What Nick Foles learned from Monday night nightmare

What Nick Foles learned from Monday night nightmare

Nick Foles has been taking first-team reps in the Eagles' walkthroughs this week so it appears he's going to at least start in Sunday's meaningless regular-season finale. 

That's good. 

Because he and the rest of the offense have plenty to work on. 

The offense had a lackluster showing against the Raiders on Christmas night and the Eagles needed five takeaways on defense to pull out a close win. When asked what he learned from rewatching the tape, Foles mentioned staying "inside the chains" and keeping themselves out of 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. 

The Eagles went into last weekend as the NFL's top third-down offense but went just 1 for 14 on third downs against the Raiders. 

What can Foles do to improve in those situations?

"If stuff's not open downfield, get it to the back right away," Foles said. "If we get three yards, we get three yards. And then it's 2nd-and-7. That's better than 2nd-and-10. It's little things like that, where it's all correctable that I see on film, taking the completions. Obviously, be aggressive downfield, but if it's not there, get to the checkdown right away." 

The thought of Foles opting to check down more than he already does might make some Eagles fans nauseous, but Foles doesn't have Carson Wentz's escapability and his penchant for turning nothing into something. 

And Foles and the Eagles have a point about the bad situations they put themselves in on Monday. They had a total of 16 third-down situations (two were converted by penalty) and faced an average of 7.4 yards to go. Four of 16 were from 10 yards or more! That's not a recipe for success. 

"So whether it's me being smart with the football, keeping the ball in play, giving our guys the opportunity to make plays," Foles said, "that will help us a lot." 

Another thing Foles learned from Monday's game is that he needs to find a way to get Alshon Jeffery more involved. Monday was, statistically speaking, the worst game of Jeffery's six-year career. He had zero catches and was targeted just twice. It was his second-career two-target game and second-career zero-catch game. The others came in his rookie season in 2012. 

Chemistry between quarterback and receiver is especially important for a player like Jeffery, who is known for timing routes and 50-50 balls. Jeffery said he isn't worried about their chemistry (see story), but it takes a certain level of trust for a quarterback to throw the ball to a receiver who is covered. It's hard to build that trust in two games and a few practices.

And it's one thing for Foles to realize during the week that he should give Jeffery a chance at those 50-50 balls. It's another during a game, when bodies are flying and he's going through his progressions, to see Jeffery with a man on him and still pull the trigger. 

"It's hard to cover Alshon and even when he's covered, he's not covered," Foles said. "That's definitely something I took from the last game and I'll move forward with."

Lane Johnson using underdog status to raise money for Philly schools


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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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."