I’ve taken my lumps this week over a few of the descriptions
of Nick Foles’ encouraging performance in Tampa Bay, but the truth is it’s a hard
not to feel a little enthusiastic right now. This football season had been
slogging along for over two months since anything even remotely thrilling transpired
on the gridiron, and until Sunday, I was more or less counting down the days
until it was over.
True, nobody knows where Foles goes from here. Suddenly I
can’t wait for the next act though.
He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight against the Cincinnati
Bengals, who have a 7-6 record and are fighting for their playoff lives. They
also bring a more balanced defense into the Linc, one that is getting to the
quarterback more than any team in the league.
On the flip side, Bryce Brown is hoping to rebound after the
Bucs’ number-one run defense held him to less than one yard per carry. The
Bengals are no pushovers either in that respect, entering the game ranked 11th
in the NFL in yards allowed, but the difference is astounding – 27 more per
game, almost a full yard more per attempt.
Meanwhile, the defense is hoping to build on a strong effort
that limited Tampa Bay to 21 points, seven of those coming after a muffed punt
gave the Bucs possession at Philly’s eight-yard line. The player to watch out for is
Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, who in his second season has already
made the case for being one of the most dominant weapons in the league. So far
he’s racked up 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns on 79 receptions.
That’s all well and good, but I’m mostly tuning in to get another
look at Foles. It wouldn’t be fair to expect an encore performance, although he
has demonstrated a marked improvement every week since taking over for Michael
Vick. It might not reflect in the box score after this one, but we can hope he
continues giving us something to look forward to at least.
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