Zone Read: Eagles-Bears, the Day After
As the Eagles prepared for their final possession Sunday night, Nick Foles stood on the sideline next to tight end Zach Ertz and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.
The offense gathered briefly before running onto the field. Foles had a green and black baseball cap on instead of a helmet. He paused his conversation, joined his teammates briefly, put his arm around James Casey and returned to the sideline as Michael Vick took a couple kneel-downs to end the game.
There was a hug from Chris Polk and a handshake from Brent Celek. Foles then made his way past cameras towards midfield to greet the Bears’ quarterbacks as the clock showed triple zeroes. He removed his hat, knelt down for the prayer circle with members from both teams and joined LeSean McCoy for an interview with NBC.
Foles’ performance will not be the first or even second topic of conversation among Eagles fans today. And that’s saying something considering he went 21-for-25 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 131.7.
“Great decision-making,” said guard Todd Herremans. “He’s been making great decisions ever since he got in there. That’s the kind of guy he is. Real calm, cool and collected. He’s realizing when to get rid of the ball, when to throw it away and when to keep it and run.”
Of Foles’ four incompletions, three were essentially balls he threw away, and one was a dropped screen attempt to Celek. No quarterback in Eagles franchise history has completed a higher percentage of passes in a single game than Foles (84 percent) did Sunday night.
But because the Eagles have a showdown with the Cowboys in six days, the conversation will quickly shift this week, and it will include a look back to the first time the two teams met – the game where Foles completed 11 of 29 throws for 80 yards as the Eagles managed just three points against one of the league’s worst defenses.
Foles will be peppered with questions all week long about that game. He may not admit it publicly, but comments from his teammates suggest that Foles is thrilled to have a second shot at the Cowboys – this time with the NFC East and a playoff appearance on the line.
“He’s definitely gonna use it as motivation,” said Jason Peters. “If Dallas plans on Foles playing like he did the first game, they’re not gonna win the game. So they better prepare and prepare well.”
Added Jason Kelce: “I think he was really frustrated after that Dallas game. That was the first time you saw it. You didn’t really see it during the game, which is good because you don’t really want to see it during the game. But after that, not really that he played sub-par against Dallas, but he kind of lost that opportunity right there that he had to kind of get that [starting] spot. And then Mike [Vick] was pushed back in there.
“Obviously he’s a competitive guy. He wants to be out there. So he was disappointed. That’s the first time that I’ve really seen him show some emotion. That wasn’t during the game. It was more during the week.”
The sense among teammates is that Foles has nothing really more to prove. He showed he could bounce back from adversity by firing seven touchdowns in his next appearance against the Raiders. And that was after he had sustained a concussion at the end of the Dallas game.
Overall, he leads the NFL in passer rating (118.8) and yards per attempt (9.03).
Asked if Foles would use the first game as motivation, Evan Mathis said: “He can use it for whatever he wants. I think he obviously already bounced back from that game. He learned a lot from that game. That game might have been some of the reason that he has been playing so well. Some of us don’t always come out here and play great games, and for a guy like that to bounce back, not let it get to him, that just shows great character by Nick. He’s so even-keeled, never too high, and in a situation like that, never too low. He took it with a grain of salt, watched the film, picked it apart, learned from it and he bounced back.”
Foles said he’ll watch the film from the first meeting once again this week as he prepares for the second matchup.
“It definitely is going to be in our cut-ups and I am going to watch it and see what happened,” he said. “It worked for [Dallas’ defense] the first time so I don’t see why they would change anything.”
The Cowboys entered the weekend with the 31st-ranked defense (28th against the pass). Considering the way LeSean McCoy has been playing, stopping the Eagles’ prolific ground game will likely be Dallas’ top focus. That means once again Foles will have opportunities to do damage through the air. This time around, he and his teammates are expecting different results.
“He will be in front of you guys I’m sure very vanilla and won’t give you guys any good stuff to write about,” Kelce said. “But he’s definitely a very competitive guy deep down. It’s something that he kind of doesn’t show – his emotions to the media, doesn’t really show them in the game. But you know just through talking to him that he’s really excited. He’s a very competitive guy, and I’m sure that he’s going to want to go out there and have a really good day to kind of silence [everyone] ragging on him.”