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Is Nick Foles’ Touchdown Record Legit or a Byproduct of Today’s NFL?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles tied an NFL record on Sunday with seven touchdown passes.

Is Nick Foles’ Touchdown Record Legit or a Byproduct of Today’s NFL?
Is Nick Foles' record that impressive, or are NFL defenses just that bad? Photo courtesy Matthew Straubmuller via Creative Commons license.

On Sunday afternoon, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles tied an NFL record that before this season had only been achieved four times in the league’s illustrious history.

Yet it’s now been done twice this season.

Foles threw for seven touchdown passes against a hapless Oakland Raiders defense, and he did it in less than three quarters to boot. He could have easily broken the record if Eagles coach Chip Kelly elected to leave Foles in the game.

Before this season, that feat had only been achieved by Sid Luckman (11/14/43), Adrian Burk (10/17/54), George Blanda (AFL, 11/19/61), Y.A. Tittle (10/28/62) and Joe Kapp (9/28/69).

In Week 1 of the 2013 season, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos torched the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary for seven touchdowns, adding his name to the elite list. Now, Foles can add his name as well.

Aside from Burk and Foles, every name on that list is in the Hall of Fame, or headed there in the not-so-distant future.

Does that make Foles a great quarterback?

Not hardly.

Before Sunday, Foles had thrown only 12 TD passes on 12 games. Sunday marked just his ninth start as a professional. And he only got the start because Michael Vick suffered a strained hamstring last week.

At 33 years of age and suffering from injuries, Vick does not represent the future for the Eagles. The 24-year-old Foles could be part of that future, but the Eagles may have tipped their hand on how they ultimately felt about Foles when they drafted USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

Foles did get extensive time last year when Vick was hurt, completing nearly 61 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s been given opportunities this season as well, but was looking very pedestrian just two weeks ago in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He completed just 11-of-29 passes for 80 yards before suffering a concussion and being replaced by Barkley.

On Sunday, Foles was 22-of-28 for 406 yards, throwing touchdowns to five different receivers.

There’s no question the seven TD passes is an incredible achievement, but today’s NFL is an entirely different breed of animal.

Consider the fact that quarterbacks can barely be touched by the defense without drawing a penalty. Today’s NFL favors the offense in a way it never has before. Receivers have much more of an advantage with stricter penalties enforced against defensive backs. There is clearly a swing towards an offensive attack. It’s what the NFL wants because it’s what the fans want to see.

Just like in Major League Baseball with the expression “chicks dig the long ball.” MLB lowered the pitchers’ mound back in 1969 to promote more offense. The American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973 to promote more offense. A slugfest is more exciting to fans than an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.

The same is true in the NFL. No fan wants to see a 3-0 game where defense completely dominates. If that were the case, attendance and TV ratings would greatly suffer. What they want is to the ball in the end zone, and they want to see offenses that feature exciting formations that lead to more points.

I won’t go so far as to say that Foles’ record is watered down. He set an NFL record, and that can’t be taken away from him. But the fact remains that records will continue to be tied and broken with today’s emphasis on offense. Just last week, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson nearly broke the single-game receiving record when he totaled 329 receiving yards against the Cowboys.

And, at the pace that Manning is now on, he could well break the all-time single-season passing yards record as well as the record for most TD passes in one season.

Records are made to be broken, and Foles achieved greatness with his effort on Sunday. But let’s face it—today’s NFL helped Foles in achieving that mark. 

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