As has been the case so often this season, the Eagles had an opportunity to win Sunday afternoon, only to see self-inflicted mistakes ultimately submarine the chance to come out with a victory. Before the final whistle blew on the Washington Redskins' 27-20 victory, the Eagles had a surefire opportunity to send the game to overtime.
Foles and company began the would-be game-tying drive at their own 15-yard-line with 4:15 left on the clock. After methodically working the Eagles all the way down into the Redskins' red zone, Foles appeared primed to deliver the much-needed touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. On a third-and-2 from the Redskins' 17-yard-line, Maclin broke free toward the front right pylon as Foles delivered the ball. Maclin was wide open by NFL standards, but Foles' pass fell a few helpless yards short of the open Maclin.
It was a pass not too dissimilar from the touchdown pass Foles threw on the game's opening drive, when he connected on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Maclin in the same area. This time, though, the connection could not be made.
"I felt like I had him, but sometimes I have to continue to drive it, maybe put a little bit more, loft it up a little bit more," Foles said after the ball. "I threw a pretty stiff ball. Maybe loft it up a little bit more, give it a little bit more room for error. I tried to dart it in there. Next time I see that throw, I'll make it.
"When it released, I felt good and I saw it hit right in front of him. It was frustrating because the ball didn't get there and I have to get him a better ball, make a better play."
That wasn't all. After Foles completed a short pass to LeSean McCoy to pick up the first down, the Eagles were set up with a 1st-and-goal from the Redskins' 5-yard-line and 11 seconds remaining. On first down, Foles delivered an immediate quick slant to newly signed tight end Evan Moore. The ball hit Moore between the numbers, but the tight end could not come up with the catch. As always, Foles blamed himself.
"I have to make sure I give him a solid ball. I put that one in there pretty hard," Foles said. "We were able to work on (that play during practice) and we'll keep working on it. When mistakes happen, you get frustrated, but ... you work on it and you keep moving forward. We'll all continue to push forward and keep grinding."
Then came the game's final play. With eight seconds left, Foles did not see an open receiver among his initial reads so he began moving to his left to bide time. Still surveying the end zone, Foles waited a beat too long before Redskins defensive tackle Stephen Bowen broke free to create pressure. Foles threw the ball away with one second remaining, but his pass did not reach the line of scrimmage and Foles was flagged for intentional grounding, which ended the game.
After going 6-for-10 for 39 yards on the final drive, Foles, and the Eagles, came up five yards short. This time, unlike in Tampa Bay, there would be no storybook ending for the precocious rookie.
"Initially I didn't think that anything was open so I was just trying to make a play," Foles said. "I just have to be smarter and make sure it's past the line of scrimmage."
It was a crucial mistake which also marked the second time on the day that Foles was penalized for being too deliberate when he could have thrown the ball away. On the final play of the first quarter, Foles was rolling right after a botched screen pass and was hit by Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who forced a fumble that was recovered by the Redskins. At the time, the Eagles were leading 7-0 and were in Redskins' territory.
But there was another element to Foles' performance that was only evident when talking to his coaches and teammates. In the first half, Foles suffered a contusion on his right hand, his throwing hand, that was serious enough to merit a halftime X-ray. Through it all, Foles went 32-of-48 for 345 yards, one touchdown and one interception (on a deflected pass) for a quarterback rating of 85.9. On a day when the Redskins were able to create consistent pressure, Foles was also sacked five times.
Head coach Andy Reid and Foles' teammates on offense were impressed that the rookie played through the injury, though they know Foles well enough to know that quarterback wouldn't dare make any excused.
"He was hurting," said tight end Brent Celek. "You could tell he was hurting, but he was out there fighting and I'm proud of him for that. He's not going to complain about it. He's not going to say anything about it, but that's what you have to do playing football sometimes."
Foles responded on Celek's cue.
"Not at all," he said. "It didn't affect my throwing at all."
So the Eagles turn the page to the season finale next week against the New York Giants in what will be another opportunity to play spoiler against an NFC East rival. After that, an offseason to prepare for a 2013 season that will hopefully have a much different flavor than the one in the rearview mirror. Despite suffering his share of rookie mistakes, Foles at least has the demeanor to help bring the Eagles forward.
"He stays positive," said Maclin. "He is going to remain poised and always give off the reputation that he is never going to give up."
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