What’s Up With Nick Foles?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The numbers aren’t pretty for Nick Foles. 

He walked off the field Sunday having completed just 21 of his 43 pass attempts (49 percent) for 195 yards with a pair of interceptions. His 42.3 quarterback rating against the Niners is his worst under Chip Kelly — even lower than the one that accompanied his disastrous outing against Dallas last October.

Through four games, his 57.8 completion percentage ranks 29th in the NFL and his 81.7 QB rating 25th. It’s pretty plain to see that, outside of the Washington game, the 25-year-old hasn’t been firing on all cylinders. As the San Francisco game showed us, there are multiple reasons for that.

Some of the blame falls squarely on the quarterback. While it’s true the Niners’ pass rush did a good job of disrupting Foles for much of the day, there were times when his misfires had nothing to do with pressure. Take, for example, his errant throw to Brent Celek early in the contest. As you can see below, Foles is operating in a nice, clean pocket.

He’s just off the mark with his throw downfield.

“I definitely missed some throws that I want to hit. That’s something that I’ll work towards this week,” said Foles. “My job as a quarterback is when the ball is in my hand to deliver it to where my receivers can catch it, and there were a couple times when I let it out there too far.”

On attempts over 20 yards against San Fran, Foles went just 1-of-13 for 22 yards with two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. For the season, he has connected on just 10 of his 39 deep throws.

What’s going wrong?

You can make the case that losing DeSean Jackson — one of the best long-ball trackers in the game — has hurt him in this area. Foles, though, says that’s not it. He also said his bruised left shoulder is not impacting his mechanics.

“It’s simple things. It’s footwork, just keeping my feet solid beneath me,” he said. “Getting more push in the pocket, being able to transfer my weight. And it’s things I can correct, things I can work on. It’s nothing I can’t fix. I can fix it but it’s going to take work, it’s going to take attention to detail.”

And it’s going to take, at times, some better protection up front.

Foles’ third-quarter interception was a case where more than one mistake was made on offense. Below you can see that the Niners are rushing three. The Eagles’ five man front should be able to handle that.

But there was a breakdown on the left side, and Justin Smith shook free with with little resistance. This is what it looked like as Foles released the ball.

Maclin was covered and the throw should not have been made, but you can see why it was short.

“He got hit late.  I think he was trying to go deep over the top to Mac, and it’s one of those [situations], it’s 2nd-and-2.  It looked like they were covering, maybe just tuck it and see if you can get the first down yourself and then put us in a workable situation,” said Kelly, “but obviously we don’t want to put the ball up in harm’s way.”

That was the deal for much of the day: the Niners generated pressure with just a three or four-man rush, allowing the rest of the defense to just sit back in zone. That makes it tough on a signal-caller.

Another angle to consider is play-calling. Matt Tobin noted that on some plays Sunday it seemed like the 49ers knew what was coming.  San Francisco safety Antoine Bethea suggested that was, in fact, the case.

“We kind of knew when they get into certain formations, what type of plays they will run,” said Bethea, via NJ.com.

Chalk it up to predictability or just A-plus defensive work, but the Niners weren’t fooled much Sunday.

That was certainly true when it came to the screen game. On 1st-and-20 late in the first half, Riley Cooper sprinted in motion behind Foles, who then fakes the swing pass to him. The idea is to get the play flowing in that direction before Darren Sproles and his escorts leak out on the opposite side.

But they’re not biting. In the shot above, it looks like the middle linebacker is actually pointing the screen out. The 49ers have it blanketed, and Foles has to throw it away.

On another day against another team, maybe that goes for a big gain. Suddenly, the offense has a spark and Foles’ numbers get a lift.

It’s difficult to talk about football in absolutes because there are so many factors at work. Similarly, Foles’ inconsistencies can be attributed to a number of things. Some of it falls on his shoulders alone; part of it is a product of a shaky offensive line; the skill position players [including Riley Cooper] have to wear some of it; and for at least the Niners game, the play calling left something to be desired.

“You can’t pin all of this on Nick.  There are plays that he probably wants back.  There’s play calls that I want back.  There are blocks up front that guys want back.  There are plays on the perimeter that everybody wants back,” said Kelly.

 “On every situation where things have broken down, it’s not the same guy.  If it was the same guy, that’s an easy decision where we can swap this guy out for that guy and maybe we’d have a better situation.  But it’s just one or two things here or there that are kind of slowing us down.”