Nick Foles threw for 296 yards and scored four touchdowns Sunday -- three throwing and one rushing -- in his second career win as a starting quarterback. (USA Today Images)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Chip Kelly said last week Nick Foles would keep the Eagles’ starting quarterback job if he was perfect against the Buccaneers.
He wasn’t too far off.
In his first start of the year, Foles fashioned a near-perfect performance against the NFL’s No. 8 defense Sunday, completing 71 percent of his passes for 296 yards, throwing three touchdowns, running for a fourth and leading the Eagles to a 31-20 win over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium (see Instant Replay).
Foles recorded a career-best 133.3 passer rating, highest by an Eagle since Vick’s 150.7 in Washington in 2010.
Foles is now 2-0 as a starter in Tampa with five touchdowns and no interceptions and 0-6 in his six other NFL starts.
Kelly said last Sunday that Michael Vick would be the Eagles’ starter when healthy, but after the Tampa game, Kelly left the door open, saying, “We’ll evaluate everything,” (see story).
Vick missed the game with a hamstring injury suffered in the second quarter of the Giants game. Since replacing Vick just before halftime last week, Foles has led the Eagles to points on nine of 21 drives.
“They had a really good defense, and we had to fight hard,” Foles said. “I was really proud of our guys for fighting. It feels good to get a win.”
Foles threw touchdowns of 12 and 36 yards to DeSean Jackson and 47 yards to Riley Cooper.
After halftime, Foles only threw seven passes, but he was 6 for 7 for 145 yards, with completions of 36, 44 and 47 yards, as the Eagles overcame a three-point third-quarter deficit.
“He played great,” said Cooper, who finished with four catches for a career-high 120 yards. “He stepped in for Vick today and played as solid as you can play.”
So far this year, Foles has completed 67 percent of his passes for 542 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Sunday’s game was his first start under Kelly.
“It is different, schematically, but I feel really comfortable here, I feel comfortable with our personnel, our plays,” Foles said.
“It helps when you have a great relationship with the players, the coaches, and when you go into a game and you’re all on the same page. You know that you’re going to fight for each other, so I was really proud of the guys. It was a great team win.”
The Eagles, now 3-3, face the Cowboys next Sunday at the Linc, where they haven’t won since Sept. 30, 2012.
The key point Sunday came early in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles clinging to a one-point lead at 21-20.
On 2nd-and-10, Cooper took a short pass from Foles near the left sideline, spun away from corner Johnthan Banks and rambled 44 yards down to the Bucs’ 36-yard line.
Next play, Foles went up top to Jackson, who beat Darrelle Revis for a 36-yard touchdown and a 28-20 lead.
“It’s fun when you have two plays like that in a row and get some points on the board,” Foles said. “They were playing soft coverage, I got the ball to Riley, and he made a tremendous play and really showed his speed and his athletic ability, so it was fun to see him run down like that.
“And then we had a little play-action pass call on, and DeSean went right over the top of him and made a great play.”
The deep ball was a big part of the Eagles’ success. Foles had only completed two passes of 40 yards or more in his career before Sunday, but he hit on three against the Bucs, plus the 36-yarder to Jackson.
“When you go through a game, you see how the defense plays you,” Foles said. “We were throwing a lot of underneath stuff [early], because they play two-deep most of the time, so they don’t want to get beat deep.
“Then they started changing and bringing a lot of pressure and it’s just what they were showing us.”
Foles is piling up some pretty crazy stats. He improved his career passer rating to 88.3, which is now the highest in franchise history, just ahead of Vick’s 88.1.
Since his first NFL start, Foles has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,818 yards with 11 TDs and two INTs.
“He really gave us an opportunity to win a football game,” Jackson said. “I don’t really look at Nick as a backup. He’s played with the ones so much throughout last season, through out training camp and things like that.
“He does a great job of really just coming in and giving us an opportunity to win games. He did a great job, and he’s getting better.”