Busted: Nick Foles plays worst game as a pro on big stage versus Dallas

Busted: Nick Foles plays worst game as a pro on big stage versus Dallas

Chip Kelly’s analysis of Nick Foles’ performance in a 17-3 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys: “He was off.”

You can say that again. And again. And again. Amid calls from fans and writers (such as myself) for Foles to take over the reins as the Eagles’ starting quarterback from Michael Vick, the second-year quarterback experienced what was easily his worst outing since arriving in the NFL. And in the process, Philadelphia ceded first place in the NFC East to one of its most hated rivals.

Just how “off” was Foles? He connected on only 11 of 29 passes for a paltry 80 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw numerous passes behind receivers. He overthrew them on plenty of occasions too. For a guy who entered the week completing 67 percent of his passes this season, Foles looked almost Tim Tebow-esque as he struggled to hit his targets.

Not only was it the worst showing of Foles’ short career—it was easily the most ineffective any starter has been for the Eagles this season.

Foles would not finish the game due to a head injury, and since Vick was inactive with the hamstring, that meant Matt Barkley was the only option remaining. The fourth-round rookie went 11 for 20 for 129 yards, but managed to throw three picks in roughly a quarter of action.

No controversy there, although if both Vick and Foles are unable to go next week, Barkley might be the starter by default. Yikes.

Making Foles’ poor performance all the more disappointing was the fact that the Birds’ defense did everything they had to do to keep them in the game. Holding Tony Romo and the Cowboys to just 17 points is no small feat, particularly when the offense punts the ball away nine times and turns it over three more. The game was there for the taking with almost any reasonable production from the offense.

Yes, it was that disastrous of a performance for Foles, and yes, it likely cost him any opportunity to seize the job from Vick. That said, as awful as Foles was—and make no mistake, he was about as bad as it gets—it shouldn’t be enough to sway opinions that he is the right quarterback going forward.

Foles crashing back down to earth was always a distinct possibility, but the benefits of going back to Vick are still questionable at best. He’s laid his stinkers this season too already—Kansas City ring a bell? More to the point, unless Vick is taking this team on a deep playoff run or will be here beyond this year, why not give Foles the opportunity to rebound?

Critics will use Sunday’s performance against Dallas to draw inevitable comparisons to Bobby Hoying and Kevin Kolb. Does one horrendous game erase all of the good Foles had done and all of the improvements he’s made though? Has no great quarterback ever experienced a completely ineffective outing when they were still just nine starts into their NFL career?

Foles was the worst he’s ever been on Sunday, and he easily cost the Eagles a win in a huge spot against a division rival. Yet the benefits to going back to Vick remain debatable, and as much as detractors pointed to Foles’ limited sample size before this loss, it’s only grown by one game.

Does this really change everything?

That’s for each to decide on their own at this point. The arguments for Vick or Foles are clear. Maybe this game changed some minds, but it didn’t change mine.

Then again, it may not matter. Vick could still be a week or two away from returning, and now Foles’ status is up in the air. Maybe one is ready next week and the other is not. Maybe neither is, and it’s back to Barkley. We’ll see.

The only thing that seems clear in this whole mess now is what we all assumed before the season ever got underway. The Eagles almost certainly need to draft another quarterback in 2014 regardless. So why not let the kids they have play now?

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski lead Sharks past rival LA Kings, 3-2
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in overtime to lead Oilers past Panthers 4-3
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."