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?

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS - Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.