Sunday, December 21, 2014

Foles wastes his opportunity

Cowboys 17, Eagles 3

Foles wastes his opportunity

<br />Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) is sacked by Dallas<br />Cowboys defensive end George Selvie (99) as defensive tackle Jason<br />Hatcher (97) helps on the play during the first half. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive end George Selvie (99) as defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) helps on the play during the first half. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

The Eagles' quarterback controversy has turned into a quarterback conflagration. This, on the afternoon when Michael Vick could not play because of a pulled hamstring; Nick Foles could not play, period (and left the game at the end of the third quarter with a head injury, besides); and Matt Barkley finished up the game by throwing three interceptions that counted and another that did not (because of a penalty).

Other than that, things went well.

The Dallas Cowboys played like garbage for much of the afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field and still beat the Eagles, 17-3, which pretty much tells you how the Eagles played. A decent defensive effort against Tony Romo and the fellas was completely wasted by an offense that was neutered by the Cowboys and by Foles' ineffectiveness.

Before he suffered the injury, which could conceivably keep him out for next week's game against the Giants - an independent neurologist will evaluate whether Foles suffered a concussion - he was indecisive and erratic. On a day when many believed he had a chance to win the starting quarterback job, Vick hamstring or no Vick hamstring, he played his worst minutes of the season, going back to training camp. The numbers: 11-for-29 for 80 yards and a poor 46.2 passer rating.

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Which QB’s performance was more disturbing?
Nick Foles’
Matt Barkley’s

Slow on the trigger, missing open receivers - it was Foles unglued. After looking so good in the second half against the Giants, and in the whole game against the Bucs - he was the NFC offensive player of the week, after all - this was a clear opportunity for Foles to make a statement in a game for first place in the NFC East, and the statement he made was an emphatic, well, what?

There are two choices:

"Not yet."

Or, "Not ever."

The majority will say, "Not ever." It is the same majority that wanted to name Foles the starter for good after the Giants game. The pendulum that is public opinion is dizzying. If you are an NFL coach, you cannot become mesmerized by it. Eagles coach Chip Kelly seems to understand that.

"I think you have to look at them through the whole body of work in terms of what he can do and can't do," Kelly said. "You hopefully like to chalk it up as just a bad day."

I still think that Foles can play in this league - not necessarily at a championship level, but at a functional level. If he had put up a big number and beaten the Cowboys, there would have been widespread agreement - but he didn't, and here we are.

The truth is that a single terrible snapshot does not spoil an entire portfolio - and that Foles has still done a lot more good things than bad things, both this summer and this fall. But there is another truth in the NFL, too - that the business is beyond cruel, and that players in Foles' position get only so many opportunities to show what they have, and that he squandered this one completely. On that, everyone can agree.

The week before, Tampa Bay presented him with a friendly zone defense, and Foles carved it up. But against the Cowboys, facing the same kind of press man coverage on his receivers that Vick had been seeing in the weeks before he got hurt, Foles froze. The running game did not get going, the receivers did not get separation, and Foles froze - to the point that, when receivers did get open, he could not hit them. Minutes before he got hurt, he badly underthrew a ball to a wide-open Jason Avant in the end zone. Avant almost made the catch anyway, then saw the ricochet get intercepted, then had the play ruled incomplete after a video review.

"When the game is in the balance," Avant said, talking about that play and the minutes surrounding it, mistakes can be made because "you try to be perfect." Whether that was Foles' issue, we do not know. Foles was not available for interviews, which is now the NFL procedure for a player who has suffered a head injury.

With that, we begin a week of watching the injury report. Vick? Foles? Barkley? Really? But as it all unfolds, there was one point of clarity on the day that Nick Foles blew his big chance:

That most people came into this season thinking that the Eagles' 2014 starting quarterback is not yet in the house, and that the events of yesterday did not do anything to change that prevailing opinion.

Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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Eagletarian is your home for comprehensive coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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