Ea­gles not sure which Foles will show

Backup QB re­mains un­known vari­able in NFC play­off

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - John Kryk JoKryk@ post­media. com Twit­ter. com/ JohnKryk

Too bad the Philadel­phia Ea­gles aren’t start­ing a quar­ter­back with play­off ex­pe­ri­ence, a guy with the best ca­reer passer rat­ing in team his­tory ( 92.7) who be­fore the Pa­tri­ots’ 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 Satur­day in the first of two week­end NFC di­vi­sional play­off games. The quar­ter­back is Nick Foles. The sixth- year pro re­placed Car­son Wentz in Week 14, af­ter the sec­ond-year Wentz tore his left ACL af­ter hav­ing thrown an NFLlead­ing 33 touch­down passes in 2017 and earn­ing con­sid­er­a­tion as an MVP can­di­date.

If only the cur­rent- day Foles was play­ing within tele­scope dis­tance of what he did ear­lier in his ca­reer. He did throw four TD passes in a Week 15 come­back de­feat of the New York Gi­ants. But in two ap­pear­ances since then, he has stunk, throw­ing for a com­bined 23- of- 49 ( 47 per cent) for 202 yards, one TD and two in­ter­cep­tions.

In other words, noth­ing like the con­fi­dent, oc­ca­sion­ally spec­tac­u­lar young­ster we saw dur­ing his first stint in Philadel­phia fresh out of Ari­zona State. That was 2012-14 when he ac­com­plished the eye­open­ing 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 in- stalled the 11- 6 Fal­cons as three­p­oint favourites to beat the 13- 3 Ea­gles on their own Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field.

Foles re­turned to Philly in March as a low- buzz free- agent signee, fol­low­ing 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 in 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 with 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 his con­tract.

So now he’s an Ea­gle again, and about to start the fran­chise’s first play­off game since a home­field 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 deal 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 said, 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 ( Wentz) ob­vi­ously has thrived in it when we go up­tempo. It’s some­thing we’ll look at.”

Ped­er­son was impressed by Foles in that 2013 play­off game.

“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.”

MIGHT ... DUST A FEW MORE OFF AND GET THAT READY TO GO.

MICHAEL PEREZ / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The for­tunes of the Ea­gles in their con­test against the Fal­cons on Satur­day rest in part on backup quar­ter­back Nick Foles, who has had his ups and downs but has had play­off suc­cess in the past.

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