PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he didn't make the final call on who his starting quarterback would be for the Atlanta Falcons game until Monday, even though Carson Wentz had still not been medically cleared for contact.
For the past two weeks, Pederson was chippy with the media over quarterback questions and reports, and was visibly frustrated during and after the team's "dress rehearsal" against the Cleveland Browns when the first-team offense, again, failed to score a point.
The product on the field Thursday night helped explain from where some of that frustration was coming. The unit Pederson oversees -- the one that soared during the Eagles' 2017 Super Bowl season, finishing third in the NFL with 28.6 points per game -- hasn't looked right, and still doesn't look right.
He created a spark by dusting off a variation of the "Philly Special" -- he called it "Philly Philly" after the game -- that resulted in a 15-yard Nick Foles reception and led to a Jay Ajayi touchdown in the third quarter, but otherwise the offense was dormant.
Foles did not look his Super Bowl MVP self. He finished 19-of-34 for 117 yards -- 3.4 yards-per-attempt average -- with an interception. The pick can't be pinned on him -- rookie Dallas Goedert had the ball dislodged from him by Damontae Kazee -- but there were other throws that could have, and should have, been intercepted. Generally, the approach was conservative and uninspiring.
"Honestly, that's one of those unique game where it's not really a rhythm thing, it's just you're going to fight all game," Foles said. "It was just one of those things where it wasn't a rhythmic game, but I thought our guys fought hard and I thought we made some big plays when we needed to."
Foles and Wentz split reps for parts of the summer, including the week leading up to the game. Imagine seeing Wentz step in, looking healthy and mobile, and watching as wind fills the offense's sails in a way that only happens when a franchise quarterback is at the controls, and contrasting that with how the group has otherwise looked this summer.
That's no knock on Foles; he helped this franchise to the highest of heights and is a capable NFL quarterback, but this group has not had much work together as a whole due to various injuries, and Foles has been unable to develop the necessary rhythm for him to be at his best.
The offense did pick up some after being outgained 89-68 by Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones in the first half.
"I wanted to pick his brain and find out what he was comfortable with, with what we had left on the call sheet to go to and find some things that we could generate a little bit of some offense with," Pederson said of his halftime conversation with Foles. "He had some ideas and I had some ideas, and we were comfortable with that, and just had to really kind of focus in on a little bit of the quick throws."
The Eagles were able to squeak out an 18-12 victory thanks to a top-notch defensive performance, capped by a goal-line stand that was eerily similar to the ending in the divisional round of the playoffs against Atlanta last season. Philly also had some timely plays on offense, most notably on the "Philly Philly" drive and again late in the fourth quarter. That sets the Eagles up well with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead in Week 2 on Sept. 16. Wentz might not be back by then but that's OK. They now have some wiggle room and are more than capable of winning with Foles behind center.
But the offense probably won't be where Pederson wants it until Wentz is back, which helps explain his grumpiness just about any time the subject has come up of late.
He can breathe a little easier now, though, that his Eagles are 1-0.
"The defense had a hell of a game," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "Hats off to them. Without them, we're not winning that game. Offense, we'll pick our stuff up. Kind of sluggish this game but executed when we needed to. Moving forward, we're going to pick it up against Tampa."