There's no hiding for Foles — he has to be better

There's no hiding for Foles — he has to be better

Nick Foles didn't try to hide from it.

He was honest.

"I didn't play good enough," he said. "Absolutely. I've got to play cleaner."

The Eagles beat the Raiders, 19-10, on Christmas night at the Linc (see Roob's observations). They're 13-2 and clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. If they keep winning, the next road game they play will be in Minnesota at Super Bowl LII. 

But if Foles plays like he did Monday night, they're not gonna get there.

After a four-touchdown game against the Giants last week, Foles simply wasn't good against the Raiders. With Carson Wentz watching from a box high above the field, Foles completed 19 of 38 passes with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 59.4.

That's the lowest passer rating for Foles since his awful season in St. Louis and it's the lowest passer rating the Eagles have had this year (see report card). Wentz's lowest this season was 83.

"We're 13-2 and we still have a lot of room to improve," Foles said. "Sometimes games in the NFL go like this. I've been a part of games like this before. … It's something that we have to clean up because we can't go out there and do that and expect to win games."

Foles and the Eagles' offense came out pretty hot early, scoring a touchdown on their second drive of the game. But that was also their last touchdown of the game. They punted eight times, fumbled once and Foles threw a pick.

Last week, the offense bailed out the defense. This week, roles reversed.

All season, the Eagles have excelled on third downs and in the red zone. They were bad in both areas Monday. They were a paltry 1 for 14 on third downs and just 1 for 3 inside the red zone.

Torrey Smith pointed at self-inflicted wounds as the reason for the poor play on third downs.

"I think we put ourselves in tough situations," Smith said. "There aren't too many teams that are going to convert on 3rd-and-forever. Our key to success has been on 3rd-and-manageable."

Foles admitted he needs to be better on third downs. A big part of Wentz's success this season had been his ability to create something on even 3rd-and-long plays. Foles doesn't have the same type of playmaking ability, so he just can't afford to be inaccurate.

There were several throws from Foles Monday night that were just off (see breakdown). He listed a few of them during his postgame press conference. A couple to Zach Ertz, that one to Alshon Jeffery.

While Ertz put up numbers Monday, the Eagles' receivers combined to catch five passes for 40 yards. Alshon Jeffery didn't have a single reception. Foles said he has to work to make sure Jeffery is more involved in the offense.

The last time Foles played the Raiders, he threw seven touchdown passes and his cleats ended up in Canton. This time … not so much.

"You always want to win playing the perfect game," Foles said. "You always want to win throwing seven touchdowns. That's how you want to win. This game was totally different than the last time I played Oakland. But in the NFL and in a team sport, you want to find a way to win. The good teams find ways to win. We did tonight."

At least the offense ended the game with some momentum. Foles and his unit did enough, gaining 21 yards, to put Jake Elliott in field goal range for the game-winning kick to send everyone home (somewhat) happy.

Even with next week's game rendered meaningless, it certainly seems like Foles could use the game time with his receivers. While Smith said they could get on the same page with practice reps, head coach Doug Pederson said with just two quarterbacks on the roster, it's likely Foles will play next week.

Fans will be hoping for a better performance to ease their fears as the playoffs approach.

"We're confident in Nick," Ertz said. "We just have to play better as an offense altogether. It doesn't fall solely on Nick."

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

USA Today Images

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

AP Images

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.