Foles' struggles short-circuited Kelly's plan

PHILADELPHIA – Nick Foles has been so much better than anyone had reason to expect, it seems harsh to point out when the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback isn't very good.

Two weeks ago, when everyone was screaming that Chip Kelly ran the ball too much with a lead over the Arizona Cardinals, the truth was that Foles' second-half performance was the problem. A combination of bad throws and bad decisions short-circuited the Eagles offense, and Kelly resorted to running the ball just to kill clock.

This week, Kelly is rightly being criticized for not running the ball enough. Any time LeSean McCoy has only eight carries, the coach didn't call a very good game. But the reason Kelly's strategy of exploiting the Detroit Lions' injury-depleted secondary failed was that, once again, Foles couldn't find his rhythm for too long.

"I think Nick was inconsistent compared to where he had been in the last five games," Kelly said Monday. "That's something that we've got to get in the film room with him and see what he is seeing. We've got to get a chance to see him. There was a thought process where we had guys open, but weren't 100-percent accurate with the ball."

The Eagles' first possession started on their own 45 after the Minnesota Vikings missed a long field goal. It was a three-and-out, with Foles badly overthrowing tight end Zach Ertz on third-and-10. On their second drive, Foles took a sack in the red zone on third-and-4 and the Eagles kicked a field goal.

On a third-and-1, Foles scrambled but was stopped short of the first down. That was the play before DeSean Jackson's double-reverse touchdown run was nullified by Foles' illegal block penalty.

To start the second half, Foles took a bad sack on second down, then overthrew Jason Avant on third down.

"If we can just throw it away ... and not take a sack, then we're in third-and-four and we're in a workable third-down situation," Kelly said.

The Eagles' next possession ended in Foles' only interception of the game. The one after that ended with the fourth-and-1 play deep in Eagles territory. Foles badly overthrew Damaris Johnson on first down to help create that fourth-and-1 situation.

Foles' final numbers looked good: 30-for-48 for 428 yards and three touchdowns. But as Pro Football Focus pointed out, Foles' yardage was inflated by 233 yards after the catch: Jackson took a short crossing route 51 yards, Brent Celek went 25 yards with a screen, while McCoy took a screen 24 yards.

More importantly, Foles' late-game surge was not nearly enough to undo the poor play that helped spot the Vikings a 27-9 lead.

Yes, Kelly could have helped his quarterback and eased the Vikings' pass rush by utilizing McCoy more. But it's equally true Foles could have helped his coach by exploiting the Vikings' secondary the way Matt Cassel dissected the Eagles'.

"You can't have a play back and a do-over," Foles said after the game. "I don't even go there. I am not going to let this game defeat me. I am going to make this game make me better. I am going to learn from it."