways, but one thing is for certain. This loss rests squarely at Nick Foles’ feet, and that’s not going to sit well with a lot of Birds fans no matter how you slice it.
Worst Game of Nick Foles’ Young Career
There’s no getting around it or even softening the blow. Nick Foles stank, and that’s all there is to it.
Foles finished 11-of-29 for 80 yards on Sunday. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but he didn’t throw any touchdowns either. And he was sacked three times.
The lack of accuracy was a total mystery for a quarterback who entered the week completing 67 percent of his passes. Foles missed high, he missed low, he missed from side-to-side on deep balls and short throws alike. Pardon the dated expression, but he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
The second-year player seemed to lack confidence as well, holding the ball at length on numerous dropbacks. He was finally knocked out of the game with a head injury after a particularly long scramble drill.
This looked more like Foles’ first career start than it did his eighth. In fact, this was worse. While he did throw two interceptions against Washington in 2012, at least he moved the offense a little. Against the Cowboys, Foles was good for a meager 2.8 yards per pass attempt.
Matt Barkley Not a Solution (Yet)
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There may not be much of a quarterback controversy left in Philadelphia after Foles’ performance, but not because there will be many calls for Matt Barkley to start.
The rookie replaced an injured Nick Foles in the fourth quarter, and he might’ve been a little too aggressive for his own good.
In his first NFL action, Barkley managed to hurl three interceptions over 15 minutes. He had a fourth called back thanks to a penalty against Dallas.
The fourth-round draft selection finished 11-of-20 for 129 yards and no touchdowns. He did move the ball better than Foles (not saying much), but all three picks were easy, uncontested plays for the defense.
Granted, that’s a difficult situation for a rookie QB to come in cold off the bench like that. Give Barkley credit as well for having some zip on his passes, something that seemed missing during training camp.
Did he look like an option for this season though? Not in the least.
Although the Eagles may not have much choice. Foles’ status is up in the air after suffering a head injury, and Michael Vick’s hamstring may be one to two weeks away as well. Ready or not, the Barkley era might be upon us.
QB Answer Probably Not on the Roster
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Many words have been spent on the subject of Eagles quarterbacks. Going as far back as last year, the debate has raged over who should be under center in Philadelphia.
It seems as if we may have been wasting our breath all along.
Michael Vick might make the Birds competitive and can author the occasional incredible play, but he’s 33 years old and playing on a one-year deal—not to mention he’s never won anything. Nick Foles has demonstrated some ability to pick defenses apart, but doubts over whether or not he has franchise QB ability will only grow after this week.
Even Matt Barkley, while a total unknown, was only a fourth-round pick with questions about arm strength. That screams “backup material” to most.
Are any of these guys the answer? Probably not. We’re talking about a flawed veteran and a pair of mid-round picks. Might be time for Eagles fans to start scouting the 2014 NFL draft.
Running Game Completely Ineffective
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There aren’t many excuses that can be made for Foles, who simply missed badly on way too many easy throws.
That said, if there is one area where the Eagles could’ve given the signal-caller more help, it was in the ground attack.
LeSean McCoy was thwarted for much of the day, which went some distance toward contributing to Foles’ problems. Why is that? Besides the fact that the offense wasn’t gaining chunks of yards on the ground, the Eagles were often finding themselves in difficult 3rd-and-longs without a stabilizing running game.
McCoy entered the week as the NFL’s leading rusher, but he wound up with just 55 yards on 18 carries—a 3.1 average—and a long gain of 10. Bryce Brown contributed two carries for four yards.
Without the threat of Shady gashing the defense, the Cowboys never had to commit an extra defender in the box. Considering how inaccurate Foles was, it may not have mattered, but then again a long touchdown from McCoy might’ve opened things up for the offense.
The Offense Still Goes as DeSean Jackson Goes
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It’s no coincidence that Philadelphia’s offense went stagnant at the same time DeSean Jackson was pulling his disappearing act.
When he scores a touchdown this season, the Eagles are 3-1. When he’s held in check and out of the end zone, the Birds have dropped to 0-3.
For whatever reason, Jackson wasn’t a big part of the offense. One likely issue is the Cowboys defense uses man coverage and presses opposing wide receivers, which has knocked the two-time Pro Bowler off his game in previous weeks.
Jackson was targeted eight times, but he only hauled in three of those for 21 yards. There weren’t many home run attempts, and the one big play Nick Foles nearly did nearly connect on down the field was knocked away at the last moment by a Dallas defender.
Jackson also missed a few snaps with an ankle injury, but he didn't miss an amount significant enough to explain his low numbers. Credit the Cowboys’ game plan here, because Jackson has been the catalyst for a lot of Philly’s wins.
Defense Gets the Job Done
There really isn’t much negative to say about a defense that holds an opponent to 17 points.
That goes double when said defense is covering for an offense that punts nine times and commits three turnovers, constantly pushing their teammates' backs against the wall.
The Eagles did everything they needed to do on that side of the ball to give the team a chance to win on Sunday. The Cowboys running game was a non-factor while averaging 2.8 yards per attempt, and defensive coordinator Bill Davis had quarterback Tony Romo on his heels all day with well-designed blitzes.
Safety Earl Wolff and linebacker DeMeco Ryans had interceptions, the latter of which would’ve provided a huge momentum shift had the offense been able to take advantage with a touchdown. Ryans and Vinny Curry also added sacks.
It’s a shame to waste this kind of effort from a group that hasn’t proven capable of putting up strong performances on a weekly basis just yet. With any kind of reasonable execution from the offense, the Birds might have won easily.
Eagles Still Have a Long Way to Go
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It can be easy to get carried away with where the Eagles are in their rebuilding effort.
Some weeks they look like world-beaters, especially an offense which had racked up at least 425 total yards for six straight weeks before running into the Cowboys.
Then there are games like this one when almost nothing seems to go right.
After a crushing defeat at the hands of a hated division rival, now seems like a good time to remind people this team went 4-12 last year. There probably isn’t a franchise quarterback on the roster. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was lost for the year. The defense is still transitioning from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4.
Losing to Dallas in this fashion is no fun for Birds fans, but understand that this is an incomplete squad with a first-year head coach at the helm.
There is an expectation that turning the ship around and becoming a true contender again is going to take a year or two.
Sunday was an all-too-painful reminder that the Eagles are far away from their ultimate goal, but try to take some solace in the fact that they are moving in the right direction at least. Second place in the NFC East doesn’t seem so bad right now, does it?
1 Game Is Just 1 Game
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It’s easy to look at this game and make a lot of sweeping generalizations about the Eagles.
After getting whooped by the Cowboys and falling behind in the division, is it time to tank the season? With an abysmal performance that set NFL offenses back 50 years, should we chalk Nick Foles up as the next Bobby Hoying?
Everybody slow down. When there are only 16 games in a season, each one has a tendency to feel like it means more than it does.
If you had your eye on the playoffs this season, there is still time to correct some of the mistakes that plagued the Eagles in their 17-3 loss. And if you thought that Foles kid could really play prior to Sunday, don’t let one awful performance shake your confidence entirely—every young player faces bumps in the road.
Yes, the Eagles are a rebuilding team with a shaky quarterback situation. Yet they've also shown by virtue of their three previous wins before this week that they are capable of competing on any given Sunday.
Football seasons can be like roller coasters, and the Eagles' year will be climbing back up the big hill in no time.