Nick Foles continued his incredible season with a 237-yard, three-touchdown performance in the Eagles' 24-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Despite losing the quarterback battle in Training Camp to Michael Vick, Foles has ascended to the starting position in what has proven as a testament to what Chip Kelly has preached since the moment he arrived in Philadelphia – that every day is a competition, and the best players will play.
"I think our players understood the situation," Kelly said of the locker room's reaction after Foles took over for Vick in an official capacity. "I think it's part of what we talk about, there's competition all the time. You have the opportunity to go out there and put your resume together on film and on the field where everyone gets a chance to see it, and I don't think there's anybody that questions the level that Nick's playing at right now. He's the ultimate teammate to begin with. I think how Mike has handled it with him, the two of them together, they want what's best for the Philadelphia Eagles, and I think that's made it an easy transition. At times it can be difficult, but because of how those guys have handled it, it makes it really easy."
Foles has seized the opportunity and is currently in the midst of an historic run. Vick, to his credit, has been the consummate, model teammate and has embraced his newly designated role as backup with grace. As Kelly said, Foles and Vick both want the same thing above all else, which is for the Eagles to win. There are no egos in the Eagles' locker room that supersede the team's ultimate mission, and with a group of players that has grown together and only gotten strong and better throughout the season, the smooth transition from Vick to Foles perfectly captures that spirit.
Foles' greatest attribute this season has been the security with which he has treated the football. On the year, Foles has thrown 19 touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception.
"I think it's a credit to him in terms of what he understands to do," Kelly said. "He doesn't really put the ball in harm's way. Very rarely do you look at it and go, 'I don't know about that one.' We've been in games, like the Green Bay game, where the ball hit us directly in the hands and we dropped them. But that's not a good decision by the quarterback on the other side, and Nick very rarely does that. I'm not astonished by it, but I think that's one of the reasons he's as productive as he is, because he's really, really smart when he's got the football in his hands."
For all the happy vibes surrounding the Eagles in the midst of this four-game winning streak, the inability to comfortably close out games after getting out to big leads has become a concern. Against Washington, the Eagles led 24-0 but then stagnated on offense and had to hold on for a 24-16 victory, instead of cruising to the end. Against Arizona, it was the same situation, as the Eagles led 24-7 but then gained just 22 total yards of offense the rest of the way and ended up holding on for a 24-21 win.
"It's a combination," Kelly responded when asked if the late-game woes on offense result from poor play-calling or execution. "We actually had four drives in the fourth quarter. First one was a six-play drive, next one was a five-play drive, next one was six-play drive, and then the one to finish it. We're moving the ball, then we get a penalty. One time we had a miscommunication up front and two guys went the wrong way and all of a sudden second-and-5 turns into third-and-9. It's all the little things, but it's part of being a real good football team – you have to learn how to finish games. It's something that we have to continue to work on, like everything. There are going to be things to work on every week, and that's certainly something we'll address this week."
Kelly added that the difficulty in offensive strategy in that situation is balancing the need to run the clock versus taking advantage of passing opportunities that, if not completed, would stop the clock. All told though, it's a good problem to have, albeit one the Eagles need to address down the stretch, lest a late-game lull leads to a game-deciding letdown.
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