PHILADELPHIA – The 2014 season was a strange one for the Philadelphia Eagles. It started with such promise and peaked with a big victory in Dallas. But a three-game losing streak brought the Eagles crashing down, out of the playoff picture.
Let’s take a look at 10 moments that shaped the season for the Eagles. Here’s No. 6: The Day the Quarterbacks Broke.
Nick Foles’ final quarter of action in 2014 was pretty much a perfect microcosm for the half-season that came before it. The unanswerable question is whether it would have been a different story in the second half of the season, if Foles would have gotten back to his 2013 level of play when the Eagles’ offensive line returned to health.
The Eagles were 5-2 when they took the field in Houston on Nov. 2. Their two losses – to NFC contenders Arizona and San Francisco – were worrisome, but they were in good shape in the NFC East race. If they could get momentum going in the second half of the season, as they had in 2013, things were looking pretty promising.
In the first quarter, Foles threw two passes that turned into touchdowns. One was a pretty 59-yard toss to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The other was a hideous, ill-advised throw to Riley Cooper that was intercepted and returned 51 yards for a touchdown by A.J. Bouye. Foles uncorked the throw while taking a hit by J.J. Watt and never had a chance to reach Cooper.
The Eagles got the ball back after the score and drove to midfield. On a first down, Foles was sacked by Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus. After a 5-yard pass to Jeff Maehl, the Eagles faced a third-and-16 from the Texans’ 47-yard line. Mercilus lined up wide on the left side of the Eagles’ offense, where tight end Zach Ertz was staying in to block.
Foles took the snap and dropped back. Pressure came from the middle, and Foles started back to his left to avoid it. Mercilus had taken a wide approach around the Eagles’ left side, and Ertz had blocked him that way. Left tackle Jason Peters helped out, but suddenly Foles was in a spot where Mercilus had access to him.
Mercilus wrapped Foles up and took him down. Foles came down on his left shoulder, with the full weight of the 258-pound Mercilus on his back. Foles’ collarbone cracked. His season was over.
Mark Sanchez stepped in and completed a 52-yard pass to Maclin on his first play. Sanchez played well the rest of that game, leading the Eagles to a 31-21 victory. Early in the fourth quarter, Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans leaped to make an interception. When he came down his left Achilles tendon ruptured.
The Eagles were 6-2, but they had lost their signal callers on both sides of the ball. Ryans had surgery on his Achilles. Foles could only wait. Checkups revealed the collarbone hadn’t complete healed by the middle of December. He might have been able to return for the playoffs, but the Eagles weren’t able to get there.