CLEVELAND – It wasn't exactly the kind of send-off into the regular season that quarterback Nick Foles wanted. In one ugly half of action against Cleveland on Thursday night, Foles completed 13 of 17 passes. That's the good news.
The rest of it was forgettable in a 5-0 loss at First Energy Stadium.
Foles threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble as the Eagles staggered offensively. It was just one of those crazy nights when Foles and the offense showed flashes of cohesiveness, only to end drives with giveaways.
"I'm just making some mistakes. It's as simple as that," Foles said. "I've got to keep being critical of myself, watch some film, understand what's going on. I have to keep playing, going through it. Obviously, I haven't been myself and I expect a lot of myself but I've got to keep looking at it, keep learning.
"I've played this game a long time so I know how to address this and just keep moving forward, keeping that positive outlook."
After an opening drive that moved the ball from the Philadelphia 17-yard line to the Cleveland 38-yard line and ended when Foles's 3-yard completion to tight end Zach Ertz on a fourth-and-5 play fell short of the sticks, the offense failed to finish any of its remaining five drives.
- Following a defensive stand that held Cleveland out of the end zone on four plays from the 1-yard line, the Eagles began Drive No. 2 at their 1-yard line. Wendell Smallwood (12 carries, 53 yards; 2 receptions, 14 yards) gained 4 yards on first down, but on second down Foles dropped back to pass and lost his footing in the end zone. He was touched down by defensive end Myles Garrett for a safety.
- On the third play of the next drive, Foles was forced to step up in the pocket and had the ball jarred loose by Genard Avery. Cleveland recovered at the Philadelphia 35-yard line and turned the takeaway into three points for a 5-0 advantage.
- On Drive No. 3, Foles looked deep down the left sideline for wide receiver Mike Wallace. Unable to step up into the pocket because of pressure, Foles' pass was underthrown and intercepted by Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Cleveland had the football at the Eagles 45-yard line. The Eagles' defense held.
- Mixing the run (two Smallwood runs gained 28 yards) and a pass completion to DeAndre Carter (can he make this team after a strong game?) that picked up another 29 yards, the Eagles had a first-and-10 play at the Cleveland 27-yard line. Foles completed a screen pass to running back Matt Jones, who ran into trouble in the form of Browns defensive back Terrance Mitchell and lost the football. Another turnover.
- The Eagles had something going on Drive No. 5. Foles had the short passing game going, completing passes to Smallwood for 2 yards and Zach Ertz for 9 yards and a first down. A completion to wide receiver Shelton Gibson gained 21 yards to the Cleveland 41-yard line. A completion to Carter picked up 16 more yards to the Browns' 28, and then Foles-to-Smallwood gained 12 yards to the 16. Two plays later, as Foles rolled to his left, he threw into coverage for Ertz, and the pass was intercepted by Jamie Collins at the Cleveland 3-yard line.
And that was the end of the first-team offense, which failed to score in the preseason (the starters aren't expected to play against the Jets in the fourth preseason game). It wasn't all on Foles, as he was sacked three times and pressured a lot – Halapoulivaati Vaitai had all kinds of trouble with Garrett, the NFL's first pick overall in the 2017 NFL Draft – but there were enough mistakes by Foles that need to be cleaned up.
Add it all up for the offense and it went like this: Two Foles interceptions, two lost fumbles, a safety, and a turnover on downs when the Eagles failed to convert on fourth down at the end of their first drive.
The next two weeks are critical. Foles will get back to his family, his wife, and daughter, take a breath, and then dig into the X's and O's and game film.
"I'll keep working day in and day out with these guys in the locker room to improve and fix what's going on," Foles said. "That's the challenge of sports is facing adversity and we're facing a lot of adversity in the preseason right now. We're trying figure out our DNA on offense, but I have all the confidence in the world in everyone. I have confidence in myself to continue to improve.
"That's the great thing about this team. We're going to continue to work together and lean on each other in this time and we're going to be better for it."
Look, everything is going to change come September 6. We don't even know who the quarterback will be, for starters. Carson Wentz is participating in 11-on-11 drills in practice, but he's yet to be cleared for contact by the Eagles' medical team. So it could be Foles. Then again, it could be Wentz, should he be cleared.
In any event, the Eagles are going to game plan. They're going to have left tackle Jason Peters, a future Hall of Famer. They're going to have Darren Sproles and his versatility. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor is expected to be good to go, along with running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.
None of those players took part in Thursday's game. Their presence – plus, potentially, that of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list – will make a positive difference.
Nobody, trust me, is panicking. Nobody is particularly pleased, of course, but it's important to keep it all in context: The Eagles escaped Preseason Game No. 3 without any significant injuries, they know they can now turn their attention toward the Falcons, and a wave of talent is about to return to the lineup.
"Players have to execute and we didn't do that tonight," Ertz said. "It seems like we're at our best when everyone is counting us out, so you guys (media) do what you need to do. I've got all the confidence in the world in the guys that we have. It's just little things, little things.
"We'll get it right."
Check out all of the best photos from Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2018.