Eagles not sure which Foles will show
Backup QB remains unknown variable in NFC playoff
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.
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.