Nick Foles has to play. The main reason is obvious. Coach Chip Kelly says his intention is to try to win every week, and that makes it nigh impossible to bench a quarterback who just threw for seven touchdowns in a game.
But even if Kelly says he's not thinking beyond this season, he still has to know what he has in Foles. The 23-year-old has started only nine games. He had two bad games mixed in among his six starts last year. This year, he followed a very good start in Tampa with a disaster against Dallas, then produced his epic performance in Oakland.
A winning team needs consistent quarterback play. Foles can't be expected to duplicate what he did Sunday, but the Eagles have to know whether that Dallas game was a one-time aberration or part of a pattern of up-and-down performances.
Foles is not a statue. He has always suffered from the inevitable comparison to Michael Vick, one of the most mobile quarterbacks of all time, but Foles can move around a little bit. On two of his touchdown throws Sunday, Foles rolled out to his right -- once by design and once, Foles said, in an “ad lib.” He had three runs for 14 yards.
“Nick's a good athlete,” Kelly said. “He's not a blazer. We all understand that, but I think he really moves around, he keeps things alive. That's what he did today.”
The tight ends finally appeared. When the Eagles added free agent James Casey and second-round pick Zach Ertz to a roster that already had Brent Celek, the expectation was that Kelly would find all kinds of ways to deploy his tight ends. That really hadn't happened until Sunday.
Ertz was targeted six times, Celek four times. Ertz had five catches for 42 yards and his first career touchdown. Celek caught three balls for 27 yards and a touchdown.
“It's a matchup thing,” Kelly said. “It's something we hoped we'd get to at some point in time. Some weeks, it's not the flavor of the day. We really felt this week it would be a big thing for us.”
The pace was fast. The Eagles looked much more like the fast-break team Kelly wants them to be. They ran only 57 plays (compared to a whopping 92 for the Raiders), but really seemed to put pressure on the Oakland defense with their tempo.
“It's tough to play tempo when it's first down, incomplete,” Kelly said. “The ball's not going your way. It's hard to get going. Our guys are starting to get a better feel for it.”
“The most important thing about it,” guard Evan Mathis said, “is you start to learn what the blueprint for success is. We have a lot of young guys on our team. They start to see that the hard work, the trust in the process, can translate to these kinds of results.”