“America’s Game of the Week” was an utter disaster for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. What started out as a promising mix of fantastic offensive drives and multiple sacks on Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo, ended in an abysmal array of fumbles, missed tackles, and back to back to back scoring drives against the Birds in a 38-23 blowout. What happened? Where did we go wrong? Was it Michael Vick’s concussion in the 2nd quarter that ultimately sealed our untimely fate? Was it another round of mistake-laden play-calling and wasted timeouts? Or did the Cowboys just plain beat us? If you guessed all of the above and then some, you were, unfortunately, right.
When someone asked me to describe why these two seemingly talent filled teams were so underachieving this year, I stated that the Cowboys are a team who just happen to get beat, while the Eagles are a team that just beats themselves. And I think that that statement reigned true this Sunday evening.
The game started with something shocking – the Eagles scored a touchdown on their opening drive. Vick moved down the field methodically, and scored with a 2-yd pass to Riley Cooper in the endzone. The throw was high, and Coop was being covered, but he managed to jump up and nab it, making the score 7-0. However, the Cowboys managed to answer right back with an 11-yd pass to Felix Jones for a touchdown. This drive was where my personal alarm started ringing. As I watched the Eagles’ defense miss tackle after tackle, I started to cringe. The offense (who had been shaky in the past, to say the least) managed to show up, so where was the defense? Well, the worst was yet to come.
During the second quarter, Vick took hit after hit before finally leaving the game with a concussion after a hard slam by linebacker Ernie Sims. While the camera followed Vick’s walk to the locker room, everybody wondered if it was going to be time for Nick Foles to finally make his NFL debut…and it was. The camera cut to Foles warming up on the sidelines before going to commercial break. But before he was to come out, it was the defense’s turn. And they finally seemed fired up. After an incomplete on first down Romo was sacked on second down by rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks. On third down, he was sacked again, this time by Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox. The team looked rejuvenated. And now, it was time for Nick Foles.
Now, I think it is important to note that not only was this Nick Foles’ regular season debut, but it’s also not like he was taking many snaps in practice. I don’t think anybody was expecting him to come in, and he definitely did look a little green. That being said, I was pretty impressed with his performance. His first possession was nothing to write home about. After a handoff to LeSean McCoy for no gain, a screen pass to McCoy for 5, Foles threw a beautiful looking pass to Jason Avant, who appeared to get tripped up on his run and got hit with the ball instead. This was also the play that Avant got hurt on. With the incompletion, the Eagles had to punt the ball away. The next possession for the Cowboys was largely uneventful, although it did result in a field goal, bringing the score to 10-7, Cowboys. The next few possessions were uneventful as far as scores go, but they did show something about Foles. He has a great arm and quick release. He managed to have time behind the most makeshift of makeshift offensive lines in the NFL. However, he looked a little shaky with his footwork and didn’t necessarily read the defense well, as he almost threw a very costly pick 6 (which was dropped by one of the Cowboys’ defensive backs).
A stupid timeout called at the :34 second mark made it so that the Cowboys started the second half with possession of the ball. During this possession, Romo took his third sack, and eventually the ball was punted away.
This was the drive that showed us what Foles is made of. Foles started by hitting Maclin with a stellar pass, who then suffered a big hit and dropped the ball. On second down, rookie defensive back Morris Claiborne was called for one of many holding penalties on Riley Cooper, which resulted in first and ten at the 45. With a handoff to McCoy, the outstanding running back made a huge 23-yard run. Another handoff, another 9-yards; but this one was called back due to a holding penalty. It didn’t matter though – Foles’ next pass was a beautiful 44-yarder to Maclin, who fell right into the endzone. Watching him, I think Foles’ accuracy is steadily on point, and there will be many more TD passes like this to come. That’s the kind of quarterback he is, which is also pretty much the polar opposite of Michael Vick.
The next time the Eagles got the ball is when things really started to get frustrating though. Major offensive penalties committed by King Dunlap took the Eagles from what would have been first and goal at the 1-yd line, to third and fifteen at the 24. Playing it safe, the Eagles called a run, and this drive ended in a field goal kicked expertly by Alex Henery (who by the way, can pretty much always be counted on as the lone bright spot in a horrendous Eagles game).
Now, if you’re light of heart, just be warned, this is where things get really ugly. Romo somehow managed to look like a good quarterback on this drive, which ended up with a Dez Bryant “touchdown.” It really looked like the receiver lost control of the ball as he hit the ground, but even after review, the officials’ call on the field stood. The score was now tied at 17. And this was the beginning of the end for the Eagles.
The next drive for the Eagles was largely uneventful, save for another Claiborne penalty that resulted in a first down. After Foles was forced to throw the ball away, it was time to punt. And oh, what a punt it was. It was a punt unlike any other punt I’ve seen in quite some time. It was a punt fielded by Dwayne Harris (Lil Wayne wants his dreadlocks back) at his own 22; then due to blown coverage by Philadelphia special teams, this punt was returned all the way down the field for a touchdown. At this point, I had to get up and leave the room. I couldn’t believe it. The score was now 24-17, Dallas. And if possible, it only continued to get worse from here.
On the next possession, Foles started by hitting tight end Brent Celek for 11-yards. Then Shady had another run. And then…the interception. Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr picked off the bobbled ball and ran it in for a touchdown. So, in the span of about two minutes, the Cowboys’ scored twice, and neither was due to a successful offensive drive. The score was now 31-17. And on the next drive for Philly, more penalties caused by Dunlap, and another opportunity punted away. Two drives later, the Eagles managed to score, but Henery (oh wait…did I say he was the bright spot?) missed the extra-point, making the score 31-23. And of course, two more drives later, Foles managed to fumble near the goal-line, which was recovered for a TD by Dallas. Score, 38-23. Which ended up being the final score of the game.
Now, for all intents and purposes, the above wrap-up looks unbelievably dismal for the Eagles, and especially for Foles’ debut. But I will say this: for an unprepared, very green rookie QB, he did not look half bad. Sure, the fumble was a mistake. The interception was a mistake. But those are both mistakes commonly made by starting QB Michael Vick. Actually, Vick has been the leader in turnovers this year. Unfortunately, both Foles’ mistakes resulted in touchdowns for the other team. But Foles will be the starter this weekend against the Washington Redskins, and I expect we will see a much, much different player on Sunday.
This loss was not on Foles. This loss was a result of horrible defensive plays, stupid offensive penalties, and a hugely blown play by the special teams. This loss falls on the shoulders of the same guys it has been falling on the last few weeks. The only good news is that the offensive line’s blocking problems did not seem to affect Foles the way they affect Vick. But that isn’t going to keep the other team from scoring points. This defense needs a huge reality check, a slap in the face, if you will. It’s partially the flawed Wide-9 scheme, but it’s also partially lackluster playing. It just is. If the Eagles are going to be able to win any more games this season, the defense is going to have to show up EVERY time they stop on the field, not just once or twice. (Otherwise, we might as well just resign ourselves to losing the rest of our games this season in order to snag the first pick in the draft).
It was pretty bad. Especially considering the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry. But that honestly didn’t even bother me by the end of the game. What bothered me was the way we managed, once again, to come up against a team we should have beaten, and instead beat ourselves.Tags: Alex Henery, Brent Celek, Dez Bryant, disappointment, Felix Jones, Fletcher Cox, Jason Avant, King Dunlap, LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, Mychal Kendricks, NFL, Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles, Riley Cooper, Tony Romo, Trent Cole