Eagles

Nick Foles channels 'inner Carson Wentz' in 1st Eagles start in 3 years

Nick Foles channels 'inner Carson Wentz' in 1st Eagles start in 3 years

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Just think how crazy it all is. Nick Foles, traded away by the Eagles three years ago for his replacement, benched twice and then unwanted by the Rams, a backup for a year with the Chiefs, returns to the team that he took to the playoffs four years ago and does this.

Foles recalled his 2013 glory days Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Eagles' closer-than-it-should-have-been 34-29 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium (see breakdown).

In his first start in 14 months and his first in an Eagles jersey in more than three years, Foles made Carson Wentz's season-ending injury a little easier to take.

He was terrific.

“It’s really special," Foles said. "This whole journey and being back in Philly, it’s crazy, if I’m being honest. 

"Just wearing the Eagles jersey. To go back to Philly and wear it, I take a lot of pride in that. I can’t say enough about our guys. They made some big plays to help with those touchdowns, but it’s a special moment for sure."

Foles completed 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards in his second career four-TD game and first since the record-setting seven-TD game in Oakland in 2013 (see Roob's observations).

This is a guy who hadn't started a game since November 2016 for the Chiefs and hadn't started a game on the road since November 2015 with the Rams.

And he became the fifth quarterback ever to throw four TD passes and no interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes against the Giants in East Rutherford (or New York).

"He was phenomenal," Corey Clement said. "I think everybody's doubt really fueled him today. He was definitely relaxed. We depended on him, and he came up huge, just like we knew he would."

The Eagles improved to 12-2 and for the first time since the 2004 Super Bowl season clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Foles improved to 16-9 in an Eagles uniform and 15-4 since 2013.

"I thought he played well, really well," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I'm sure there are some things he would like to do over, each game is going to be that way. But I thought he handled himself extremely well. A lot of poise back there. Took some shots but bounced up."

With his four touchdowns, Foles now has 50 in an Eagles uniform. He passed Carson Wentz (49) and into 12th place in Eagles history.

“He wants to be here so bad," Foles said. "He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve played with and going out there and getting this win, I know he’s excited.”

There was one play where Foles actually looked like Wentz.

Foles isn't the slickest guy in the pocket, but he adroitly sidestepped Jason Pierre-Paul, buying himself time, then fired down the field to Torrey Smith, who drew a 32-yard pass interference down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Foles threw the first of his four TDs.

"I channeled my inner Carson Wentz right there," Foles said with a laugh. "Just made a play and tried to get him to move and step up, and then if the defender doesn’t hold Torrey and hold his arms down, it’s probably a touchdown, but Torrey did a great job fighting through it, we get the call, get down there and get this thing rolling."

Foles spread the ball around, with four guys finishing with between 40 and 60 yards (Jay Ajayi, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor), and four guys catching touchdowns (Jeffery, Agholor, Ertz, Trey Burton).

It was a vintage Nick Foles performance.

“You get the butterflies, for sure," Foles said. "I think any game you ever play in, you get that excitement because it’s a big stage, there’s a lot going on. But once you get on the field you just play ball. 

"You live in the moment and there’s just something that comes out of you, and you just go out there and just play."

Wentz is out for the year with a torn left ACL, so this is Foles' team as long as the Eagles keep playing.

"Obviously, it sucks not having (Wentz) in there, but we knew all throughout the week, Nick would do his thing," Ajayi said. 

"We just let him play his game, as you saw. He played a great one. He did his thing, just operated like we thought he would. Just threw a bunch of touchdowns today."

Foles finished with a passer rating of 115.8, his eighth career game with a rating of 115 or higher.

That's sixth-most in Eagles history, even though he's 15th in franchise history in QB starts.

He can play.

After so much disappointment in his career — he even considered retiring after the 2015 season — this was quite an emotional day for Foles.

“Huge," he said. "Just getting back out there playing a full game on the road in New York. NFC East.

"There’s definitely some things when I go back and watch it that I can clean up, absolutely. The big thing is you keep playing when something does go wrong or you miss a throw or maybe the decision wasn’t what I wanted. 

"I can absolutely get better. There’s a lot to be improved on and I’m going to continue to do that."

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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USA Today Images

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
 
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
 
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
 
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
 
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
 
Seriously, Doug?
 
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
 
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
 
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
 
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
 
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
 
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
 
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
 
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
 
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
 
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.