Foles should be the starter: second-year QB masterful in Eagles 31-20 win at Tampa

Foles should be the starter: second-year QB masterful in Eagles 31-20 win at Tampa

If I’m Chip Kelly, I’ve seen all I needed to from Nick Foles. Simply put, the kid is playing a better quarterback than Michael Vick right now.

The second-year field general picked up right where he left off last week in the Eagles’ 31-20 win over Tampa Bay. Foles completed 22 of 31 attempts for 296 yards (9.5 AVG) and three touchdowns, no interceptions—good for a 133.0 efficiency rating. He added another score on the ground.

Based on points alone, Foles has been far superior at punching the ball into the end zone than Vick. In roughly seven quarters of play over the past three weeks, the backup has moved the offense across the goal line seven times. In nine quarters since Week 3, the incumbent has managed to get the Birds in for six on just four drives.

Foles also did a much better job of getting everybody involved in the offense. Riley Cooper actually looked like a viable No. 2, hauling in four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown on six targets. DeSean Jackson had six receptions on six targets for two touchdowns, including one inside the red zone for the second consecutive week.

In all, Foles hit eight different receivers, and the Eagles converted two of three red zone trips into touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over.

The running game did not take a hit without Vick in the game either, as some suspected it might. LeSean McCoy carried the ball 25 times for 116 yards for a 4.6 average. A lot of those touches were late in the fourth quarter when the Bucs knew the Eagles were trying to ice the game. Shady rounded out his day with 55 yards receiving as well.

And speaking of the Bucs defense, for their part they are not a bad unit by any means. They entered the week holding opponents to 17.5 points per game, and were a top 10 unit overall. Even with Pro Bowlers Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis patrolling the field, Foles was able to move the offense almost at will when they were firing on all cylinders.

He threw the deep ball. He threw the underneath stuff. He didn’t make mistakes.

Foles should be the starting signal-caller next Sunday and going forward.

I know that statement won’t sit well with a segment of the fan base who is infatuated with Vick’s natural ability, but he simply isn’t as sharp when it comes to delivering the football. Foles is now completing 67.2 percent of his passes compared to Vick’s 53.8. The quarterback ratings are 127.9 to 90.6. It’s clear as day which player is more efficient, and Vick’s 307 rushing yards aren’t making up that difference.

Even the offensive line looks better, as Foles was sacked only once the entire day. Maybe it's because he's getting the ball out faster, or maybe it's because he throws it away. Either way, he's not getting taken down in the backfield as often.

Vick fan, Foles fan, it shouldn’t matter if you’re an Eagles fan. This is Foles’ time.

As for the other side of the ball, give the Eagles’ defense credit for holding the Bucs to 20 points, although it wasn’t a great performance. Philly struggled to pressure rookie Mike Glennon making his second career start, and he had his team leading in the third quarter and within one point in the fourth.

It was really Foles and the offense pulling away more than the defense closing the door. The Eagles only had 26:14 in time of possession, and that was including a five-minute series where they were simply trying to run out the clock.

This is Nick Foles’ world, we’re all just living in it.

The Eagles’ record moves to 3-3 on the season, and could find themselves in sole possession of first place depending on the outcome of the Sunday night game. Regardless, next week’s tilt with the Dallas Cowboys is setting up as a clash for NFC East supremacy—and Foles should be at the helm.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).