Patriots Rout Eagles; Foles Injures Shoulder
(973espn.com) - The rematch was is name only and forget about any revenge but, for what it was, the Eagles were embarrassed in New England on Thursday night during a 37-20 preseason loss to the Patriots.
The real culprit in the Eagles' struggles was the offensive line, particularly left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who struggled mightily as veteran Jason Peters again sat out.
The same wasn't the case last season when Vaitai was a pleasant surprise while filling in for an injured Peters during Philadelphia's run toward a Super Bowl LII championship in which it defeated New England 41-33.
The Eagles were blitzed during the first half by Tom Brady and Co., falling behind 27-7, but that was secondary to an injury scare to quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles, making his preseason debut, suffered a shoulder strain during the second quarter when Patriots defensive end Adrian Clayborn whipped Vaitai on the edge for a strip sack of the veteran signal caller. New England linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley scooped up the fumble and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown.
Foles immediately grabbed his chest as he went to the turf and was evaluated inside the medical tent before returning to the sideline. He finished his night by completing just 3-of-9 passes for 44 yards and was sacked three times.
"I was getting ready to throw a deep ball and it got grabbed as I was following on through so it sort of got a little strained," Foles said after the game. "So you know, I was with the trainers, we’ll – I’ll go in tomorrow and get treatment on it and sort of go from there. But it feels alright, feels pretty good. Hopefully there’s no issues."
Before getting hit Foles was hardly lighting it up, however.
"The balls were a little high early," coach Doug Pederson said of Foles' performance. "Just a little accuracy issue but we had some plays we would want back as an offense and we just have to continue to work."
Foles agreed with that assessment:
"It wasn’t good but at the end of the day, it felt good to be back out there," the veteran said. "... I missed on some throws but was starting to get a rhythm and get a feel back and that takes time. That’s why we have the preseason to go out there and play and it wasn’t good enough, I have to be better."
Things improved with Nate Sudfeld in the game as the third-stringer made a host of good throws, including touchdown passes to Shelton Gibson, Richard Rodgers, and Rashard Davis.
"Nate did some nice things," Pederson said. "Had some really nice throws. ...I thought he played pretty well."
EAGLES PRESEASON STOCK EXCHANGE
-Shelton Gibson - Gibson has been one of the Eagles most improved players this summer and that showed up again against New England with five receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. The highlights were a brilliant sluggo route for a 4-yard touchdown and a 57-yard bomb that got the Eagles out of the shadow of their own end zone after a bad punt-return decision by Rashard Davis (more on that later). Gibson also had a 46-yard kick return.
"I feel like it's not outstanding because we didn't win," Gibson said of his performance. "Just bringing back the West Virginia days and trying to be consistent every day. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win another championship."
-Nate Sudfeld - The numbers were pretty good and a few of the throws were great. If Matt Jones could catch the football or Vaitai could protect at all the stat sheet would have looked downright gaudy. As it was Sudfeld finished 22-of-39 for 312 yards with three TDs and an interception that wasn't his fault. Sudfeld is proving he could easily be a backup in this league.
" I was pretty encouraged we were able to move the ball down the field," Sudfeld said. "... It was fun to get into a rhythm and see some different looks.”
-DeAndre Carter - Late signings don't usually make a lot of noise in the NFL but the undersized Carter has been really solid in practice and that carried over as he snared three receptions for 48 yards against the Pats. On a night with few bright spots, Carter was one of them.
-Halapoulivaati Vaitai - It was just one of those days for Vaitai, who couldn't block anyone. With Clayborn out there it was reminiscent of what happened to Dallas last season when the Cowboys lost Tyron Smith and Clayborn went off for six sacks. When your left tackle is doing his best turnstile impression it's difficult to get anything going offensively. The Philadelphia offensive line gave up eight sacks as a whole in the game.
-Matt Jones - With Corey Clement, Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams out with lower-body injuries, Jones had an opportunity to open some eyes and he struggled to do so with three dropped passes, one of which should have been a huge gain on a wheel route but Jones allowed a solid Sudfeld pass to bounce of his helmet and turn into a gift interception for Pats linebacker Christian Sam.
-Rashard Davis - Darren Sproles continues to sit out so Davis was given a chance as a punt returner and went backward trying to make something out of nothing on a third-quarter return, losing 13 yards and turning bad field position (the 14) into dismal field position (2-yard line). He did have a nice inside release later and turned it into a 31-yard TD catch.
-Sidney Jones - Jalen Mills did not play so Ronald Darby flipped to left corner and Jones started on the right side. He badly whiffed on a manufactured touch to Corrdarrelle Patterson which turned into an 11-yard TD.
-Along with Foles, others Eagles injured included receiver Bryce Treggs (left hamstring), safety Stephon Roberts (ankle), Rodgers (knee) and Kamar Aiken (hamstring). Taylor Hart and Tre Sullivan also had some cramping issues.
-Those who didn't dress beside the obvious PUP guys were Carson Wentz, Clement, Sproles, Pumphrey, Adams, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Peters, and Mills.
-The helmet rule continues to be an issue and is almost overbearing. Philadelphia was flagged three times in the game for lowering the head.
"I think it's a concern league-wide with how exactly this is going to be called but it's great to see because it's all teachable moments for us," Pederson said. "We have to keep educating our players on the proper technique."
-Dave Fipp mentioned that after seeing the kickoff return during the first week of the preseason that it remained a "similar play" so the idea of allowing Sproles to handle the role is probably out the window. It now looks like Gibson's job, especially after a 46-yard return in the first quarter.
-There was plenty of trolling starting with the Eagles organization itself which put this good-natured locker room tweet up with Jeremy Reaves' jersey (No. 41) next to De'Vante Bausby's (No. 33). Get it?:
-Then there was this Bucks County fan's handiwork caught by NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark:
Personally, I'd advocate the Barry Sanders approach (act like you've been there before) but if you have 1K to burn, Godspeed.
-Malcolm Jenkins and De'Vante Bausby both stayed in the tunnel for national anthem while Michael Bennett remained in the locker room.
-Call off World War III. Brady did shake Foles' hand after the game.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen