FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Nick Foles grabbed his right arm, and the concern of the Eagles — and any Eagles fans watching Thursday's Super Bowl rematch — was the Super Bowl MVP more than the Patriots defender streaking downfield for a touchdown.
In the second quarter of a 37-20 preseason loss to the Patriots, Foles dropped back to pass when Patriots defensive end Adrian Clayborn beat Halapoulivaati Vaitai around Foles' blind side and pummeled Foles while the QB was in his throwing motion. The ball bounced backward and was scooped up for the score, but eyes remained 54 yards away from the end zone where Foles immediately clutched his arm and winced in pain.
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Foles was escorted by the training staff to a makeshift tent on the sideline for examination — the same type of tent that was used to examine Carson Wentz last December. A strained shoulder was diagnosed. He did not return to the game; coach Doug Pederson had wanted him to play around 25 snaps, so Foles would have continued to play for one more series. Any unease should be focused less on his ugly stat line (3 of 9, 44 yards, three sacks, one fumble) and more on an injury just three weeks before opening night.
"I was getting ready to throw a deep ball and it got grabbed as I was following through," Foles said. "Got a little strain. Was with the trainers. I'll go in [Friday] and get treatment on it and sort of go from there. It feels all right, it feels pretty good. Hopefully, there's no issues."
Foles said his performance "wasn't good" and Pederson said Foles' passes sailed high early in the game and there were plays Foles would want back. But Foles saw the positive in returning to the field for his first preseason game and trying to develop a rhythm.
"It wasn't good enough; I have to be better," Foles said. "At the same time, I know what it takes to keep moving forward."
It could be interpreted as a positive sign that Foles did not go to the locker room. He remained on the sideline with a baseball cap and without attention from doctors. It's also noteworthy that the team labeled it a shoulder injury and not an elbow injury. Foles missed last preseason with a sore elbow that was diagnosed behind the scenes as a partial tendon tear, according to Foles' book Believe It.
There is always further evaluation when the team returns to Philadelphia, so Foles' health becomes the most important takeaway from an ugly preseason loss and will be of interest during a week when Wentz is hoping to increase his practice activity.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked up where he left off against the Eagles defense in February. Brady finished 19 of 26 for 172 yards and two touchdowns while playing in the first half against a secondary that didn't have Jalen Mills. Brady was not sacked by the Eagles defensive line — and Brandon Graham wasn't there to try to replicate what happened in the Super Bowl.
Brady's first touchdown pass came on the opening drive, when he found Chris Hogan for a 4-yard score with rookie Avonte Maddox in coverage. Maddox is vying for the top slot cornerback job after ascending on the depth chart this week.
The defense was plagued by penalties throughout the night — especially personal fouls. The new emphasis on penalizing players who lead with their helmets hurt the Eagles, but there were also flags for hitting a defenseless receiver, roughing the passer, and face-masking.
"Obviously, as players, we just have to adjust with the rules," safety Rodney McLeod said. "I'm happy that these calls that were called tonight aren't going to be called on a consistent basis. I felt like a lot of those weren't fouls. But leagues make the rules, and we have to adjust."
The Eagles offense did not look anything like the one on the field in Minneapolis last February. They were missing key playmakers at wide receiver, but Foles was under duress and his pass-catchers did little to help him.
"The execution is not crisp right now," Pederson said. "These games, effort is there. We've got to really, now, these next couple of weeks, focus on just the execution and being crisp in these next couple of games."
The Eagles could not score until after Foles' exit. Nate Sudfeld replaced Foles. After a three-and-out, Sudfeld led the Eagles on a seven-play, 69-yard scoring drive. That finished with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Shelton Gibson, who has scored in both preseason games and continues raising his stock.
Sudfeld finished 22 of 39 for 312 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, although the interception was not his fault. Sudfeld floated a pass to Matt Jones, who missed the catch. The ball bounced into the hands of a Patriots defender for the Eagles' second turnover. It was a strong game for Sudfeld, who continues to show promise as the team's No. 3 quarterback. He will continue to take on a significant workload during the preseason.
"I thought Nate did some nice things," Pederson said. "Played pretty well. Something with the quarterbacks, you have to go back and really evaluate the tape, see progressions and see reads. I thought overall, standing here right now, he played pretty well."
There was suspense at the end of the first half when the Eagles had a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Pederson kept his offense on the field. It was a situation similar to the Super Bowl, when the Eagles ran the Philly Special. But Pederson didn't bring the trick play out of retirement, leaving any memories of the Super Bowl to the fans who used a billboard and a flyover plane to remind Patriots fans of last year's result — and even players on the Eagles who noticed that the Patriots didn't hang a championship banner from last season.
The result was different, too. Sudfeld's shovel pass landed incomplete, the latest evidence that this is a new season. The Super Bowl MVP was on the sideline with a shoulder injury. The starting quarterback is still recovering from a knee injury.
The Eagles are three weeks away from opening the regular season, and more pressing than the result of their second preseason game is the status of their top two quarterbacks.