We've reached the "moral victory" portion of the schedule. Actually, we've been there for a while -- losing nine of 10 down the stretch has a tendency to lessen expectations and make you wish it as over already -- but last Thursday's comedy-of-errors performance against the Bengals really brought home the point one week after Philly finally won a game.
Now, with just the Redskins and Giants left on the schedule, the Eagles have been reduced to spoiler. They're Super Bowl is of the "misery loves company" variety. In addition to keeping Washington and/or New York out of the playoffs, the final 120 minutes of football in the 2012 season will provide the Eagles higher-ups with one last chance to evaluate rookie quarterback Nick Foles and his rookie backfield mate Bryce Brown.
Both players have shown promise in recent weeks replacing Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. We got a sense of Foles' abilities during preseason when he shined against second-and third-teamers. After struggling against the Redskins in Week 11 (his first NFL start), Foles played like he belonged the next three weeks, the highlight being the game-winning touchdown toss as time expired against the Bucs in Week 14.
The blowout loss against Cincy got a jump-start courtesy of a Foles interception, but he had little to do with the final outcome.
"Nick has one of the stronger arms that we’ve had here and one of the stronger arms in the league," coach Andy Reid said via CSNPhilly.com, "but you have to make sure your feet are right and your drop is right. You have to learn those things. That’s one of the tougher things for young quarterbacks to do.
"On that particular play, instead of taking what would normally be a five-step drop, he took what would be a seven-step drop. ... He held too long on the safety and tried to look the safety off. These are rookie mistakes, and he’ll learn from that. He’s very diligent about those things, and he’ll get it right. It wasn’t a lack of arm strength that would cause that to take place.”
And that's the point: those things are fixable. Put another way: it's reasonable to think that Foles has shown the front office enough to make Vick expendable.
No matter what happens, McCoy, who has been sidelined since Week 11 with a concussion, will be back. And in all likelihood, he'll be joined by Brown, who put up jaw-dropping numbers in his first two outings before hitting a wall against the Bucs and returning to his fumbling ways against the Bengals.
Brown is a raw, exciting talent, and the only thing that could keep him on the sidelines is his inability to hold onto the football.
“When it comes to the fumbles we’ve got to make sure that we [hold onto the ball]," Reid said. "That’s an obvious one, just keeping the ball high and tight. Not trying to make things happen past the point [of] letting the ball get away from your body. The interceptions, we’ve cut them back a bit from what it was early but still one is too many. We’ve got to do a better job there just making decisions. We’ll keep working on that.”
Well, there's two weeks left. After that, mercifully, the 2012 season will be in the books. And then the real changes will take effect.