NFC East: Jim Dray
December, 1, 2013
By Phil Sheridan | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA – Quick thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles’ 24-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
What it means: The Eagles (7-5) have evolved into one of the most complete teams in the NFC, and they are in the thick of the playoff race. Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes to lead the offense, while the defense sacked Carson Palmer five times and held an eighth consecutive opponent to 21 points or less. After enduring a 10-game home losing streak, the Eagles have a two-game home winning streak and have won four in a row overall. They are tied with the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East and are in the mix in the wild-card race.
White knuckle syndrome: As big a win as it was for the Eagles, it did raise some concerns. For the second game in a row, they scored 24 points and went into an offensive lull that allowed the opponent to get back in the game. Against Washington two weeks ago, their 24-0 fourth-quarter lead was whittled to 24-16; Robert Griffin III threw a game-ending interception in the red zone, allowing the Eagles to hold on. This time, a 24-7 third-quarter lead shrunk to 24-21 when Palmer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jim Dray. Whether it’s play calling or execution, the offense has to put an end to this dangerous trend.
Tight ends turned loose: After getting the ball for the first time on the Arizona 25-yard line thanks to a Palmer fumble, Foles’ first four throws were to tight ends. The fourth was a 6-yard touchdown to rookie Zach Ertz. Foles hit veteran Brent Celek for a 1-yard score in the second quarter and came back to Ertz for a 24-yard touchdown in the third. Ertz and Celek had caught a combined four touchdown passes through the first 11 games. But with the Cardinals' defense focused on stopping LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, coach Chip Kelly countered by utilizing his tight ends.
Stock watch: Rising: Foles. The second-year quarterback was the NFC offensive player of the month after posting a 152.8 passer rating for November, the best rating for a single month in NFL history. Foles began December in fine fashion, completing 21 of 34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He answered a couple of more questions, too, by playing well against a superior defense and by winning a game against a team with a winning record. Foles took some sacks and missed some throws in the second half as the Arizona defense tried desperately to get back in the game, but he continued to protect the ball and (except for an interception negated by penalty in the fourth quarter) make good decisions.
What’s next: Foles can tie or break Peyton Manning’s record of 20 touchdown passes to begin a season without throwing a single interception. (Foles’ 24-yard touchdown to Ertz was his 19th of the season.) He will get a chance next Sunday, when the Eagles host the Detroit Lions, another NFC contender.