Week 13 Film Review - Nick Foles' nightmare half
Back in Week 1, with everybody waiting to see how Nick Foles would do for his new team and with his new role as a starting quarterback.
In his debut with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the ex-Super Bowl MVP got injured and couldn’t show people what he was capable of, and then Minshew Mania began.
I took a look at Gardner Minshew back in Week 2, and for a couple of months he was holding it down as the starting QB, however, in London he had an awful performance and it let Nick Foles back into the job after their bye week.
This week, the Foles-led Jags found themselves in a matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – which, if you play fantasy you’ll know, is a fantastic opponent for a QB to play against. In terms of fantasy and just his general performance, I expected a lot out of Nick Foles this week.
I was wrong.
Week 13 2019, on the 1st of December. The day that Nick Foles had the worst half physically possible.
That sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t one. Gardner Minshew came out and took over in the second half, and Foles was deservedly benched after an absolutely ridiculous set of drives which resulted in the following:
Drive 1 – Interception
Drive 2 – Fumble, recovered and returned for a touchdown
Drive 3 – Fumble, recovered
Drive 4 – Three and out.
Drive 5 – Three and out.
Drive 6 – Three and out.
This half of football will go unnoticed in the long run, Nick Foles is a legend of recent NFL history, but this was one of the most horrendous halves of football I’ve ever seen.
I took a look at the tape and, honestly, it was just depressing to watch. But, now we can try and work out what the hell happened on some of these awful drives, and how a hero of just two years ago managed to be so bad for 30 minutes.
Let’s do things in order. The first drive was the one that contained the interception, and an awkward interception at that.
It’s 2nd and 6, and the Jags come out in a trips set to the field-side to Foles’ right.
The Tampa Bay defense is set up in what I would read as a man alignment from a Nickel 4-2-5 personnel, but with extremely off-coverage. This could obviously be a Cover 2 or Cover 4, but if you ignore the depth, this trips side of the field looks like it’s a lock for man coverage, so I’d assume that’s what you’re going to get.
Sidebar – the Jags should have run a WR bubble screen to the #3 receiver here, against this defense, that would be an easy first down.
The play they’ve called isn’t a bubble screen though, unfortunately, and Nick Foles clearly finds himself rushing in the pocket, misreading what was going on in front of him and throwing one of the most pathetic looking interceptions you’ll ever see.
The play call isn’t the worst call for man defense, but it’s also not the best. The 1 and 2 receivers to the field run a vertical switch concept with the out-and-up from the slot and a go route with an inside release from the outside. The 3 runs a sit route right in the middle of the field (an indication, if you didn’t already assume this from the switch combo, that they definitely dialled this up expecting Cover 2).
This, however, wasn’t a Cover 2. The Bucs got a little bit cheeky, and caused the confusion they were looking for.
Due to the trips alignment – reason to believe, correctly in this case – this play will likely be primarily a half-field read to the QB’s right, and so the defense calls a hybrid coverage, in which the three people who I keyed earlier as being in man coverage are indeed in man, however the other guys are in zone, to cover anything which goes elsewhere.
It’s impossible to know whether Foles thought he was seeing man coverage or not, but his attempt to get the ball to Dede Westbrook over the middle of the field showed that whatever he thought the defense was doing, he didn’t think Devin White would be between them.
When the drag route from the left crosses beyond the right tackle (with an option to sit or continue depending on coverage), Foles expects the rookie middle linebacker to bite on it, and leave an open path for the sit route over the middle.
However, White is clearly reading Foles’ eyes, and doesn’t appear even remotely interested in the drag route at the time that the ball leaves Foles’ hands.
If this was pure man coverage, the two linebackers would have to watch/cover two things between them: Firstly, the running back. But also, the QB’s eyes. If it was a Cover 2, the linebackers would cover the middle of the field between them, and generally with help of one of the five in the secondary.
To translate that, if Foles thinks it’s man, he has to wait one more second and throw the drag route to tight end Nick O’Leary, and if he thinks it’s zone, he has to watch what Devin White does when the two routes (Westbrook on the sit behind him and O’Leary crossing his face) develop.
As soon as Leonard Fournette leaves the backfield to the left, the rookie knows he has to watch the QB’s eyes and keep an eye out for a crossing route from the TE. The one thing that White does that would make you think that it’s zone coverage, is take his initial read-steps out slightly wider than where he started, he does this because of the starting position of the person responsible for the 3 receiver – if White didn’t buzz out for just a couple of steps, the seam would be wide open to Dede Westbrook before the safety who’s assignment he is could get anywhere near him.
Just like I said before, I genuinely can’t tell what Foles thought he saw, and I can see that his pocket wasn’t exactly spacious when he threw the ball, but the reality is that he got this ball out a second too early and threw it terribly, too.
As you can see best from this second angle, all the rookie linebacker has to do to get an easy interception is not get baited by the crossing route, and trust Foles’ eyes for just a moment before chasing O’Leary, and his reward was a turnover.
It’s always easier when you watch it on film than to be the guy in the game, but this play was an awful one to end your first drive on, and it didn’t get much better from there.
In fact, somehow it kept getting worse.
The second drive ended with yet another turnover – also by Devin White – but this one doesn’t require so much of a deep dive inside the mind of Nick Foles.
On just the second play of their next drive, having just given up a score on a short field, the Jags fail to block Shaq Barrett, who is having one of the best defensive seasons in the league, and he promptly ruins their day by “forcing” the fumble, which White picks up and scores.
The reason I use the word ‘forced’ loosely on this fumble is because I’m not a giant fan of Foles’ ball-security on this play. The blocking is awful – in case you didn’t notice – but you can’t ignore the fact that this wasn’t exactly a crazy punch where Barret perfectly poked the ball out. He just hits the QB and the ball falls out.
At first you might think Foles is loading up to throw and that’s why the ball comes loose, but it’s even worse if that was the case, because look at the coverage when the ball gets knocked out.
Everyone to the left of the field, where he’s looking, is smothered.
While you have to blame the right tackle, this was yet another awful play, and after a 2-point conversion, left the score at 15-0 without the Buccaneers offense even breaking a sweat.
Third time’s the charm?
The third drive ended even more agonisingly than the first couple. They’re actually in field goal range with a chance to score, when Foles fumbles again.
This play was another one where I couldn’t believe he fumbled the ball. Foles tries to scramble left as the pocket – in his defense, for the second drive in a row – collapses from his right. This fumble is more of an actual punch, but the ball security is disappointing.
You just can’t come back from a start like this. A bad interception, a fumble for a score and then another fumble while you’re in field goal range. By this time the benching is already imminent, and he’s only had three drives.
In Nick Foles’ first half appearance, he put up a stat line of 7/14 for 93 yards. He had an interception and two fumbles, the latter stat is made more impressive me, as he only got sacked three times.
I feel bad for Foles in a way, with the bad blocking and the completely uninspiring running game, he really had no help. Unfortunately, though, he really just didn’t do well at all on what was up to him, and that’s not what they paid for.
The Eagles gave up a QB who stepped up when he had to start, and led them to a championship against all odds. Expectations were high, even more so after the injury stopped fans from seeing what they had in Foles. In the end, it went about as badly as it could have done, and Foles’ starting position has been forfeited, this time for purely performance-based reasons, and that is something nobody saw coming.
In a week where people anticipated his best game of the year, Nick Foles instead had the worst half that you could imagine, and now he’s been benched again for a rookie who looks like he’s auditioning to play a young Ron Burgundy.
Life comes at you hard, try not to fumble when it hits you.
A graduated Journalism student, Tyler also writes for Read American Football and Gridiron Hub. He played Wide Receiver and eventually Quarterback for his university team at DMU, and is now using his knowledge and passion for learning to dive deeper into the analysis of X’s and O’s in the NFL.
Image credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports