Eagles

Remembering that time Foles was a Hall of Famer

ap-nick-foles-raiders-7-touchdowns.jpg
AP Images

Remembering that time Foles was a Hall of Famer

What does Brent Celek remember about the last time Nick Foles faced the Oakland Raiders?

"I remember, I think I had the first touchdown," Celek said, "and then there were six more after that."

Good memory.

Foles has faced the Raiders just once in his career and put together a historic game. Back on Nov. 3, 2013, during his first stint with the Eagles, Foles threw seven touchdown passes, tying the NFL record. He's one of eight players to ever throw seven in one game. His cleats and jersey from that 49-20 win are hanging in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

As Foles gets set to face the Raiders on Monday night for the first time since that incredible game, all those memories have come flooding back.

"I remember that year as our team was just trying to figure out our identity at that point," Foles said. "We had had ups and downs and we were just trying to put it all together. I look back at that day as a day we put everything together. And sort of that 'ah ha' moment, we can do this. We know who we are. We know we can be explosive and we just sort of took off at that point."

Coming into that game at O.co Coliseum in early November, the Eagles had lost their previous two games and had scored a combined 10 points in them. The team was 3-5 and the first year under Chip Kelly had started going the wrong way.

Then everything clicked.

Foles hit Celek for his first touchdown pass with 5:18 left in the first quarter. Then he hit Riley Cooper twice and Zach Ertz once before the half ended. Foles added three more touchdown passes in the third quarter.

"It was Foles, the receivers, some great play calls," center Jason Kelce said. "It was a combination of a lot of things going really, really well. He would have ended up setting the NFL record if we kept him in, but we ended up pulling him."

The Eagles pulled Foles from the game with just under 9 1/2 minutes to play in the fourth quarter and put Matt Barkley in. The score at the time was 49-13. Foles had two drives — both three-and-outs — after his record-tying seventh touchdown pass.

Cooper had five catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns. DeSean Jackson had five for 150 and a touchdown. LeSean McCoy had four for 36 and a touchdown. Ertz had five for 42 and a touchdown and Celek had three for 27 and a touchdown. Ertz's 15-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was actually the first of his career.

Foles didn't have his second-career four-touchdown game until last week, when the Eagles beat the Giants. With that game, Foles became second on the all-time Eagles' list of QBs with four-touchdown, zero-interception games. Donovan McNabb had eight.

There are less than a dozen Eagles still on the team from that 2013 season and Foles' amazing 27-touchdown, two-interception season.

That seven-touchdown game is still what everyone remembers from that year.

"It was my rookie year, a long time ago," Lane Johnson said. "But it was probably one of the funnest games I've had. Having a good game that game and being a part of Nick's legacy, it was awesome."

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

ap-doug-pederson-smile-falcons-eagles.jpg
AP Images

By just being himself, Doug Pederson has had masterful year

Bill Belichick didn’t win a playoff game until his fourth year as an NFL head coach and didn’t reach a conference title game until his seventh year.

Don Shula didn’t win a playoff game until his sixth year as a head coach.

It took Dick Vermeil four years to win a playoff game, Dan Reeves six years, Tom Landry eight.

Heck, Pete Carroll didn’t reach a conference title game until his third head coaching stop, and Marv Levy didn’t even get to the playoffs until his eighth year as a head coach.

Just a little context.

Pederson has been magnificent this year, and out of everybody we talk about who’s played a role in the Eagles' success — from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles, Howie Roseman to Joe Douglas, Fletcher Cox to Malcolm Jenkins, Jim Schwartz to John DiFillippo, Jason Kelce to Alshon Jeffery — Pederson is the common thread that’s tied all of it together.

We saw last year that Pederson had a rare ability to keep a team together when faced with adversity. Whether it was the whole Sam Bradford situation before the season, Lane Johnson’s suspension, a couple arrests, two players publicly speaking out about mental health, or just keeping the thing on the rails after three straight late-season ugly losses, Pederson won over his players by confronting each issue openly and professionally and treating his players like grown men.

By the time the team training camp ended this past summer, Pederson had earned the respect of the veterans by preaching discipline without being over the top about it and by constantly keeping the lines of communication open with his players. 

Here’s a young, inexperienced coach who had a long but undistinguished playing career and no real track record or resume as a head coach trying to convince a locker room of Super Bowl winners and all-pros that he knows what he’s doing.

But he did that. Just by being himself. Tough, smart, open, honest.

And once you get guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters, LeGarrette Blount and Alshon Jeffery to buy in, the younger guys just fall in line. 

And that might be the biggest challenge any head coach faces. Getting guys to believe in his message. To believe in him.

But Pederson has tremendous instincts when dealing with people, a real natural, honest way of getting his point across, and it enabled him to seamlessly win over the locker room. 

Once that happened, this team was built to withstand whatever challenge it faced. To withstand whatever roadblocks stood in its way.

And as it turned out, there were plenty of them. 

We don't have to run down the littany of season-ending injuries the Eagles faced, but what this team has accomplished without its MVP quarterback, its Hall of Fame left tackle, its best linebacker, its all-pro returner and its top special teamer is nothing less than astonishing.

Nick Foles is their quarterback and they're in the NFC Championship Game.

Think about the last month.

They came from behind in Los Angeles to beat the Rams after Wentz got hurt. They beat the Giants on the road. They beat the Raiders to clinch No. 1 seed. They "upset" the Falcons in a conference semifinal playoff game. 

For this football team to be one home win away from the Super Bowl after all it has been through speaks volumes about Pederson. He's guided this franchise through adversity that would have crushed some locker rooms, and he's done it in his second year as a head coach above the high school level.

Pederson found a way to get 53 guys to believe in themselves even when very few other people did. And they returned the favor by consistently playing smart, physical, disciplined football for him no matter who the opponent, no matter what the score, no matter how long that Injured Reserve list grew.

This has been a masterful year for Pederson, and anybody who can't see that just isn't looking very hard.

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

usa-jay-ajayi-falcons-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Why lack of touches for Jay Ajayi after 1st quarter?

Jay Ajayi wasn't hurt Saturday night. So why did he barely play after a huge first quarter?

Ajayi dominated the first quarter of the Eagles' 15-10 playoff win over the Falcons at the Linc with seven carries for 49 yards. But after a one-yard carry a minute into the second quarter, he didn't touch the ball again until the third quarter.

After his hot start, he didn't even get on the field on the Eagles' last two drives of the first half.

LeGarrette Blount actually had more carries than Ajayi after the first quarter, but netted only 19 yards on nine attempts, although he did score the Eagles' only touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter.

Ajayi never got into a rhythm after his long layoff. He had eight carries for five yards after the first quarter and finished with 15 carries for 54 yards along with four catches for 44 yards, including a 32-yard catch and run that was the Eagles' longest offensive play of the game.

Head coach Doug Pederson said Monday he just wanted to get Blount some work. He also said he likes to go hurry-up after long plays and was unable to sub Ajayi while the offense was going with tempo. But there weren't any plays longer than 15 yards while Ajayi sat.

Pederson said the decision on which back to use rests with him and not running backs coach Duce Staley.

“I ultimately control the personnel," he said. "Duce doesn’t sub them. I’m the one calling the plays, so I call for those guys in particular situations, and a couple times when we broke off a long run or a pass particularly — it’s a good time to go a little tempo. So whoever the back is at the time on the field, I just kept him in there.

"And [Blount] was heating up a little bit and we wanted to get him going as well and it’s just the way it went."

Ajayi had 35 of the 86 net yards on the Eagles' only touchdown drive of the game.

After that second-quarter TD drive, the Eagles ran 15 times for 17 yards, not including three Nick Foles kneel-downs.  

Pederson said all the backs know all the plays, but he just prefers different backs depending on what the Eagles are doing offensively. 

Of the Eagles’ 67 offensive plays, Ajayi played 29, Blount 20, Corey Clement 16 and Kenjon Barner one (see Snap Counts).

"The way it is set up is by design, by scheme design, a particular back might be good at a certain run scheme so we put that back in for that particular play," he said.