Nick Foles unable to ease concerns in postseason tune-up vs. Cowboys

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson had a simple request heading into the regular-season finale Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I just want to see execution by our guys going into the postseason," he said on Friday.

That's why Pederson had just about all of his offensive starters, including quarterback Nick Foles, play through the first quarter despite already having the No. 1 seed in the NFC locked up. The idea was to build a little confidence and momentum to carry into the playoffs. If nothing else, it would help erase a shaky performance against the Oakland Raiders last week..

Instead, the concerns that cropped up on Christmas night were reinforced. Foles finished 4-of-11 for 39 yards with an interception as the Eagles were shut out 6-0 by the Cowboys.

A Philadelphia team that led the league in scoring for much of the season was once again unable to get it going offensively. The drop-off on third down minus MVP candidate Carson Wentz has been drastic. The first unit was 0-for-3 on third down Sunday after going 1-for-14 against the Raiders.

Foles' numbers aren't much better over the past two weeks. He's 23-of-49 (47 percent) for 202 yards with a TD and two interceptions since his four-touchdown outing against the New York Giants in Week 15.

"I’d say because I’ve played a lot of football,” said Foles, when asked why he remains confident. “I know who I am as a player, and I also know that throughout my career and my life I haven’t always played great games, I’ve been in games where execution hasn’t always gone like we wanted to, and the key is you remain confident because you know who you are. You know you’re going to prepare every day to do everything to the best of your ability. ... We went out there and played as hard as we could. We didn’t execute, but that’s stuff we can fix.”

If there was a positive takeaway regarding the Eagles' quarterback position, it's that backup Nate Sudfeld looked capable given the circumstances. He went 19-of-23 for 134 yards in his first game as a pro.

The Eagles finish the regular season at 13-3 -- one win shy of a franchise record. The NFC playoffs still run through Philly. They have a first-round bye and get to rest and scheme while their next opponent toils in the wild-card round.

During that time, Pederson & Co. need to figure out the best way to deploy this offense. If the past two weeks have proved anything, it's that this is not the same team that routinely blew out opponents with Wentz at the helm. With Foles, the offense is more limited. The defense is the strength. That was on display once again Sunday, as Jim Schwartz's unit limited Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' attack to six points despite resting a bulk of the Eagles' starters.

In order to advance in the playoffs, the Eagles will need to lean on their defense and ask their offense to play opportunistic ball while limiting turnovers. They'll need significant production out of their ground game. Running back Jay Ajayi was the lone offensive starter inactive against the Cowboys. Perhaps they're getting him ready for a heavy workload in the postseason. The Eagles have brought him along slowly since acquiring him from the Miami Dolphins at the trade deadline. It's more than time to turn him loose.

While the Eagles can tweak their approach to accentuate their strengths and partially mask their vulnerabilities, you can't hide your quarterback for an entire Super Bowl run. In order to make it where they want to go, Foles will have to look more like he did against the Giants than in the two weeks since.

The Eagles will have to wait until the divisional round to see if he can turn things around.

"Our defense is playing extremely well right now. You get into the postseason and have to play great defense and be able to run the football," Pederson said. "That's been our formula pretty much all season long. We have to get back to that, and I've got a lot of confidence moving forward."