Too bad the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday aren’t starting a quarterback with playoff experience, with the best career passer rating in team history (92.7), who before Tom Brady stole it last year owned the NFL season record for best touchdown-to-interception ratio (27-to-2), and who co-owns the NFL record for most touchdown passes thrown in one game (seven).
Oh wait. The Eagles are starting such a quarterback against the visiting Atlanta Falcons, in the first of two weekend NFC divisional playoff games.
He’s Nick Foles.
The sixth-year pro replaced Carson Wentz in Week 14, when the second-year standout tore his left ACL, after having thrown an NFL-leading 33 touchdown passes in 2017 and playing like the league MVP.
If only Foles were playing within telescope distance of that lofty level of play ever since. He did throw four TD passes in a Week 15 comeback defeat of the New York Giants. But in two appearances since then, to be blunt, he has stunk — a combined 23-of-49 (47%) for 202 yards, one TD and two interceptions vs. the Oakland Raiders on Christmas Day and the Dallas Cowboys on New Year’s Eve.
In other words, nothing like the confident, occasionally spectacular youngster we saw during his first stint in Philadelphia fresh out of Arizona State, 2012-14, when he accomplished the eye-opening feats listed at the top of this story.
“I haven’t executed as well as I wanted to the last couple of weeks,” Foles said Tuesday. “But having this time to self-scout, go through practice and everything, you realize, ‘Hey, just go out there and play.’ Maybe I wasn’t doing that as much in those games.
“It’s as simple as that. Sometimes the hardest things are the simple things. Basically, get out of your own head and just go play the game you know how to play.”
It’s because Older Nick Foles hasn’t played like Young Nick Foles that Eagles fans are even more pessimistic than usual, and why Vegas oddsmakers have installed the 11-6 Falcons as three-point favourites to beat the 13-3 Eagles on their own Lincoln Financial Field (4:35 p.m. EST, CTV/NBC).
Foles returned to Philly in March as a low-buzz free-agent signee, after a couple of forgettable one-year stints elsewhere. The first was in St. Louis, where the Eagles traded him in early 2015 in a swap for Sam Bradford, which included draft picks. Foles started that season for the Rams but was benched by late November for Case Keenum. The experience with Jeff Fisher’s Rams was so foul, Foles later admitted he contemplated quitting football altogether.
Instead, he spent last season as Alex Smith’s primary backup on the Kansas City Chiefs. Foles started, and won, one game as Smith recovered from a concussion. But the Chiefs declined to pick up the second-year option on Foles’ contract.
So now he’s an Eagle again, and about to start the franchise’s first playoff game since a home-field wild-card match following the 2013 season that — yes — Foles started. He played well in that game too, throwing for two TDs and no interceptions, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints rallied with a last-minute field goal to win 26-24.
So. What’s the matter with Foles?
At news conferences last week and this, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson spoke about Foles’ issues.
Young Nick Foles thrived in then head coach Chip Kelly’s system of quick throws and up-tempo rhythm, Pederson agreed, and took deeper shots more often.
“I’ve gone back and watched a lot of his tape,” Pederson said Thursday. “The quick throw was there, a little play-action pass, the shotgun stuff. Those are all things that are in our system. We might just have to dust a few more off and get that ready to go.
“I think he does (thrive in those areas). I think any quarterback does. Carson obviously has thrived in it when we go up-tempo. It’s something we’ll look at.”
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich stressed this week that it’s not a confidence issue with Foles, and it’s reflected in his play.
“You have to be able to stay aggressive in the pass game and get the ball down the field,” Reich said “Nick has proven that over the length and entirety of his career. He not only can get the ball downfield, he can do so very well. He wants to throw the ball downfield.
“He’s aggressive in his mind-set, as aggressive a guy as I’ve been around … Some guys are the dink-and-dunk kind of guys. That’s not Nick. Nick is aggressive.”
Head coach Pederson said he dug up tape of Philly’s 2013 playoff lost to the Saints, to check out Foles’ performance.
“In the third quarter I think it was 20-7 (for the Saints) at one point. Nick brought them back, actually hit (tight end) Zach Ertz for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I saw a guy that stood in there, took some shots, delivered some great throws and led the team back … That’s the type of quarterback that we have.”
Or at least used to have. Whether it’s “still have” remains to be seen.
TEAMMATES BELIEVE IN FOLES
Nick Foles’ teammates on the Philadelphia Eagles sure talked this week as though they have complete faith in him.
“He’s a Pro Bowl-calibre quarterback,” top receiver Alshon Jeffery said. “I’m sure he hears the doubts, just like everybody else hears it.”
Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson said, “There’s always negativity (some) try to put inside this locker room. We use it as motivation. We know what people think of us.
“I’ve seen Nick do some big things. I think it’s about adjusting the game plan to what he does well. The capability’s there.”
Receiver Torrey Smith said Foles is “still the same guy” who once threw seven touchdowns in a game to tie an NFL record.
Defensive teammates have seen it in practice all season, a few said this week.
“Nick Foles knows this offence well, and has the capability to run it to an extreme level,” linebacker Nigel Bradham said.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies