At least it’s only preseason.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles struggled, the starting defense had trouble getting off the field on third down, penalty flags littered the turf and the Birds blew a significant second-half lead, dropping their preseason opener to the Chicago Bears, 34-28, at Soldier Field.
Foles went just 6-for-9 passing for 44 yards and two interceptions in three series. He threw just two interceptions during the entire season in 2013.
Thankfully for Foles, these won’t count come September. Not that the rest of the starting offense did much worth mention, with a forgettable quarter marred by turnovers and penalties.
On the opening series, a holding penalty on Evan Mathis negated a third-down completion from Foles to Brent Celek that would have moved the chains. Foles’ pass attempt on the next play was tipped as it came out of his hand and intercepted.
Things were even sloppier on the second series, though the Eagles caught a bad break when a phantom facemask call against Jeremy Maclin wiped out another big play to Celek. Mathis was called for his second holding penalty of the game on the next snap, dropping the Eagles into a first-and-30. Unable to dig out, they eventually punted – but not before another holding penalty, this one against Jason Peters, which was declined.
The offense seemed to get on a roll on their third series, with Darren Sproles taking over as the featured back. Sproles had a solid 9-yard run and Foles completed a pass to Maclin before making a terrible throw off his back foot that was picked by Sherrick McManis.
The starting defense had a stronger start, taking the field with the Bears offense at the Birds’ 24 thanks to the Foles first pick. Three solid stops led to a field goal attempt that was blocked by Damion Square, leaving the game scoreless early.
The second series wasn’t as positive, as Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler carved up the defense with several big gains on third downs, including his 10-yard touchdown strike to Zach Miller that beat DeMeco Ryans and Nate Allen to make it 7-0 late in the first quarter.
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, the former New York Jet, got himself a solid debut, marching the offense 53 yards in four plays on his second series. Sanchez found Zach Ertz for gains of 34 and 18 yards to get the Eagles to the 1-yard line and running back Matthew Tucker finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 9:38 left in the second quarter.
Tucker made a push in his fight for a roster spot on the next Eagles’ drive, hauling in a 15-yard pass from Sanchez before ripping off a 24-yard run. He again finished the drive with a touchdown run, this time a 1-yard dash, to put Philadelphia up 14-7 with 5:57 remaining in the first half.
Sanchez finished 7-of-10 for 79 yards.
Philadelphia’s special teams got in on the act a short while later. After Chicago quarterback Jordan Palmer led a game-tying scoring drive that ended with a 12-yard toss to Miller, Eagles’ rookie Josh Huff ripped off a 102-yard kickoff return to put the Birds back on top, 21-14, heading into halftime.
Matt Barkley took over behind center in the third quarter and led an impressive 94-yard drive featuring a 24-yard strike to James Casey and ending with a 14-yard touchdown reception by David Fluellen, who darted to the end zone on a well-executed screen play to make it 28-17.
Chicago took control for the rest of the quarter behind quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who teamed up with Chris Williams to beat Eagles’ rookie Jaylen Watkins on a 73-yard bomb. The Bears failed on a two-point try to leave the score 28-23.
Watkins would gain a measure of redemption later in the game, intercepting a David Fales pass in the fourth quarter.
Clausen led another drive in the third that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Spurlock. A successful two-point conversion gave the Bears a 31-28 lead entering the fourth quarter. Robbie Gould tacked on a field goal from 25 yards late in the game to make it 34-28.
Barkley completed 7-of-16 passes for 73 yards with a touchdown and interception. G.J. Kinne was 8-of-10 for 103 yards.
Tucker led all Eagle running backs with 40 yards on eight carries, two touchdowns and a fumble. LeSean McCoy recorded just one official carry for no yards, though he did have several other positive runs called back during the flurry of early penalties.
Ertz led Philadelphia’s receiving corps with four catches for 60 yards. Rookie Jordan Matthews had an underwhelming opening appearance with four catches for 14 yards, all coming with the second- and third-team offenses.
Allen also had an interception for the Eagles. Linebacker Marcus Smith, the Eagles’ first-round draft choice, registered two tackles and a pass breakup in his debut.
Cutler went 9-of-13 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall had five catches for 31 yards.
Philadelphia will travel to New England on Friday when they continue the preseason against the Patriots at 7:30 p.m. The game will conclude a week of scrimmages between the two teams in Foxboro, Mass.
Tags: Philadelphia Eagles