To say Nick Foles made some bad throws against Dallas would be an understatement.
Nobody needs a film study to know that Foles frequently overthrew receivers when he wasn’t throwing behind them, that he missed a wide-open Brent Celek for a big gain on the left side, that his bomb to DeSean Jackson in the end zone lacked great placement and that his easy touchdown to Jason Avant somehow wasn’t so easy.
But the All-22 tape also shows that Foles lacked good field vision against the Cowboys, often forcing passes into coverage when other receivers were open. One of his strengths up until Sunday had been making his progressions and using his entire set of weapons, spreading the ball and finding checkdowns against the pass rush.
For whatever reason, those strengths eluded him Sunday, and the problems started early.
On the Eagles’ first possession, Foles faced 3rd-and-10 at his own 29-yard line. The Eagles came out in a three-wide, one-back formation designed to isolate running back LeSean McCoy on Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter down the left sideline. The Chargers had success with wheel routes against Dallas, so the Eagles were copycatting the idea.
McCoy lines up next to Foles in the shotgun but releases down the left sideline, while slot wideout Avant runs an inside route to draw the coverage:
The play goes according to plan. Avant’s inside route frees up McCoy around the left side without a defender within five yards. A good lead pass by Foles to the outside shoulder could even be a touchdown, if McCoy can shake the deep safety. Foles even looks toward the left side:
For whatever reason, though, Foles decides to throw across the middle to Zach Ertz, and his pass is so high that it bounces off the tight end’s outstretched hand. You can see McCoy is behind every defensive back except the deep safety, who’s about 12 yards away:
In the second quarter, on 3rd-and-7 at the Eagles’ 29, Foles has a chance to capitalize on a Tampa-2 look by the Cowboys designed to ensure that they’re not beaten by Jackson or Riley Cooper for the first down. Avant will run an inside route that takes the nickelback and linebackers toward the middle:
The deep routes by Jackson and Cooper and crossing route by Avant force Dallas’ defense to give up the underneath. With just a four-man rush, Foles steps up in the pocket and surveys the field. He has McCoy and Celek open around the 30. Each has enough space to get the first down if Foles can get the ball out quickly. Avant is double-covered across the middle, a danger zone for the QB:
For whatever reason, Foles ignores his checkdowns and attempts that dangerous pass across the middle. Avant dives, but can’t make the catch:
Later in the second, on 1st-and-10, Foles again misses his checkdowns, this time with pressure coming at him.
The Cowboys again play their safeties deep with man coverage against the Eagles’ three wideouts. Jackson is lined up split right, with Cooper on the left side and Avant in the left slot. All three run deep routes, taking the coverage with them and leaving the underneath for Celek and McCoy:
As he steps up to avoid pressure from the front four, Foles has McCoy a few yards in front and Celek nearing the 40, with space to get more yards. He even has a shot at deep right, with Jackson getting an inside step and both safeties shading toward the opposite side of the field:
But instead of three options, Foles holds onto the ball and gets trampled for a six-yard sack:
On a 3rd-and-4 at his own 22 in the third, Foles again has several options, but tries to force a pass instead of making the smarter decision.
This time, the Eagles have all three wide receivers to the left side and Dallas crowds the box with seven, playing just one safety deep. The defensive look gives Foles room to make a play downfield if he can get the ball out in time. Cooper runs a dig at the 30, while Avant and Jackson each run about five yards and cut in opposite directions:
Cooper beats his man to the inside at the 30 and McCoy releases to the right flat, where he’s open at the 20. Jackson’s runs a quick-in at the 25, in front of two linebackers -- again, a danger zone:
Instead of going to Cooper or McCoy, Foles tries to force the ball into Jackson across the middle, where Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) awaits. Foles’ pass is late and too far ahead of Jackson. Lee converges in time to break up the pass. It easily could have been a pick-six for the former Penn State star: