Shurmur sees 'improvement' in Foles
Nick Foles has thrown 155 consecutive passes going back to last year without an interception. (USA Today Images)
Forget the seven touchdowns for a moment. Forget the NFL record Nick Foles tied and all the team records he broke. Forget all the yards and how accurate he was and how efficient he was and how productive he was.
Because the most remarkable thing about Nick Foles’ performance on Sunday in Oakland and so far this year –- and really for his entire brief career so far -- is the virtually complete absence of interceptions.
- Foles has thrown 118 passes this year without an interception.
- He’s thrown 155 consecutive passes going back to last year without an interception.
- He’s thrown just two INTs in his last 305 passes going all the way back to his second NFL start last November.
- In 383 career pass attempts, Foles has thrown just five interceptions.
The numbers are unprecedented for anybody. For a young quarterback who’s been in and out of the lineup, had limited reps with the first-team offense and doesn’t even know how long he’ll remain the starter, they’re off the charts.
Who knows what will happen with Foles. Who knows what his future is or where it will be.
But so far, he’s been avoiding interceptions at record pace.
“I’m probably going to throw another interception at some point during the rest of my career,” Foles said with a laugh. “But it’s always good to avoid them, and it’s something we emphasize, not turning the ball over.
“But it’s not something I think about. You can’t go out and try to not throw interceptions. You can’t be afraid to throw it into a tight window. You try to make good decisions and be smart with the football and keep them to a minimum.”
How careful has Foles been with the football?
Of all quarterbacks in NFL history who’ve thrown at least 300 passes, Foles has had – by far – the lowest percentage of passes intercepted.
Foles has thrown an interception once every 76.6 pass attempts so far. Next-best in NFL history is Aaron Rodgers, with one every 58.3.
The potential meeting between the two was derailed Monday night when Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone during the Packers’ loss to the Bears.
So on Sunday afternoon, Foles will face veteran backup Seneca Wallace instead when the Eagles and Packers play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Foles’ 13 touchdowns so far are the fourth-most in NFL history by a quarterback before his first interception of a season.
Only two other QBs in NFL history have thrown double-digit touchdowns through nine games without an interception: Woodbury’s Milt Plum with the Browns in 1960 (13 touchdowns, no interceptions) and none other than Michael Vick in 2010 with the Eagles (11 TDs, 0 INTs).
Chip Kelly said Foles’ lack of interceptions is a direct result of preparation. Studying film and understanding what the defense is doing. Plus being very accurate.
“I think it's pre-snap knowledge, kind of getting an understanding of where [the defenders are] going,” he said. “I don't think he's getting surprised by what he's seeing. He kind of understands what the presentation is pre-snap.
“We've talked as a staff since we got here and with our players [how important it is] to not turn the ball over. We control that. I think obviously our numbers are down compared to what they were here before. I think that's a big thing.”
Foles on Sunday became only the third quarterback to throw seven touchdowns without an interception.
His 118 pass attempts this year are sixth-most in NFL history after Week 9 without an interception and the most since Vick threw 153 passes without an INT nine weeks into the 2010 season.
“Nick has a great respect for the football, he understands how protecting the football is important to winning football games,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.
“But yet the other night he was very decisive in making his throws, whether they were long, intermediate or short.”
It’s not easy to stay aggressive and still avoid interceptions. In the Dallas game, Foles didn’t get picked off, but he wasn’t getting the ball down the field.
In virtually all his other games, he’s found a way to do both, and that’s very encouraging to his coaches.
“I think it's a fine line,” Shurmur said. “And it's a feel that they have naturally, where they're aggressive, yet they have respect for the football.
“And every once in a while interceptions happen. You could be doing everything right and the ball gets tipped, or you can do everything right and the receiver drops it. There's numerous reasons why interceptions happen. And then there's times when it's a flat out bad decision, bad throw, you put the ball in harm's way.
“When we evaluate it, each time anything bad happens, we kind of put them in those categories.”
How important is taking care of the football?
Donovan McNabb was 44-20 with the Eagles when he didn’t throw an interception, Ron Jaworski was 29-13, Randall Cunningham was 27-12-1 and Vick is 10-6.
When they throw at least one, McNabb was 46-28-1, Jaworski was 33-53-1, Cunningham was 32-31 and Vick is 9-12.
Overall in the NFL this year, teams are 74-32 (.698) when their quarterbacks don’t throw an interception and 59-101 (.369) when they do.
Over the last 10 years, those percentages are nearly identical – teams are 1,341-577-3 (.699) when they have no interceptions in a game and 1,094-1,858 (.371) when they have one or more.
“Turnovers kill you,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to be able to make sure that we take care of the football. We start the play with the football, we need to end the play with the football.”