Nick Foles has known for some time that if you want to be Chip Kelly‘s guy, you can’t throw interceptions.
“The Oregon teams that I faced in college prided themselves on not turning the ball over much,” said Foles following the Eagles’ narrow win over the Cardinals Sunday. “I knew that when he came in here, that would be something that he would really stress.”
Kelly is a stickler for efficiency, and there is nothing efficient about handing the ball over to the other team. Just a couple weeks back, Kelly ranked ball security behind only winning when discussing what he wants out of his quarterback.
Foles has both areas covered. He has tossed a team-record 233 passes without a pick, which surpasses Michael Vick’s previous high of 224. He has thrown 19 touchdowns this season without an interception, needing just one more to tie Peyton Manning for the NFL record.
With Sunday's 24-21 win, he improved to 5-1 as a starter this season.
"Even on his misses, he's missing the right way," said Jason Avant. "That's the key to protecting the football. He's missing long , he's not missing behind, and that's usually a good sign. Or if the [defensive back] is over top he's missing short. Another thing, too, is the receivers are doing a good job on the 50-50 balls, they are either coming down with them or defending them very well. It's a whole bunch of things -- the line has to protect -- there's a whole bunch of things that goes into it, but he's made great decisions."
Foles got bailed out a couple different times Sunday. An up-for-grabs pass in the end zone in the direction of DeSean Jackson was nearly intercepted by Patrick Peterson. Jackson, though, did a nice job of switching into defensive back mode and preventing Peterson from coming down with it. Peterson came up with a pick late in the contest, but the play was negated by a holding call on Tyrann Mathieu.
A little luck never hurt nobody.
"That's just the game of football," said Foles, who ended the day 21-of-34 for 237 yards and three touchdowns. "It's a crazy game, and things happen. I'm definitely happy about that [holding call] because it could have changed the course of the game. I need to be smart with the football and maybe just take a sack there."
Sunday's outing was a meaningful one for Foles as he continues to build his case for why he should be the quarterback this franchise ties its fortunes to.
It was just a week ago that this Cardinals' defense limited Andrew Luck to 163 yards on 39 attempts en route to a 40-11 blowout. They made arguably the most promising young star in the game look pedestrian. It would be understandable if Foles cooled off. Instead, his hot streak continued (into the third quarter, at least).
The Cardinals came in as the eight-ranked passing defense in the league, and had held opponents to 16 points per game on average over their four-game winning streak.
Sunday was a chance to show that he could keep this offense humming against not just a quality defense but a playoff contender in a meaningful spot, and do so with all eyes pointed upward towards him. This was Foles' first start since Kelly officially named him the starter for the rest of the season. The pressure was ratcheted up along with the quality of competition.
Foles was able to stick to the formula that has kept him generally out of harm's way for 233 passes and counting.
"The key to that is preparation and really being in rhythm and on time with your throws," said Foles. "If it's not there, just check down. If it's not there, it's not bad to throw it away and live to play another down. That's just something that you just have to keep ingraining in yourself. It's easier when you can really see the defense and recognize what they're doing. Then you really know where to go with the ball and you can be smart."
WHAT YOU MISSED
Three critical plays went the Eagles' way late.
LeSean McCoy took a little jab at Bruce Arians after the game.
Sheil offers his observations from Sunday's win.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Geoff Mosher focuses on Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, who had two sacks apiece Sunday.
Graham hasn’t complained, but he’s waited for his opportunities.
“Just playing pissed off, man,” he said. “Every day, grinding. From the bottom. I’m gonna always have that chip on my shoulder, and today was one of them days, man.”
Graham’s two sacks against the Cards marked the second multi-sack game of his career. Last year, he had 2½ against the Bengals along with 10 tackles in a Dec. 13 game at the Linc. He has 8½ sacks since the start of the 2012 season. Know who also has 8½ sacks since the start of '12?
Yep, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who went two spots behind Graham in the 2010 draft.
Domo gives the Eagles an "A" for their overall performance.
The Eagles held their eighth straight opponent to 21 points or less. It was the first time since Oct. 13 the Cardinals were held under 22. The offense stalled in the second half, which almost proved to be fatal. But they still managed to put up 300-plus yards and 23 first downs against the league’s eighth-ranked defense and had another turnover-free game.
We'll speak to Chip Kelly at 1 p.m.