The Philadelphia Eagles are 5-2 after suffering defeat to the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 24-20. (Recap).
Here are 10 things to be learned from this game. There is a lot to discuss, so let's get right to it.
1) Nick Foles is frustrating
Have to start with the quarterback position here. You can cite the team's record all you want but the bottom line is that Nick Foles is not playing very good football right now. His season ratio of 12 touchdowns to 12 turnovers just isn't going to cut it. You can make excuses and say that Foles is "still young" but I don't buy it. Foles doesn't look like a young players going through growing pains right now. There aren't signs of progress being made, and he's already recorded 23 starts (27 total appearances). Rather, he looks like a guy who's maxing out at a mediocre ceiling. In other words, Foles is playing like "Just A Guy" (JAG) at quarterback. Too often is he throwing off his back foot and firing an inaccurate ball. Too many bad decisions are being made.
It's not all bad with Foles. He made a number of nice throws in this game including his deep touchdown to Jeremy Maclin. It's just not enough. It's really hard to feel great about on Foles in the long-term. He was undoubtedly great in 2013 but he hasn't played well enough in 2014 to warrant a contract extension following the season. He also hasn't done enough to prevent the Eagles from exploring other options. It just doesn't feel like Foles is maximizing the potential of Chip Kelly's offense.
Foles really needs to step up down the stretch.
2) Challenge guy needs to be challenged
The replay official that the Eagles hired this offseason to assist them with challenges wasn't of much help today other than a fairly obvious decision on Nate Allen's forced fumble and recovery. There were a few moments that the Eagles failed to throw the red flag when it could have helped them out. The first play that comes to mind is when Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald bobbled a catch early in the game. Maybe it looked too close to call, but the flag really could have come in handy when it looked like Eagles running back Chris Polk was marked at a bad spot when the team was near the goal-line late in the fourth quarter. It looked like Polk had done enough to earn a first down. The Eagles could have ran some clock and would have had a few more opportunities to punch it in there. Missed opportunity.
3) Chip Kelly is questionable
There's actually reason to believe the Eagles made the right call by not going for it on 4th-and-1 near the goal-line late in the game. Still, that seems like an area where Kelly could have been more aggressive. It just felt very un-Kelly like to settle for the field goal there. I don't know. It just wasn't Kelly's best game. Far from a total failure, but just not enough.
4) Josh Huff needs to wake up
Huff really needs to work on his ball security. That fumble just looked way too lackadaisical. The protection should have been a lot better. Huff is clearly still working through rookie growing pains.
5) Nate Allen needs to be replaced
The Eagles have interest in upgrading over Nate Allen and it's easy to see why. Allen was toasted in coverage by Cardinals rookie John Brown for what would end up being the game-winning touchdown for Arizona. The Eagles can't really bench Allen because second-year Earl Wolff struggles with injuries and hasn't done much to earn consideration despite being given the chance in the offseason. The Eagles are likely stuck with Allen until his contract expires following the season. To Allen's credit, the Eagles have been able to get by with him so far, and he did force a key fumble against the Cardinals. In the long-run, he's just not good enough.
It goes without saying the Eagles also need to upgrade on cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, both of whom are likely to be gone after the season.
The secondary is just breaking down too often as crucial times. Fitzgerald's long touchdown came on 3rd-and-10. Brown's touchdown came on 3rd-and-5. These kind of plays spoil an otherwise solid showing from the Eagles defense.
6) Jeremy Maclin continues to look like a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver
One of the biggest positive takeaways from this game is Maclin's performance. The 26-year-old wide receiver finished with 187 yards on 12 receptions for an average of 15.6 yards per reception and two touchdowns. Maclin accomplished this despite suffering a head injury during the game and having to leave for a little bit. Maclin has done a good deal to quiet some of his biggest skeptics.
7) Brandon Boykin is vulnerable
I wonder if Brandon Boykin is playing at less than 100%. The third-year cornerback hasn't been listed on the team's injury report but he's looked a little slow in coverage. Boykin gave up a number of catches to Larry Fitzgerald. Perhaps this was just the case of a talented player like Fitzgerald getting the best of Boykin. In any case, it wasn't Boykin's best game.
8) More pass-run balance needed
The Eagles threw the ball 62 times against Arizona and only ran 26 times. Philadelphia gained 110 yards on those 26 carries for a 4.2 average so it's not like the run game was being shut down despite facing the NFL's top run defense. With Foles struggling, the run game probably could have seen some more action.
9) NFL officials officially mess up
There were a lot of flags on both teams in this match-up. It's hard to blame the referees for calling it a one-sided affair when Arizona had 10 penalties and the Eagles had 11. With that said, the officials did blow a significant call on the Eagles' final drive. It's not even that the officials missed the call, which naturally happens at times, but they threw the flag and then wrongly picked it up. Not a good look.
10) Not the end of the world
Don't mistake me as trying to undersell this loss; it hurts the Eagles a lot. Now the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals own a direct tiebreaker over Philadelphia when it comes to NFL playoff seeding. But the Eagles are still 5-2 and far from finished.
They travel to Houston to take on the Texans next week. A win there puts the Eagles at 6-2 heading into their Week 10 game against the Carolina Panthers. If injury recovery timelines hold up, the Eagles should have Darren Sproles, Mychal Kendricks, Jason Kelce, and Evan Mathis all healed up by then. Those returns could serve as a major boost heading down the final stretch.