The Eagles certainly like to make things interesting. That said, the 24-20 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday was an ulcer-inducing, drag-out disappointment. From Nick Foles continuing to prove that he was not who a lot of us thought he was to the secondary getting manhandled by Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, this was not a performance that Eagles fans will be able to just shrug off.
Dan Klausner and I were at University of Phoenix Stadium to take in the nerve-wrecking loss and I am pretty sure we lost months of our lives (or however long the second quarter was) in health. Thousands of Eagles fans made the stadium more-than sprinkle green, but the Cardinals crowd was loud and imposing. Unfortunately, it was the Eagles mistakes that made the crowd cheer with glee on several occasions.
Listen, I am not going to sugarcoat this game. As our friend and BGN read Brad King pointed out, this game taught us a lot about this team. The Eagles 27-0 win over the Giants is in the past, and this team has a lot of work to do.
Let's just get to the winners and losers...
Eagles Road Fans: While the team didn't get the win, it was clear that Arizona had never seen a turnout like the one this weekend. I'd say a lot of that has to with Green Legion, who hosted nearly 1,000 Eagles fans and threw the biggest tailgate I've ever seen on a road trip. If you travel to games as much as I do (at least two per season), you know the Eagles fans travel very, very well but this was practically a home environment for Eagles fans. A lot of that had to do with Green Legion, which hosts parties like this for every game and even hosts a massive tailgate in Philadelphia for home games.
The Green Legion was able to take over Scottsdale as well, with a massive pep rally hosted by Rockbar Inc. and assisted by local fan club, Eagles West. Several BGN readers were in attendance and it was really great to meet a lot of you. We also have give a shout out to our friend PhilaDehlia, who hosted her own crazy tailgate. Eagles fans have a lot to look forward to when they travel.
Jeremy Maclin: Wow, just wow. Maclin has turned himself into a clear No. 1 receiver. He has excelled so much that an injury scare would be an absolute nightmare for the Eagles. Maclin was a great source of offense with 12 catches for 187 receiving yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Maclin has 632 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 39 catches. That's better and more consistent than DeSean Jackson's production.
Riley Cooper: While one may argue that he had miscommunication with Foles for the second interception, I felt this was a pretty encouraging performance. Cooper is what he is, which is a role player, but at times he is able to deliver a productive performance.
DeMeco Ryans: He can't cover, but he certainly can stop the run. Ryans made several stops and was pretty consistent at getting to ball carriers. He is quietly having a very productive season.
Emmanuel Acho: The forgotten inside linebacker was able to impress his Achomaniacs with a very strong game. He was a consistent tackler and blew up a few runs while rotating with Mychal Kendricks.
Front 7: Cedric Thornton was again terrific and really needs to get signed to an extension. Brandon Graham constantly got pressure on Sunday along with Connor Barwin. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Bair also did well against the run. I felt that the unit in general had a pretty good game.
LeSean McCoy: Shady played some quality football against the top run-stopping defense in the league. While he wasn't able to find the end zone, he did rush for 83 rushing yards on 21 carries. I thought he hit the hole hard and danced when it was appropriate. I think it's safe to say he's back (John Wick trailer plays all the time on every channel).
Secondary (outside of Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins): You still want Brandon Boykin to start? Naw, didn't think so. Unfortunately, he consistently had a prime matchup against Brown or Fitzgerald and lost. He pulled on his hamstring a few times in the game and I'm not even sure that he should have been in there in the fourth quarter. Nate Allen made a great play on a forced fumble but he also bit hard on the final touchdown to Brown. Between Allen, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, I can't tell who is the worst of the trio. All three gave up big plays and didn't look like a unit coming out of a bye week.
Josh Huff: Rookie mistakes are called rookie mistakes for a reason. His inexcusable fumble came within the 10-yard line and likely cost the Eagles at least three points. He will hopefully bounce back, as it looks like the team will feature him more moving forward.
Referees: Oh boy, where do we begin? From picking up flags that were good calls to not noticing the constant horse collar tackles, this was a mess. Also, what was with the constant spot help for the Cardinals on offense and defense. One play in particular stands out as John Brown was laying on the ground and just placed the ball at arms-reach in front of him and the ref went with it. How does this happen?
Penalties: They were called so much that they were technically winners. From Jeff Maehl's illegal block to Jason Peters' two illegal use of the hands penalties, these blemishes happened far too often and at the wrong times. This team just played sloppy and after a bye week, you definitely wouldn't expect that.
There is no easy way to say this, but I am starting to think there is absolutely no way you can pay Nick Foles. I am not trying to say he can't improve or be the guy, but I am starting to doubt it with great cynicism. Foles always offers flashes and he threw some incredible anticipation passes and the bomb to Maclin. However, he also continued to make mistakes, including a horrible decision to throw off of his back foot for an interception in the redzone.
It's tough, we all wanted him to be the guy, but really he is just average and doesn't deserve the money right now. Look at passers like Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton, who all signed extensions. They have all regressed since signing their deals. The same could be said about Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith. The Eagles may have dodged a bullet with Foles possibly being exposed this early in the process.
Again, Foles wasn't all bad and he did throw a lot (62 passes, yeesh), but he just hasn't been nearly good enough. I am a big supporter of his, but this performance just shows you what he is right now. He's going to give you some glory, some shame and a lot of confusion. That may be good enough for a season or two, but not the long-term. The clock is always ticking in the NFL and eventually Foles will need to show consistent progression and build on those flashes from game-to-game. I think three-straight games of success would be nice. Right now, it's hard to see him being signed long term.