Game Review: Foles Takes Step Forward

Listening to Andy Reid earlier this week, I got the sense that he and the Eagles coaching staff wanted to see a little more out of Nick Foles Sunday night against the Cowboys.

In his first two starts, the rookie completed 55.2 percent of his passes and averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt. The issues on offense were not all his fault, but Foles had not provided many encouraging flashes.

Sunday night was different, though. Foles completed 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t perfect, but showed signs of improvement, making a few impressive throws, and with a huge assist from the running game, helping the offense move the football.

Let’s start by breaking down the throws by distance.


Officially, Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes, but it was actually better than that. Foles threw three balls away and had one batted at the line of scrimmage. He also threw one into the ground as DeMarcus Ware crushed him from behind on the first play from scrimmage.

Foles completed all but one of his throws that traveled 5 yards or less. He did a really nice job on the intermediate throws, completing six of nine attempts for 97 yards. Foles let his receivers make some plays after the catch. He hit Riley Cooper for a 16-yard slant. And he got the ball out on time to Jeremy Maclin on 3rd-and-6, allowing him to pick up 21 yards.

Foles took some shots downfield too. He threw a really nice ball to Jason Avant in between Cowboys defenders for 29 yards in the second. And Foles showed good patience, finding Avant over the middle for 23 yards, while beating the blitz in the fourth. He missed some of those deep throws too. It looked like Foles had Maclin open deep late in the first half, but he overthrew him. Perhaps he was used to DeSean Jackson’s speed?

A good sign in the second. The Cowboys blitzed Ernie Sims, and Foles stood tall in the pocket, taking a hit and delivering the ball on-target to Brent Celek.

I was also impressed with a couple of the throws Foles made on the move. One came off play-action in the third. Foles was sliding to his left and completed a pass to Maclin for 14 yards. And in the fourth, he scrambled to his left, away from pressure, and hit Avant for 19 yards on 3rd-and-8.

The areas where he can improve? Other than the throws I mentioned above, it sure looked like Foles had Celek wide-open in the middle of the field for a touchdown in the fourth. He instead threw incomplete to the left corner of the end zone to Clay Harbor. That’s one we’ll look at with the All-22.

Foles’ worst throw of the day came late in the fourth when he very easily could have been picked off by Cowboys safety Danny McCray, who just dropped the ball. He threw behind Bryce Brown in the fourth and was also off-target on a deep throw to Cooper, who appeared to be open.

Rob Ryan did not blitz Foles much. By my count, he sent extra pressure on eight of 35 dropbacks, or 22.9 percent of the time. Foles handled the blitz well, going 5-for-8 for 54 yards.

Overall, some encouraging signs. Reid announced Monday that Foles will start the rest of the season. And that makes sense. Regardless of who is coaching the Eagles in 2013, the more information, the better. The decision-makers will have to choose from Foles, Michael Vick (with a restructured contract), a draft pick and a free agent/trade acquisition. Foles will get four more games to make the case that he should be viewed as a realistic option next season.

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