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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — It seemed a moment that will encapsulate this 2012 season, when Nick Foles’ second-quarter pass went through the outstretched hands of Jason Avant, then ponged high off his helmet.
A comedy writer couldn’t have designed a better passage of miscues. Because this season, it seems the only recourse is to laugh, as the Eagles continue to provide one pratfall after another during their slide toward the clutches of apathy.
Foles provided some teasing flashes. There was that 44-yard arc of hope that landed in the waiting arms of Jeremy Maclin in the end zone. Then the late drive that appeared to give the Eagles one more last, gasp breath—followed by more ensuing comedy on a missed extra point.
But in the end, it was all of the old warts that resurfaced: shoddy special teams play, horrible tackling, turnovers for touchdowns and it resulted in a 38-23 Dallas Cowboys victory over the Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
It marks the first time in Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure that the Eagles have lost five-straight games in a season—dropping the Eagles to 3-6 and pushing the Reid watch into overdrive.
Dallas, meanwhile, improved to 4-5, and with the Cincinnati Bengals’ 31-13 upset over the New York Giants, it’s the Cowboys that are back in the NFC East title picture.
The game also introduced rookie Foles, who came on in the second quarter to relieve Michael Vick, who went to the locker room with 11:40 remaining in the half with a concussion.
“I think the game changed tremendously when Vick went out,” said Brandon Carr, whose 47-yard pick-six with 12:25 left all but sealed the victory for the Cowboys. “Vick can get it done with his arm strength, and he can get it done with his legs as well. To have him step out of the game, when they brought in a new quarterback, and no offense, but he’s not a Michael Vick as far as running the ball, and we knew that. The guys put pressure on him up front. We knew [Foles] had a nice arm, we just stayed to the script.”
Foles sent a brief jolt into the Eagles’ dormant offense with a 44-yard, third-quarter touchdown pass to Maclin that put the Eagles ahead, 14-10, and he later engineered another drive that produced a field goal giving Philadelphia a 17-10 edge.
“I thought he handled himself well,” Reid about Foles. “He saw some things, and he made some great checks in there. Again, for a guy who hasn’t taken the reps with the first group, I thought he did some nice things. As far as managing the game, it looked like he went to the right place with the ball when he had pressure. There were some positives there.”
The Cowboys thought so, too. But they could also smell the blood in the water when Foles arrived.
“They didn’t bring in [Foles] for nothing, but we knew we could pin our ears back a little bit when he came in and do some different rush stuff,” Cowboys’ All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. “I think it was a different style of defense we wanted to play, because with Vick, he can string out some plays. We knew just to stay in our rush lanes and make the big push when we needed it. We have another quarterback in Foles that is more of a pocket quarterback and we could open up the rush a little more.”
It’s after the Eagles got the lead when everything spiraled downward. It’s a collapse that came fast.
Somehow, Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo eluded four attempts at a sack on the tying drive, which eventually resulted in a 30-yard diving reception by Dez Bryant on the last play of the third quarter. Three plays prior to the Bryant TD, Romo ducked and bobbed through flailing Eagles’ defensive linemen to hit Miles Austin for a 25-yard completion.
The pass came on a third-and-five from the Dallas 39 and extended the drive.
Romo ranked his scramble to freedom as “number one,” he said. “That was a big point in the game. I think we were trailing at the time and we obviously needed to score points on that drive. We kind of lost momentum a little bit there. There’s a time and a place to almost give yourself a chance to extend the play sometimes and that was an opportunity for it, I thought.”
The Eagles dubious special teams then failed to even get a hand on Dwayne Harris, when he took a punt 78 yards down a pristine lane on the left sideline and suddenly the Eagles trailed, 24-17 with 13:35 left in the game.
Just over a minute later, Carr returned the Foles’ interception 47 yards, and in 70 seconds, the Eagles saw what desperate remnants were left of their season trampled.
Vick came out of the game with 11:40 left in the half quarter after overthrowing a wide open LeSean McCoy. Vick was slammed hard to the turf by former Eagle Ernie Sims and was taken to the locker room. He finished completing 6-of-9 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on the Eagles’ opening drive.
Foles was 22 for 32 for 219 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He made things interesting with the late cosmetic score. But has often happened to the 2012 Eagles, just when things look promising, they get wiped clean. In this case, a blown extra point.
Now the Eagles can play spoiler for the remaining seven games this season.
But Reid doesn’t feel that way. The embattled Eagles’ coach remains adamant in his belief that the Eagles can still make the playoffs.
“Absolutely, yes, you don’t know this league, so you keep battling,” he said. “That’s what you do.”
You also lean to laugh. It’s a great remedy for a comedy of errors.
It outstrips the frustration that’s deeply permeated this fanbase. As Lincoln Financial Field began emptying with five minutes to play, fans unfurled a sign that said, “Andy quit your team has.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.