The Nick Foles the Cowboys will see next week with a playoff berth on the line is very different from the Nick Foles they saw the first time.
The Eagles quarterback has turned into one of the most efficient players in the league since then, as he showed in Sunday’s 54-11 demolition of the Bears.
Foles was 21-of-25 passing for 230 yards passing before being pulled for Michael Vick. That doesn’t sound all that flashy, but he made the Bears look either incompetent or disinterested for the brief time the game was competitive.
His sharpness was evident early on. He was 14-of-17 for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the first half (when the game was decided). Of those three incompletions, two were chunked out of bounds, as he’s shown a good feel for when to throw it away to avoid a sack or a bad play.
The second-year quarterback simply doesn’t show his age.
Coincidentally, his opponent next Sunday night doesn’t always either.
When the Cowboys and Eagles met in Week Seven, Foles was a brutal 11-of-29 for 80 yards before leaving with a concussion.
Since then, he’s been nearly flawless, and Sunday was no exception.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. As good as Foles has looked, it’s almost easy to forget they have the league’s leading rusher as well in running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy ran 18 times for 133 yards, giving him 1,476 yards on the season.
Only giving him eight carries last week against the Vikings was a mistake, but one they figured out in time to face the Bears’ embarrassing rush defense.
McCoy’s helped by the fact he has an extremely athletic group of offensive linemen (center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis in particular), but a lot of it is McCoy himself.
His third-quarter touchdown, in case you missed it, will be a staple of the highlight shows for days to come, spinning away from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers for the score.
2. Bears coach Marc Trestman wasn’t willing to pull quarterback Jay Cutler after a disastrous first half, he waited until the disastrous fourth quarter pick-six.
But Trestman might think about protecting Cutler better, or else backup Josh McCown might end up back there next week anyway.
Cutler was sacked three times in the first half, but seemed to be pressured on every play.
It didn’t help that running back Matt Forte showed no apparent ability to pass-protect, giving Cutler little chance to look good. By the time Cutler was doing himself in late, it was too far gone to matter.
3. Not every team is willing to commit starters to special teams.
But the Eagles will, and it helped stake them to an early lead.
Both their starting cornerbacks were on the kickoff coverage team, and it paid an immediate dividend.
Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher forced a Devin Hester fumble in the first quarter, and Cary Williams recovered it.
That turned into a 14-0 lead, and put the Bears on their heels.
4. The Bears are clearly in the midst of a transition on defense.
Linebacker Lance Briggs came back after a seven-week absence, but it was a little hard to tell. Peppers simply no longer earns his salary.
Both guys are capable of making impact plays, or at least they have in the recent past. But with a slew of other free agents (cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, franchised defensive tackle Henry Melton, and oh by the way that Cutler guy), the Bears are about to look very different.
And that might not be a bad thing.
Certainly injuries have stripped away Chicago’s ability to do what Chicago has been known for doing. But this defense appears to have gotten old all at once.
5. Eagles coach Chip Kelly Schwartzed himself in the third quarter.
Kelly threw a challenge flag on a turnover which was already being reviewed, costing him a timeout.
At least the review continued, and the Eagles kept the ball.
It’s not like it particularly mattered, but it was the one hiccup on a night when everything broke perfectly.