For the second straight week, Matt Barkley was forced to come into a divisional game with his team trailing by double-digits. After replacing Nick Foles in last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Barkley entered Sunday's game for Michael Vick, who re-aggravated a hamstring injury late in the first quarter. Barkley performed serviceably upon entering the game, completing 17 of his 26 pass attempts for 158 yards, but it was not enough, as the Eagles fell to the New York Giants 15-7.
Throughout the week of practice, all signs pointed towards Vick being healthy enough to start, and as a result, Barkley did not get much practice time with the first-team offense.
"I didn't get many (snaps)," Barkley said after the game. "I kind of figured (that Vick was going to start) by the way he was looking and running the ball. He looked good and looked comfortable. I saw that going in."
Once the game got underway, however, Vick's level of comfort changed rather quickly. On a 1-yard scamper late in the first quarter, Vick felt a pop in his hamstring, once again opening the door for Barkley. With Foles inactive because of a concussion and Vick's status remaining unknown for most of the week, Barkley knew that there was a chance that he would have to play against the Giants. As has been the case all season long, Barkley prepared for the game as if he was getting the call.
"I have told you guys every week that I prepare like I am going to start," Barkley told reporters. "That was the same mentality as this week. There was a chance of a physical component but that did not change my excitement or preparation. I still did the same film study and did the same practice routine. With the two quarterbacks (being injured) I did get some more practice reps, but my mindset was the same."
At times Barkley played above his rookie status, looking sharp with his passes while tall in the pocket. He completed 65 percent of his throws, but he also turned the ball over twice. He threw an interception on a last-gasp effort on the Eagles' final drive, but the more costly turnover was a fumble that occurred late in the first half on a first-and-goal play from the Giants' 2-yard line.
"I thought I played all right," said Barkley. "I thought I made some good throws. I made some poor decisions. I think it's the little things that I have to hunker down on from here on out. I'm learning and getting game experience under my belt, it's just something to learn from.
"I will probably be thinking about a couple of those plays running through my head all night long. That last play of the half, I don't know if I was thinking about last week - trying to do too much and forcing it in there - so I was holding on to it, about to throw it away and they made a good play on it."
After the game, head coach Chip Kelly echoed many of those same opinions on the play of his quarterback, noting that progress is there, but that Barkley must find a way to help the Eagles capitalize on their drives.
"I think Matt's been thrown in twice into some tough situations," Kelly said. "I think he prepares outstandingly. There are probably a couple throws he wants back, but there are a couple times he gave us a little spark, little energy. He sets his feet and gets the ball out quick. He made some good decisions. A couple sailed on him a little bit. But I think the biggest thing for us is not capitalizing at the end of the first half there. We've got to do a better job. Then all of a sudden, you end up losing the game by eight, those points we left out on the field are the things that killed us."
Barkley's first two appearances in the NFL have now come in relief, a difficult assignment for any player, let alone a rookie. Despite coming up short in both efforts, the rookie's confidence remains unshaken.
"I am just going to compete my butt off and see what happens with this week," Barkley explained. "My confidence is not down after this game. It is a tough loss and you hate to see that happen, but I am not beating myself up. You look at those plays and replay some of them thinking what you could have done better, but you move on and we will see what happens this week but again I will prepare like I am starting."
Only time will tell whether or not Barkley will be called upon to start the Eagles' next game - a road affair against the Oakland Raiders, which would be a bit of homecoming for the California native. Whether he is deemed the starter for the game or not, Barkley knows that another week of practice will go a long way for him and the rest of the Eagles offense as they look to get back on the right track.
"We will see how Mike bounces back, hopefully he heals up," said Barkley. "I think it is valuable just to practice with those guys and see their timing and know their breaks in a full-speed environment. Routes versus air is one thing but to be able to get reps in team periods and seven-on-seven I think it will be valuable."
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