Eagles

Everything but a bounce-back game for Nick Foles

Everything but a bounce-back game for Nick Foles

OK, this didn't help.

If you were already worried about Nick Foles after the Raiders game, now you're twice as worried. 

If you weren't? Now you are.

Because this was not the bounce-back game Foles hoped for after a terrible performance against the Raiders.

As bad as Foles was last week against the Raiders, this was worse (see Roob's observations).

"As an offense, we expect to execute better," Foles said after the Eagles' first home shutout in 12 years. "This wasn’t acceptable, but we also know what we’re capable of and how talented we can be because of how we play together.

"So we’re just going to keep working on that. Keep our confidence high. There’s no reason not to be confident."

Foles, who replaced injured Carson Wentz a month ago, played four series before giving way to Nate Sudfeld Sunday in a game that had no bearing on the NFC playoff bracket. 

The Eagles, with No. 1 seed locked up, lost 6-0 to the Cowboys in the lowest-scoring game in franchise history.

In four series, Foles was 4 for 11 for 39 yards with one inexplicable interception (see grades).

Since throwing four touchdowns against the Giants, he's 23 for 49 for 202 yards with one TD and two INTs against the Raiders and Cowboys.

His passer rating of 9.3 Sunday was lowest by an Eagles quarterback throwing 10 or more passes since Donovan McNabb had a 0.4 rating against the Dolphins in 2007. It's the fourth-lowest in the last 40 years.

"Am I concerned? I'm not concerned," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I’ve still got a lot of confidence in our offense. Again, it's not one person or one guy. There is enough to go around.

"It's tough in this situation where you know you're kind of maybe only going to get a quarter, maybe a couple series, and you're coming out. But I’ve still got a lot of confidence in the guys."

Foles hasn't completed a pass longer than 32 yards in four games since replacing Wentz. Since throwing a TD pass to Jay Ajayi early in the Oakland game, Foles has engineered 16 straight drives generating no touchdowns and just six points.

Foles, who has a history of both very good and very bad games, said his confidence is fine going into the Eagles' playoff opener in two weeks.

"I’ve played a lot of football," he said. "I know who I am as a player and I also know that throughout my career and my life, I haven’t always played great games. I’ve been in games where execution hasn’t gone like we wanted it to. And the key is you remain confident because you know who you are. You know that you’re going to prepare every day to do everything to the best of your ability.

"It’s not like we go out there and say, ‘Hey we’re not going to play to the best of our ability today.’ We went out there and played as hard as we could. We didn’t execute, but that’s stuff that we can fix because I know every single guy in that offensive huddle and on this team gives everything they have.

"So that’s (why) I’m confident. Because I’m confident in myself and I’m confident in my teammates because I know what we’re capable of doing and that’s great things."

The Eagles did start out OK. 

Foles hit Alshon Jeffery for eight yards and Zach Ertz for 15 yards into Dallas territory. But Torrey Smith dropped a 3rd-and-7 that would have been a big play, and a 4th-down pass fell incomplete.

They only netted six yards on the last three drives with Foles in the game.

"We started off fine today," Smith said. "I dropped a ball, and honestly, if I caught it I probably would have housed it. That messed our momentum up and then we only played a short time after that and we kept getting penalties and shooting ourselves in the foot.

"I’m confident that if we stayed in the game we would have gotten it back on track, but we have two weeks of practice and I’m very confident we’ll be ready to roll."

This is the first time in his career Foles has had a passer rating below 60 in consecutive games.

In fact, he's the first Eagles quarterback to achieve that dubious distinction since McNabb in 2008 against the Bengals and Ravens.

And that Ravens performance got him benched temporarily for Kevin Kolb, although he did bounce back and lead the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game.

As for Foles, he insists his confidence is as high as ever, despite the worst two-game stretch of his career.

“I feel great," he said. "Honestly I feel great. I know what I can do.

"Sports are crazy at times. You don’t always play 100 percent of what you want to do, but you keeping trucking along. You keep working and I feel great.

"I feel really confident. I know the guys are confident in me. I’ve played with a lot of these guys. I’ve played with a lot of these coaches and I’m excited to get to work, get ready for the playoffs and keep this thing rolling."

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

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Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools

How do you turn being a home underdog into a good thing? Use it as motivation to win a football game.

How do you turn being a home underdog into a great thing? Raise money for Philadelphia schools and win football games. That’s what Lane Johnson is doing.

After the nation doubted the Eagles against the Falcons, Johnson and Chris Long donned dog masks after divisional round win, embracing the role of underdogs. Now, Johnson has his own T-shirt and is raising money. A lot of it, too.

Shirts can be purchased at lj65.shop for just $18 and Johnson tweeted that more than 3,000 have already been sold.

Hopefully, the home dogs continue to eat this weekend against the Vikings.

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

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USA Today Images

Game-winning stand just another play for Eagles' defense

There were no special instructions. No extraordinary measures taken. Not much was said. Not much needed to be said.

The game was on the line. The season was on the line. For the Eagles' defense, it was just another play. The stakes were just incredibly high.

It was 4th-and-goal for the Falcons at the Eagles' 2-yard-line in the final seconds Saturday.

Give up a touchdown, and the season's over. Stop the Falcons and you're one game closer to the Super Bowl.

"Our guys, we don't do a whole lot," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Our guys know what to do, and they have downloaded that software enough that it's a little bit automatic for them.

"We also didn't change. We don't surprise the players. What we practiced in our red-zone period is what we played."

The Falcons had already driven from their own 24-yard-line down to the 2-yard-line.

Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has the fourth-highest passer rating in NFL postseason history, behind Jeff Hostetler and Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Bart Starr.

That's what the Eagles' defense was up against.

"At that point, you sort of have to trust the players and the players have to trust the scheme," Schwartz said. "I think you saw a combination of both of those. We didn't feel the need to blitz. Played coverage, played good technique."

The clock showed 1:05.

Ryan’s two favorite receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu, both lined up on the right side of the formation, Jones outside with Jalen Mills on him and Sanu in the slot with Malcolm Jenkins covering him in a battle of North Jersey natives.

Ryan took the shotgun snap from center Alex Mack at the 7-yard-line and immediately rolled to his right, retreating to the 10 as he neared the sideline.

Nigel Bradham, lined up as the left linebacker, trampled blocking tight end Levine Tollolo, who had his hands full with Brandon Graham, and ran around guard Wes Schweitzer, giving him an angle on Ryan. 

Meanwhile, Vinny Curry, after getting cut blocked to the ground by Falcons running back Tevin Coleman, quickly bounced back up and began pursuing from Ryan’s left. 

Ryan pumped once toward Sanu, who was covered by Jenkins. He quickly looked left but saw only Curry closing in. Thanks to the pressure, he had to quickly backpedal back to the 14-yard-line and finally was forced to unload that lob toward Jones at the right sideline in the end zone.

At that point, it was up to Mills, who had Jones blanketed, and the rest is history.

The ball went through Jones’ hands, his feet came down out of bounds anyway, and after an agonizing moment looking for flags, the play was over.

"A lot gets made of what Jalen did, rightfully so," Schwartz said. "You're talking about a Pro Bowl, All-Pro receiver, 1-on-1. But Malcolm playing the seven route to Sanu and Rodney (McLeod’s) ability to help him leverage that, that was because he's looking for Julio Jones first.

"Julio slips, he's looking for Sanu, nowhere to go and now he has to re-rack that thing and by then, Nigel is closing down on him and everything else.

"If Malcolm doesn't get that route that he covered, if he doesn't get that covered, nobody's talking about Jalen Mills right now."

Mills was physical with Jones but not physical enough to draw a flag. Schwartz said Mills has made huge strides this year with his technique, and on the biggest play of his life, his technique was perfect.

"It's one thing to have confidence, but that's just not the sole requirement for the position," Schwartz said.

"There's a lot of technique that goes along with playing, and I think if you look at that last play, he did a great job of staying square. Meaning his shoulders were perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

"What the receiver there is trying to do is get you turned so he can come back for the ball. He could never get Jalen turned."

Mills is 23 years old, a second-year pro, a former seventh-round pick, a first-year starter.

To think that he made one of the most historic plays in Eagles postseason history is remarkable.

"I think every player makes a big jump from year one to year two, as far as knowledge of scheme and knowledge of opponents and things like that," Schwartz said.

"(Defensive backs coach Cory) Undlin and Jalen have worked really hard. He's haunted the hallways quite a bit, even on off days this year, just trying to improve his technique. It hasn't been by chance that his technique has gotten better. It's a lot of hard work that's gone into it from a coaching standpoint and from a player's standpoint."

The bottom line is that this defense has played tremendous football all year.

And with the season on the line, everybody simply went out and did their job. Nothing more, nothing less.

"I just think a part of our success is our guys just understand what's asked of them in the schemes," Schwartz said.

"They communicate well. We don't make a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, and I think that makes it hard to drive the ball on us.

"When you get into those situations where is it's closed quarters and you don't have to defend deep balls, our guys have a good understanding of what opponents are going to do. I was proud of them on that play."