Eagles’ Nick Foles to start vs. Saints, Nate Sudfeld remains the backup
— What might have seemed obvious is now official: Nick Foles will remain the Eagles’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s divisional round postseason game against the New Orleans Saints.
The Eagles have won four consecutive games with Foles as the starting quarterback, including Sunday’s 16-15 openinground win over the Chicago Bears. He’ll now have a chance to play against the Saints, who handed the Eagles their worst loss of the season on Nov. 18 and also were only team to beat a Foles-led team in playoffs in January 2014.
Nate Sudfeld will be the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback again on Sunday. Carson Wentz’s status remains unchanged; he’s on the active roster, but he’s “still getting healthy,” coach Doug Pederson said. That doesn’t mean the Eagles will put Wentz on injured reserve.
“We keep winning,” Pederson said. “We keep putting ourselves in a position to be successful. You never know. You never know what next week might hold.”
Of course, why would the Eagles make a change? They’re rolling with Foles. Even though Foles was inconsistent on Sunday and had two interceptions that thwarted potential scoring opportunities, his gamewinning drive in the fourth quarter was his sixth since coming back to the Eagles in 2017. Foles finished 25 of 40 for 266 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
By this point, there’s little more that can be said about how Foles handles high-pressure points in games. Foles’ mantra of
“stay in the moment” has been on repeat in recent weeks, and platitudes about how calm he remains have become commonplace.
It’s more than Foles. His pass catchers made big plays on Sunday — with Golden Tate, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Nelson Agholor, and Jordan Matthews all contributing. The offensive line helped keep Foles upright against the Bears’ formidable defense.
Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald, Houston’s J.J. Watt, and Chicago’s Khalil Mack are all candidates for defensive player of the year (and are past winners) with a combined 49 sacks this season. Yet none of those three sacked Foles during this stretch, which is a credit to the job the line does blocking, how quickly Foles is throwing the ball, and the game plan from the coaching staff.
It’s clear that Foles and Pederson have a close connection, and their dialogue on the sideline helped set up the game-winning play. Pederson said he doesn’t want his quarterback afraid to speak his mind in those situations and desires input about what the quarterback is seeing on the field and is comfortable doing.
“At the end of the day, they are playing the game, not me,” Pederson said. “I’m over on the sideline where it’s a little more relaxed. … It does come from learning and watching through my days of playing and being a backup and watching the starter, whoever it was, talking with the coordinator, talking with the position coach on the sideline, the offensive line coach with protections, whatever it is, and just having that conversation. I think things are changing for us, anyway. I’d say back in those days … it was more about the coaches making the decision and players just fall in line. But listen, I learned, too, that players make plays and they are the ones out there.”
Foles will be out there on Sunday against the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass defense, although it’s a unit that limited Wentz to 156 yards and intercepted him three times while also sacking him three times on Nov. 18. The Eagles are a different team now — almost everybody is playing better — but the most notable difference in recent weeks has been Foles at quarterback.
For another week, the Eagles will try to extend their season with Foles in the lineup and Wentz watching from the sideline — and learning for whenever his time comes in those moments.
“Carson, he definitely wants to be out there, and he wants to be with his teammate,” Pederson said. “Right now, he’s a great support for Nick. And that’s huge because Nick has been that way for him, and that’s a big thing from going … from starter to backup, that’s hard, but then now you’re in this position to really help the starter become successful. I just think that he sees how everything’s kind of coming together and whether it be the run game or the offensive line is playing well, or even your skill position guys are making plays, I think that’s all things that he’s processing and learning from, and will be better when he gets back out there.”