Nate Sudfeld

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."

Would Doug Pederson really consider benching Nick Foles?

Would Doug Pederson really consider benching Nick Foles?

Would Doug Pederson consider benching Nick Foles during a playoff game if Foles continues to struggle?

It's hard to imagine, but Pederson wouldn't rule it out.

"It's hard to say right now until I'm in that situation, quite honestly," Pederson said Tuesday. "It's a one-game season and it's hard to be in desperation mode. But if you're in that mode, who knows?"

Foles threw four touchdown passes against the Giants at the Meadowlands in his first start after replacing injured Carson Wentz, but in the equivalent of five quarters against the Raiders and Cowboys, he's generated just one touchdown on 18 drives, and those drives have averaged just 15 yards apiece.

The only other quarterback on the roster is Nate Sudfeld, who completed 19 of 23 passes against the Cowboys in his NFL debut Sunday but for only 134 yards. Neither quarterback completed a pass longer than 16 yards in the season-ending loss to Dallas.

The last time an Eagles quarterback was benched because of his performance in a playoff game was Ty Detmer in the 1996 wild-card game against the 49ers at Candlestick Park.

Detmer completed 14 of 21 passes for 148 yards but threw two red-zone interceptions in a game the Eagles went on to lose 14-0. Head coach Ray Rhodes replaced Detmer late in the third quarter with veteran Mark Rypien — who had won a Super Bowl five years earlier with the Redskins. Rypien finished the game, going 5 for 12 for 77 yards and an interception and failing to generate any points.

In the 2003 NFC Championship Game, Andy Reid turned to Koy Detmer — Ty's younger brother — with the Eagles trailing the Panthers 14-3 at the Linc, but that had more to do with Donovan McNabb being unable to function after suffering torn rib cartilage earlier in the game than his three interceptions. Detmer went 7 for 14 for 88 yards and an interception, and the Eagles lost 14-3.

In a 1990 wild-card game at the Vet, with the Eagles trailing the Redskins 13-6, head coach Buddy Ryan benched a struggling Randall Cunningham for a series in the third quarter for Jim McMahon, who had won a Super Bowl with the Bears five years earlier.

But McMahon went 0 for 3 and Cunningham returned and finished the game, which the Redskins won 20-6 — with Rypien at quarterback. Ryan was fired the next day.

The Eagles will open the playoffs in the conference semifinal round at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 13 against the Saints, Panthers or Falcons.

Pederson emphasized that the Eagles' recent struggles aren't solely about Foles.

"I do know this," he said. "It's not about one guy. It's about 11 guys on offense, defense and special teams. A lot of contributing factors go into winning a game."

Pederson laughed when asked if he's spent any time since the Dallas game thinking about changing quarterbacks.

"No," he said. "I was thinking about New Year's and having a good time with my family."

Doug Pederson looks to past to help Nick Foles

Doug Pederson looks to past to help Nick Foles

Doug Pederson actually laughed at the question. Yes, Nick Foles is still his starting quarterback.

The fact that it was a legitimate question during the Eagles' bye week before the divisional round speaks to how poorly Foles has played in the last couple of games. It will be hard for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl if he doesn't play better.

Foles is the guy, so this week is about self-scouting and tailoring the offense to him. The Eagles have to give him the best possible chance to succeed.

Back in early December, when Carson Wentz tore his ACL, Pederson claimed the offense wouldn't need to change much with Foles (see story). But now, as the Eagles are preparing for their first playoff game in less than two weeks, the head coach is going back to see what has worked for Foles before.

"Just taking a look at what his strengths are," Pederson said. "Strengths and weaknesses and making sure we're ... everything at this time of year becomes magnified even more now that you're going into the postseason. We've got to make sure that we're doing our due diligence as a staff to put our guys in successful positions."

The Eagles will start their playoff run on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 4:35 p.m. against the Saints, Panthers or Falcons. They have until then to figure out their offense with Foles at the helm.

During that magical 2013 season, Foles thrived in Chip Kelly's offense, which included a lot of one-read and quick throws. It also included an uptempo pace, which has seemingly given him a kickstart in Pederson's offense this year. Pederson made sure to note that the Eagles used it with Wentz at times this season too.

Pederson has gone back to watch tape of Foles from that wild 2013 season, including the 26-24 playoff loss to New Orleans. He actually watched that game on Tuesday morning before his press conference.

"I saw a guy that stood in there, took some shots in that game, delivered some great throws in that game and led the team back to the go-ahead touchdown late in the game," Pederson said. "That's the type of quarterback that we have."

He also went back and watched Foles from 2012 when Andy Reid was still coach. He even watched tape from when Foles was in St. Louis in 2015.

Pederson watched everything he could of Foles because that's his quarterback for the rest of this playoff run. He wants to make him as comfortable as possible.

"The little play-action pass, the shotgun stuff, those are all things that are in our system and we might just have to dust a few more off and get that ready to go," Pederson said. "That's kind of what this week is for, to get some of those ideas and thoughts down on paper and execute them this week at practice."