Inside the Numbers: Foles Freakout Commences
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Philadelphia decided to keep its stocking stuffed until Christmas evening and when the city finally peeked inside, there it was ... a lump of Foles.
There is no getting around it, Carson Wentz's replacement was every bit as bad as it looked on a cold and windy night at Lincoln Financial Field, recording the lowest film grade of any NFL quarterback in Week 16, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The good news is that when the fans looked past that lump of Foles, they found Derek Carr giving him a run for worst signal caller of the week and somehow the Eagles found a way to eek out a 19-10 win and clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC thanks to a ferocious second-half defensive performance.
The theme around the locker room of a 13-2 team was both a simple and logical one. Good teams find a way whether it's the offense and special teams covering up for a defense giving up 500-plus yards to Eli Manning and the dreadful New York Giants one week or that same stop unit generating five second-half turnovers against the Raiders to make up for one of Foles' worst games as a professional.
“I didn’t play good enough," Foles admitted. "I have to play cleaner and, obviously, play better. Third down is a big thing with a quarterback; pinpoint accuracy, making good decisions. I’ll look at the film, I’ll improve. These wins are tough; wins in the NFL are tough. This was a crazy, sloppy game. I thought our defense played wonderful - giving us an opportunity – I believe it was five turnovers. That’s huge, that was big.”
With the winds howling from the west, Foles yards-per-attempt was a dismal 4.3 in 40 total dropbacks, the second lowest performance of his career.
The few times Foles did look downfield a bit it got even uglier as he completed just 1 of 11 passes that traveled more than 10 yards and maybe the most alarming point of all is that Foles was rarely pressured as Halapoulivaati Vaitai easily had his best game in a month while Lane Johnson, although a bit penalty prone, held All-Pro Khalil Mack down from a pass-rush standpoint.
Foles just could not get the football outside the numbers best evidenced by the fact that Alshon Jeffery was shut out on two targets and Torrey Smith caught just one of five targets for five yards.
Compared to a point guard by offensive coordinator Frank Reich last week, Foles seemed locked in on one option -- Zach Ertz -- and his accuracy wasn't there either, leaving two potential touchdowns down the seam on the field.
“That one I tried to get it over [Raiders LB Bruce] Irvin and [it was] a little high – that’s on me," Foles said. "Those are the ones that you want to get the ball down a little bit more over the top. It’s on me. That’s all I have to say. I have to get the ball a little bit lower on his chest, because that’s a tough catch when you’re going over the head so that’s on me.”
When Oakland sent extra pressure, however, Foles completed only 1 of 5 passes, his yards-per-attempt was mind-numbing 2.2 yards per attempt and his passer rating was 7.6, a mark that would have been better if he just tossed the ball purposefully to the turf each time.
The Eagles were 1-of-14 on third-downs with the lone conversion coming when Corey Clement busted a run, meaning Foles won an NFL game without being successful on the most important down in football for the full 60 minutes.
Coach Doug Pederson admitted weather was an issue but no one was using it as an excuse.
"It was gusty at times," Pederson said. "Heading away from our tunnel, you were kind of into the wind just a little bit, made it probably a little more difficult. But, it's never an excuse, the weather. We've just got to learn to handle it."
Foles took a similar path.
"I’m not going to use that excuse at all," he said. "Playing in Philly is not easy, it’s cold weather. But at the same time, we have to execute better, it’s as simple as that. It has nothing to do with the weather, it has to do with our execution and fine-detailing things. Oakland played a great game; their defense came out and they did a really good job. I’m excited to look at the film and see how we can improve."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen