A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' 10th loss of the 2012 season.
What it means: Not a lot, except to those who expected the Tampa Bay victory to catapult Nick Foles to quarterback stardom. The Eagles' rookie quarterback lit up the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense and led the Eagles to a comeback victory Sunday in Tampa, and he looked good leading them back from an early 10-0 deficit to take a halftime lead Thursday night. But he's a rookie, and that means he looks quite shaky at times. Thursday, that meant he fit right in with the rest of his team. His interception was but one of five Eagles turnovers. They also saw a punt blocked and had nine penalties for 76 yards. It was a heinous loss to a Cincinnati team that spent the second and third quarters trying to hand them the game.
More on Foles: I like the way he moves in the pocket. I like that he doesn't let the garbage going on around him get him down -- that he seems to have a short memory and that he maintains a determination to make a play. I think he makes decent decisions. I don't think he always makes good throws. I know he threw 168 passes in a row without being intercepted, but some of those 168 clanged off of defenders' hands, and he hasn't been super-accurate, especially deep. He has a very strong arm, but he needs better accuracy down the field. His lack of fear is the best thing he has going for him right now, and the reason the Eagles can feel confident they're getting a real look at what he can do over these final games.
Brown out: The bloom is off rookie running back Bryce Brown as well, after his fourth fumble in four starts in place of LeSean McCoy. Brown ran extremely well in his first two games, totaling more than 300 rush yards. But he barely factored in the game plan Sunday, and he had a tough time against the tough Cincinnati defense Thursday. And of course, he fumbled, which is obviously a big problem for him. He's got major talent, but the fact that he didn't play much college football at all is showing up in the cavalier way in which he carries the ball. If it doesn't improve, his future in the game will be short.
For the defense: The pass rush showed up! In the second game since the firing of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, the Eagles came up with six sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. That raised their total for the season to 28 sacks and elevates them (for the time being) from 29th in the league in that category to 19th. Brandon Graham had 2.5 of the sacks, Fletcher Cox had 1.5 and Trent Cole had one and looked as lively has he has all season. The Eagles will go into the offseason feeling justifiably good about the talent they have on their defensive line.
And of course: The turnovers. Good for the defense for forcing two, upping its season total to 12. But only the Chiefs and Colts have forced fewer, and the Eagles also had those five giveaways. They now lead the league with 34 giveaways, and their minus-22 turnover differential is tied with Kansas City for the worst in the league. You want to get to 4-10, that's a pretty good blueprint for it.
Ridiculous injury note: Left guard Evan Mathis hurt his ankle and stayed in for a while but was eventually replaced by Danny Watkins. If Mathis were to miss next week's game, he'd be the 10th Eagles offensive starter to miss a game due to injury this year, which is to say everyone but fullback Stanley Havili, who also left this game with an injury.
What's next: The Eagles try to continue their spoiler run in their final two games of the season. They will host the Washington Redskins a week from Sunday, and the Sunday after that they will travel to New Jersey to play the New York Giants. The Eagles are no longer in playoff contention, but they still could have a say in the way the NFC East race turns out.