Foles wasn't alone in first Dallas game

PHILADELPHIA – It was a game the Philadelphia Eagles would love to forget but can’t. There were too many lessons in their 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 20 that could help the Eagles in Sunday night’s virtual playoff game.

The shorthand on that game is that quarterback Nick Foles simply had a terrible day. And he did, completing just 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards before leaving with a concussion at the end of the third quarter.

But there was plenty of terrible to go around for the Eagles' offense, which failed to score a touchdown against a Dallas defense that has allowed an average of 29 points in its other 14 games.

“I don't think any of us played well the first time we played Dallas,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “I look back on it now and I don't recognize some of what happened. We dropped balls, we weren't on the same page with who we blocked. Certainly Nick had some inaccuracies. We did a poor job coaching and playing. I think we're a different team now.”

We’ll focus on Foles again in a future post. But Shurmur is correct that blame for the performance can be spread around.

On the Eagles’ first offensive series, Foles was sacked once and forced into an intentional-grounding penalty. That kind of immediate, in-your-face pressure makes it tough for any quarterback to feel comfortable in the pocket, and Foles never did quite settle down.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson seemed to have trouble shaking Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick. When Jackson did get open, Foles missed him badly on a couple of throws.

Running back LeSean McCoy made poor decisions, taking the ball inside when there was room outside and vice versa. Center Jason Kelce said at the time that McCoy and the offensive line were “not on the same page” for several weeks, including the Dallas game.

It wasn’t a great week for coach Chip Kelly and his staff, either. The Cowboys copied the disruptive run-defense approach used by the Giants two weeks earlier (and by the Giants again a week later). They moved interior linemen around just before the snap and attacked at unexpected angles, and the Eagles had trouble adjusting.

Kelly also opened the game with both McCoy and Bryce Brown in the backfield, a look the Eagles hadn't shown much of before or since. It may simply have been one of those ideas that looks good on the dry-erase board but fizzles on the field.

Bottom line: The Eagles' offense was terrible that day. It wasn’t any better with Michael Vick and Matt Barkley at quarterback against the Giants the next week.

The offense has been excellent ever since.

“I was telling somebody it's like my early schooling, where you could throw one test out,” Shurmur said. “I wish we could have thrown that one out. It was a bad day. We didn't play well on offense, and the game was close enough where if we had just gotten out of our own way, we could have maybe affected the outcome more.”