Only six other quarterbacks in the history of the NFL have experienced a performance like Nick Foles did in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 49-20 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 9. Foles’ seven touchdown passes tied a single-game record shared by three Hall of Fame players and Denver’s Peyton Manning, among others.
How good was Foles? The 24-year-old managed to toss more TDs than incompletions, connecting on 22 of 28 attempts for 406 yards (14.5 average) with no interceptions—good for a perfect rating of 158.3. From purely a statistical standpoint, this was easily the best quarterbacked game in Eagles franchise history.
It was only Foles’ ninth career start. How high does his ceiling rise from here?
We’ve seen the second-year passer dissect porous defenses before. We’ve also watched helplessly when Foles was completely incapable of moving the football. Is it time to finally hand the reins over to the 2012 third-round pick for the remainder of this season, or was this yet another flash in the pan by a backup quarterback?
In this week’s edition of takeaways, we take a closer look at the implications of Foles’ incredible outing, as well as some of the others who contributed to this great day in Eagles history.
Foles isn’t the first person to throw seven touchdown passes in an NFL game. He is the first person to do it in such style, though. According to CSNPhilly.com columnist and stats wizard Reuben Frank, Foles actually improved upon previous performances:
Foles completed 79 percent of his passes, becoming the first QB in NFL history to throw seven touchdowns and also complete at least 70 percent of his passes.
The previous highest completion percentage by a quarterback throwing seven touchdowns in a game was 69.2 percent by Tittle.
Foles also became the first quarterback to post a perfect passer rating in the process.
Frank has much more on Foles performance, which you can check out here. Needless to say, this wasn’t merely a record-setting performance, or even simply the best game of Foles’ career. It was legitimately one of the greatest games by a quarterback in the entire history of the NFL.
Foles took home NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in Week 6 after completing 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards with four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in a 31-20 win at Tampa Bay. The following week, Foles was completely ineffective, hitting 11 of 29 attempts for 80 yards in a 17-3 loss at home to the Dallas Cowboys—the worst game of his short career.
In his first action since that disastrous performance against Dallas, Foles goes out and matches or bests all kinds of franchise and NFL records. Have you ever seen the pendulum swing so far in both directions for an NFL quarterback?
Is Foles a potential franchise quarterback who can post prolific numbers on par with the game’s elite, or is he merely a backup who’s capable of lighting up bad teams one week and folding under the pressure the next? The answer probably lies somewhere in between, but in truth, it could be any of those.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was non-committal over next week’s starting quarterback during his postgame press conference, but it’s clearer than ever who should get the call going forward. When one guy throws seven touchdowns in a game, he’s earned the right to be the man.
At this point, it goes beyond one game now. Foles’ 127.4 passer rating would be good for first place in the NFL if he had enough attempts to qualify. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns to zero interceptions on the season. Yes, he had a terrible game against Dallas, but it wasn’t really any worse than Michael Vick’s horrendous game against Kansas City in Week 3.
More to the point, at 24 years old and with two more seasons remaining on his contract after 2013, Foles may actually have a future in Philadelphia whereas Vick almost certainly does not. It’s time to ride the youngster through the highs and lows so this coaching staff can evaluate whether or not they truly need to find another quarterback this offseason.
Nick Foles wasn’t the only Eagles player who enjoyed his best game as a professional. Fourth-year wide receiver Riley Cooper had a career day as well, hauling in three of those seven touchdown passes while finishing with five receptions for 139 yards.
For whatever reason, Coop just seems to show up when Foles is under center. Maybe they have a rapport from working together on the second-team offense since Foles was drafted last season.
Whatever the case, it’s obvious Cooper is more effective when Foles is throwing him the ball. That’s his second 100-game receiving day from Foles this season. Cooper’s best game of the season with anybody else under center? Two receptions, 25 yards and a touchdown from Vick in Week 2.
One more pat on the back for Foles’ incredible afternoon, and it goes to his offensive line. It’s a lot easier for the quarterback to operate when he can keep his eyes trained down the field because he doesn’t have to be concerned with pressure up front.
The Eagles O-line has occasionally had some issues in pass protection this season, but that was not the case on Sunday. Oakland's pass rush was practically nonexistent. The Raiders only managed to get to Foles twice for sacks, and he was seldom hit or even so much as hurried during the course of the game.
Some of that was Foles showing off his functional mobility, taking off when the play broke down, or throwing the ball away rather than holding on until the very end. There were also times, though, when he simply had all day to scan the field and make decisions. Throwing seven touchdowns is never easy to do, but it helps when there is what amounts to no pressure.
While Foles and Philadelphia’s offense will be the talk of the town and the NFL this week, the Eagles defense just keeps on doing its thing. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ unit has held opponents to 21 points or fewer in five consecutive games.
Actually, when you take away touchdowns scored by Washington and Kansas City, the Birds D has held all but two opponents to 21 or less this season. Only San Diego and Denver have eclipsed the mark by virtue of offensive scores alone.
That doesn’t at all fall in line with most folks’ perception of Philly’s defense, which based on the traditional measure of total yards ranks dead last in the NFL. Clearly that doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as it's actually keeping the Eagles in games many more weeks than not.
In what has become a recurring theme for the Eagles defense, they were able to get tremendous pressure on Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor by blitzing regularly. When Pryor's first read was covered—which was often thanks to Philly's quietly good secondary—the play often broke down.
The problem for the third-year quarterback was the Eagles did a nice job of keeping him in the pocket. Pass-rushers stayed in their lanes. Linebackers spied Pryor when he started to scramble. Safeties broke off their coverage and attacked the quarterback when it looked like he might get outside.
Philadelphia also did a nice job of forcing Pryor to his left on a lot of his scrambles when he is clearly more comfortable going to his right.
All things considered, Pryor didn't play a terrible game. He still managed to rack up 94 yards on 10 rushes after all. The Eagles did a nice job of limiting the big gains over the course of the game, though, never allowing this scintillating athlete to get into a rhythm.
Patrick Chung was active for just the second time since suffering a deep shoulder contusion in Week 3. When he last suited up, Chung got the start against Tampa Bay before aggravating the injury. This time around, rookie Earl Wolff got the nod.
Given Philadelphia’s lack of depth at safety, Wolff was pressed into action when Chung went down. The fifth-round pick out of NC State has held his own, though, and seemed to be improving gradually as the season went on, which might explain why the coaching staff decided to stick with him.
Wolff rewarded the coaches with a strong effort, racking up five tackles and a pair of pass breakups. He also should’ve been awarded a sack of Pryor, who desperately heaved the football away for an intentional grounding when Wolff had him wrapped up.
Chung did see some playing time late in the game, so it’s possible they are just working him in slowly. However, it seems for now the job might be Wolff’s to lose going forward.