Eagles

How Foles dealt with week of doubters

How Foles dealt with week of doubters

Earlier this week, Nick Foles talked about getting to go home each night to his 7-month-old daughter. Something about having a child seems to put life into perspective. 

Foles isn't stupid. He's not deaf either. 

He can hear the talk. He can read the line that has the Falcons as favorites even though they're the sixth seed on the road this weekend against the No. 1 seed at the Linc. And Foles is smart enough to know that simply wouldn't be the case if Carson Wentz was still the quarterback of the team. 

The Eagles feel slighted. They've had an edge about them all week. 

But No. 9 has been the same old Nick Foles. 

His understudy and good friend Nate Sudfeld thinks Foles has handled the week so well in part because of the balance in his life, because he's been able to spend time with his family at the end of each night. During the day, Foles has been locked in. 

"I found, being around some really good quarterbacks, they do a good job of insulating themselves and focusing on what they can control," Sudfeld told NBC Sports Philadelphia. "No matter how well you do, people are going to critique you or dislike you or whatever. 

"I think Blake Bortles said it the other day and it's so true ... even LeBron James has haters. And he's one of the best ever."

A lot of the negative feelings about Foles stem from his last five quarters. Foles was awful against the Raiders on Christmas Day and didn't get any better against the Cowboys in the first quarter the next week. 

But Foles is an experienced quarterback. He's an NFL veteran and has found success in the league before. His experience is one of the main reasons why offensive coordinator Frank Reich thinks Foles still has his confidence (see story).

"Demeanor has been great. He’s handled it great," head coach Doug Pederson said Thursday. "He's the type of guy, like most quarterbacks, we learn to compartmentalize everything and put things in boxes and just sort of check off each box every day and make sure we’re staying focused on the game plan and the guys. He's done a nice job and handled it well this week."

If anything, Foles is feeling more comfortable this week than others. Pederson said with each week as the starting quarterback, Foles is able to embrace the role more and more. Even little things like his teammates learning his voice in the huddle have been coming along. 

Alshon Jeffery sees it too. The Eagles' top receiver said Foles seemed a lot more relaxed this week. He thinks it has something to do with finally having an opponent to prepare for and a game plan to install. 

So how about that. As confidence in Foles outside the building has been plummeting, his self-confidence might be reaching a new high. 

"He's been great," Sudfeld said. "Same old Nick. He's had a great week of prep. He's been practicing really well. He spent some time with his family and has a good balance. I think he's had a great week. [Foles has] been handling it really well and I think he's going to play really well."

The pick-six that 'everyone down Broad Street heard'

The pick-six that 'everyone down Broad Street heard'

Patrick Robinson was talking a little trash with some Eagles teammates before the NFC Championship, so when he came up with an interception, he sort of had to back it up.

“Two hours before the game, I was like, 'When I get a pick, I'm not going out of bounds,'" Robinson said. "When I got it, I was running down the sideline, and I was like, 'No, I definitely can't go out of bounds,' so I just cut it back upfield.”

The end result was a 50-yard return for a touchdown — a play that served to energize the Eagles, the home crowd and an entire fan base during the 38-7 win over the Vikings (see Roob's observations).

“I don't think it just pumped up the offense," Nick Foles said. "I think it pumped up the whole City of Philadelphia. I think everyone down Broad Street heard that.”

Not only did Robinson's pick-six tie the score at seven in the first quarter, it shifted the momentum in the Eagles' favor permanently.

There was an uneasy feeling over Lincoln Financial Field after the Vikings marched straight down the field on a nine-play touchdown drive. A penalty on the ensuing Eagles punt improved Minnesota's field position, while a conversion on third-and-long moved the offense close to midfield. Nothing was going right.

"We had to make a play because they drove right down and scored," Chris Long said. "If we didn't have believe in ourselves and a little toughness, you might've thought, 'Oh, man, it's gonna be a long night.' I know some people probably thought that watching on TV or whatever, but we know what we're capable of as a defense.

“On us, on defense, we had to go out and make a big play and create a turnover.”

Long did exactly that. The 32-year-old pass rusher beat the protection and reached Vikings quarterback Case Keenum mid-throw. The result was a pass that came up woefully short of its intended target — what Robinson described as "an easy pick."

Far less simple was the return. Robinson began by running down the sideline with a convoy of Eagles defenders. Then, with precious little room to maneuver and a promise not to run out of bounds, he cut all the way across to the opposite side of the field, outracing the remaining Vikings players to the pylon.

It was a runback worthy of a certain Eagles All-Pro punt returner.

“Pat, man, he was unbelievable out there," Long said. "He was like Darren Sproles with the ball.”

Robinson was happy to play the part, at one point directing fellow cornerback Ronald Darby to throw a key block that ultimately allowed him to get into the end zone.

“A lot of times you get a pick, there's always one guy that slips through the pack and gets a guy who has the ball," Robinson said. "But this time, all our guys were running hard and trying to make blocks for me.”

For a team that's leaned on home-field advantage all season long, winning nine games in their own building, you better believe that play came at a critical juncture in the contest.

"It got the crowd into it," Malcolm Jenkins said. "Defensively, that first drive, we were kind of uncharacteristic in the run game, missing tackles, just kind of leaky and unsettled. Once we got that, we evened the score back up, it was, 'OK, that was our restart.'

“The crowd is into it. Our offense got going. Defense started getting stops. That was a huge play in the game.”

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

Doug Pederson's 'tricks up his sleeve' keep coming

A few hours before the Eagles played the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game Sunday night, the Jaguars doled out a free lesson about being timid in the playoffs.

The Jaguars were clinging to a 14-10 lead when they got the ball back with 55 seconds left in the second quarter, with two timeouts, on their own 25. Head coach Doug Marrone had Blake Bortles take a knee twice, happy to head into the locker room with a slight lead.

You know what eventually happened. The Patriots hung around and came back to win (see story). They'll see the Eagles in the Super Bowl (see Roob's observations).

Watching that scenario unfold, plenty of Eagles fans were probably thinking if the Eagles were in a similar situation, "Doug Pederson would never stay safe like that," and they'd be right. Because the Eagles were faced with a situation like that … and Pederson didn't play it safe.

In the first half of their 38-7 romping over the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (see breakdown), the Eagles got the ball back with 29 seconds in the first half, when they already had a 21-7 lead. So they marched down the field to kick a 38-yard field goal.

The aggressive Pederson never let his foot off the gas (see report card).

"I just told myself before the game I was going to maintain the aggressiveness in this ballgame," Pederson said. "Listen, it was, a: you win, you keep playing. You lose, you're going home. I didn't want to go home and regret any decision."

Perhaps no play exemplified Pederson's aggressive nature more than the flea flicker early in the third quarter that yielded a 41-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and put the Eagles up 31-7.

The Eagles had their foot on the Vikings' throats and Pederson gave the signal to step down.

"We love it," said Nick Foles, who admitted he couldn't remember ever running a flea flicker before. "I think he just has such a great feel for the game. He played quarterback and he's coached for a long time. He can feel it."

The flea flicker was a play the Eagles just started practicing and they ran it just a few times during practice this week. Pederson said they used it against the Vikings because they saw opportunities to exploit them down the field. Pederson was dead on.

Rookie Corey Clement was the running back who took the handoff and then pitched the ball back to Foles. After the game, he thanked his position coach Duce Staley for allowing him, a rookie, to be in that situation.

What was Clement thinking when the play got called in?

"S---, I'll do it," Clement said. "You just don't flinch."

After Clement tossed the ball back to Foles, the quarterback unleashed a deep pass to Smith down the sideline. Smith redeemed himself after an earlier drop and hauled it in.

"I didn't know they were going to call it," Smith said. "Coach P has some tricks up his sleeve."

Pederson has had tricks up his sleeve all season. While he hasn't necessarily run gadget plays like the one he pulled out Sunday night, he has been somewhat of a mad scientist when it comes to play-calling. Last week, offensive coordinator Frank Reich described Pederson's play-calling style as "unorthodox."

A week after putting together a gem of a game against the Falcons, Pederson seemingly coached circles around Mike Zimmer and put together a game plan that helped Foles lead his team to the Super Bowl (see story).

One thing is for sure: Pederson is aggressive. And it seems like his entire team feeds off of it.

"I think they do. I hope they do," Pederson said. "Because I've got a lot of trust in them and I think they've got a lot of trust in me that I'm going to make the right decision. It ultimately comes down to the players on the field. But I do believe they feel that. As long as I'm doing it and the decision is right by them and I'm not putting them in a bad situation, then, yeah, I think they feed off of it and start believing in that."