After Rocky Start, Nick Foles Comes Through


NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles
One thing we are learning about Nick Foles: when he is off, he is off in a big way.

A quarterback known for his accuracy and decision-making early in his career was tentative and routinely off the mark for much of Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. He rounded into form late, helping the Eagles pull out a 34-17 win. He ended 27-of-45 for 322 yards with two touchdown passes, an interception and a pair of lost fumbles.

The first half was reminiscent of his performance at home against Dallas last October, where his ability to decode a defense and hit the open man went missing. That was particularly true early. Facing a 3rd-and-5 on the team’s first possession, Foles was unable to locate a wide open Jeremy Maclin downfield. A beat later, he was hit by former Eagle Chris Clemons and lost the ball. He held onto it too long on a second down play on the team’s next possession as well and coughed it up once again. Both times, it was Jason Peters‘ man that got him.

Foles’ interception came early in the second, when his loft pass intended for Brent Celek in the back of the end zone came up well short and was snared by Alan Ball. He finished  the first half 12-of-24 for 139 yards and a 50.5 quarterback rating.  Foles turned the ball over four times all of last year. He had three turnovers in the first half alone against the Jags.

“You’re your own worst enemy in those times,” said Foles. “Literally it’s just thinking back to your fundamentals, thinking about the plays that were called, and trusting your preparation throughout the week. If they don’t give you something [defensively] you have to check the ball down and be smart with it. I really just started checking the ball down when they really got out of there and it started getting me into a rhythm and getting us into a rhythm as an offense, and we just went from there.”

While he still wasn’t totally himself, things began turning for him in the second half. He connected with Zach Ertz for a 25-yard touchdown strike midway through the third, and found Ertz again early in the fourth for a 26-yard gain that led to Cody Parkey‘s game-tying 51-yard field goal.

The home run ball came with 6:59 remaining in the game. On first and 10 from the Eagles’ 32, Foles faked the handoff, rolled right and found a wide open Maclin deep down the field. Maclin cruised into the end zone for a 68-yard score that gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead, their first of the game.

“If you watch film, we’re just trying the vertical package against a single high safety,” said Chip Kelly. “They lean to one of the vertical routes.  The second vertical route got down the field to Mack and Nick [Foles] spotted him.  We hit it, and we were down the field.”

The defense came up with a big 4th-and-1 stop on the ensuing series, leading to another Parkey field goal. The scoring was capped by the defense, as Trent Cole forced a fumble that Fletcher Cox scooped up and returned for the score.

The Eagles ended up scoring 34 unanswered points, turning a nightmare start around even without the services of Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre up front. And Foles, after a very rough opening, stabilized.

“My teammates stuck with me and we never wavered. We just kept fighting and that’s why I love these guys,” said Foles. “They’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to keep believing in each other. There is definitely a lot of stuff to work on from this film. It feels good to come out with a ‘W’. That’s a great Jaguars team and they really did a great job of getting me out of my norm at the beginning of the game. I’m glad my teammates really stuck with me and we played good team football in the second half.”