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Grading Barkley's performance
Matt Barkley threw three interceptions in his NFL debut and completed 11 of 20 attempts for 129 yards against the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. (USA Today Images)
“You have to start somewhere,” Matt Barkley said.
He’s right. But did it have to be there?
It wasn’t a good game for the Eagles nor Barkley. Not on any front. They lost to the Cowboys, 17-3, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (see Instant Replay). It was the Eagles’ ninth straight defeat at home – the longest active streak in the NFL and the longest stretch in team history. Dallas is in first place in the NFC East now. The Eagles are not.
Part of that is owed to how awful the Eagles’ were in the passing game. Nick Foles completed just 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards and a 46.2 quarterback rating. When he came out of the game with a head injury on the last play of the third quarter (see story), the Eagles were down, 10-0. Alex Henery added a field goal on the next play, and the Cowboys proceeded to tack on another touchdown on the ensuing drive.
In came Barkley. There was some excitement about that on Twitter. It didn’t last.
Barkley’s second throw of the game was snatched out of the air by Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter and returned 28 yards to the Eagles’ 7-yard line. Mercifully for Barkley and the Eagles, the play was called back when the Cowboys drew an offside penalty.
It looked like Barkley and the Birds avoided a killer turnover. They didn’t. They merely got a stay of execution. Six plays later, Barkley threw an interception that counted when he tried to find Jason Avant (a repeat theme, as we’d later learn) but was picked off by Cowboys’ linebacker Sean Lee.
Barkley threw 20 passes against the Cowboys, completing 11 for 129 yards, three interceptions and a 35.2 quarterback rating.
“I don’t think I can give a fair assessment right now,” the rookie fourth-round draft pick said when asked to evaluate his performance. “I’d probably be a little biased toward the negative.”
Barkley’s second interception came on his second drive. He unloaded a deep pass down the left sideline that was ostensibly intended for receiver Jeff Maehl – except Maehl was nowhere near the ball. Cowboys safety Barry Church was, and he ended up with an easy pick.
Barkley’s third interception happened at the end of the game with just over one minute left to play. He locked onto Avant in the end zone and lofted a pass toward the right corner that was grabbed by Cowboys' cornerback Brandon Carr for a touchback.
“The corner made a good play,” Barkley said about the last pick. “I was going to go to the flat and just take it right away, but the corner came up. It was a cover-two look and he backed off right when the ball came out. We were driving the ball down the field. It was a good rhythm that we finally got into. But you hate to see the drive end like that.”
Three drives for Barkley. Three interceptions. Tough way to start a pro career.
It was also a tough spot – his first NFL action with his team trailing against an NFC East rival for first place in the division. That wouldn’t be easy for a veteran. It certainly wasn’t easy for a quarterback that doesn't get many meaningful practice snaps.
“The only difficult thing about that is the timing with [the receivers],” Barkley said. “To go live speed, 100 percent, seeing their breaks, seeing them drop their hips, their little tendencies that those receivers have with [the first team], I don’t totally know all their’s yet.”
Barkley added that he has “a lot to learn” and admitted that he tried to do “too much.”
“I think your mindset has to be different and you come in like that in the fourth quarter when your team is down as opposed to knowing you’re starting the game and it’s 0-0 and you’re getting your rhythm,” Barkley said. “I maybe was a little too aggressive on some of those throws trying to advance the ball down the field and try to help our team win.”