PHILADELPHIA (AP) — This was more like last year’s Eagles.
Nick Foles threw one touchdown pass and led Philadelphia’s starting offense to three first-half scores in a 31-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“I feel we’re improving every week,” Foles said. “We have to keep moving forward.”
Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both played one day after they were arrested for marijuana possession shortly before Pittsburgh (1-2) traveled to Philadelphia (1-2).
“I’m sorry to be a distraction to the team but I’m only going to answer football questions now,” Bell said.
Blount also would only answer football questions.
“I just want to apologize to my team, to the coach and the organization for causing that distraction,” he said.
Eagles All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy left the game with a right thumb injury after a 22-yard TD catch gave Philadelphia a 7-0 lead. X-rays on McCoy’s thumb were negative, but he didn’t return. McCoy showed no effects of a toe injury that forced him to miss one practice earlier in the week.
“It’s no big deal,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
The Eagles’ first-team offense had only one touchdown on six drives in road losses to Chicago and New England. But they looked more like the unit that set several franchise records in 2013.
“We have a lot we can improve on,” Foles said. “It’s important not to get complacent.”
Foles was 19 of 29 for 179 yards and threw one interception. He led the offense to 17 points and 251 total yards before giving way to Mark Sanchez in the third quarter. Starting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper played their first game together, combining for nine catches for 68 yards.
The Steelers couldn’t get going against Philadelphia’s first-team defense. Ben Roethlisberger tossed a 27-yard TD pass to Heath Miller in the third quarter against the backups.
“We’re not worried about it. It’s preseason,” Blount said.
Roethlisberger finished 15 of 24 for 157 yards, one TD and one interception. Bell had nine carries for 23 yards and Blount ran seven times for 32 yards. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier had six tackles after an impressive debut last week against the Bills.
The Steelers weren’t happy with their defensive effort.
“I’m just ticked,” end Cameron Heyward said. “We all have to look at each other in the mirror. We’re not going to settle for anything less. We know when we put on this jersey, it represents a lot. We might not be the same players but we have to step up, make plays and focus.”
Foles got the offense rolling on the second possession. He connected with Maclin for 7 yards on third-and-5 and then hit Brent Celek for a 23-yard catch-and-run. A holding call on William Gay kept the drive alive when Foles threw incomplete on third down.
Foles then tossed a screen pass to McCoy on third-and-10 from the Steelers 22. McCoy did the rest, following a takeout block by Todd Herremans into the end zone.
Foles completed seven straight passes after misfiring on six of his first 10 throws. He was 6 for 6 for 56 yards on the third drive, which ended with Darren Sproles running in from the 1 for a 14-0 lead.
Foles threw his third interception of the preseason when Troy Polamalu picked off a pass in the second quarter. The Pro Bowl MVP quarterback threw only two interceptions on 350 pass attempts last year, including the playoffs. He had 27 TD passes in the regular season, setting an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio.
Matthew Tucker had a pair of 1-yard TD runs for the Eagles in the second half.
Pittsburgh’s Bruce Gradkowski threw a 33-yard TD pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey and a 3-yard TD pass to Martavis Bryant in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Sanchez was 7 of 9 for 85 yards. … Gradkowski was 8 of 11 for 105 yards and two TDs. … Steelers K Shaun Suisham missed a 46-yarder wide left. … Eagles K Alex Henery made a 36-yarder, but missed from 31. “Obviously, you have to make a field goal like that,” Kelly said. … Rookie K Cody Parkey, acquired from Indianapolis on Wednesday night, made an extra point and had a couple long kickoffs. … Nolan Carroll picked off Roethlisberger in the second quarter.
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