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."

Lack of playing time doesn't bode well for Shelton Gibson

ap-shelton-gibson.jpg
AP Images

Lack of playing time doesn't bode well for Shelton Gibson

Since Mike Wallace went down with a fractured fibula, the Eagles are noticeably lacking an outside receiver who can stretch the field. 

On Sunday, they trotted out Kamar Aiken and Jordan Matthews to play outside receiver, while Shelton Gibson got just one offensive snap. 

One. 

The Eagles drafted Gibson in the fifth round last year, in large part, because of his speed. And, now, when the Eagles desperately need speed outside, he can’t seem to get on the field. 

Why is that? 

Here was Doug Pederson’s answer from Monday: 

Right now, we're just without getting into a lot of scheme stuff, we just felt better yesterday with some of our 12 personnel, some of our 13 personnel. Kept them in base defense. They did jump into nickel a little bit because then we were in our 12 and 13 personnel being able to run the football.

So just the way the game kind of unfolded just a little bit. Shelton is a young player that's continuing to grow and get better with the offense. We had a package of plays for him yesterday; just didn't get to him.

It just doesn’t bode well for Gibson that the Eagles are desperate enough at receiver to sign Matthews mid-week and play him 30-plus snaps and he still can’t get on the field, especially when he seems to have the one attribute the team is lacking. 

“Coaches know exactly what they’re doing with the game plan and I just let them do that,” he said. “I just go out there and practice as hard as I can.” 

So far, through three games, Gibson has played 40 offensive snaps and has been targeted twice without a catch. He does have a pretty significant role on special teams, but he didn’t even return kicks in Week 3. 

“It’s just that next man up and right now I’m not the next man up,” Gibson said Tuesday. “Whenever I am, I’m going to give them all I got.” 

Gibson had a monster preseason. He caught nine passes for 195 yards (21.7 average) and two touchdowns. He had come so far from a terrible preseason as a rookie and it looked like he was going to carry over the success into the regular season. Hasn’t happened. 

For now, Gibson is serving as a cautionary tale about getting too excited about the preseason. 

More on the Eagles

Eagles remember franchise-changing Marcus Mariota trade that never happened

usa_marcus_mariota_eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles remember franchise-changing Marcus Mariota trade that never happened

Remember when the entire City of Philadelphia thought Chip Kelly was going to find a way to trade up and draft Marcus Mariota in 2015? 

The guys in the locker room thought it was going to happen too. 

“I think all of us thought there was a good possibility,” Jordan Matthews said Tuesday. “Why wouldn’t you?”

All those old memories have come rushing back to the few guys still left (or who have returned) in the locker room this week as the Eagles gear up to face Mariota and the Titans this Sunday in Nashville. This will be Mariota’s first career game against the Eagles. 

Of course, Kelly had coached Mariota at Oregon and Mariota seemed to be the perfect quarterback for Kelly’s offense back then. But in 2015, the Eagles were coming off a 10-6 season and had the 20th pick in the draft. It wasn’t going to be easy to get from 20 to two, where Mariota was picked by the Titans. That was when Kelly was basically the GM and didn’t have the experience to make a move like that. The next offseason, Howie Roseman pulled off a similar set of moves to get the real franchise QB. 

At the time in 2015, though, everyone thought Kelly was going to get this deal done. 

This was the story on sports talk radio for months. 

Brandon Graham even began watching Mariota closer because he thought he was watching the next Eagles quarterback. 

“Yeah, because so much stuff happened before with Chip, letting go of some of the guys,” Graham said. “It’s like, I don’t put it past nothing now. So, yeah, I think he’s a really good quarterback. We just have to make sure we stop their running game.”

In March 2015, Kelly emphatically said that the Eagles would never “mortgage our future” to move up and take Mariota. In the next breath, Kelly called Mariota the best QB in the draft. 

The following offseason, long after Mariota was drafted by the Titans and after Kelly was fired by the Eagles, a report from Fox Sports detailed a trade offer from Kelly to the Titans for the No. 2 pick:  

• First- and second-round picks in 2015
• First-round pick in 2016
• Any quarterback on their roster
• Any defensive player on their roster 

“He looked good,” Graham said, remembering what he saw from Mariota. “I was just like, ‘hey if we get him, we get him. Hopefully, we don’t have to give up everything.’ But, you know, he is good, though.”

Matthews pointed out that Nick Foles and Sam Bradford each looked pretty good in Kelly’s offense and the possibility to have a quarterback who was actually a threat to run the ball would have made the offense even more dangerous. That was the thought process of many back in 2015. 

If that insane trade actually went through, it would have changed the entire trajectory of the Eagles’ franchise. The Eagles would have probably tied themselves to Kelly for longer, never drafted Nelson Agholor, Roseman doesn’t get put back in charge, Doug Pederson doesn’t get hired and Carson Wentz doesn’t get drafted to Philadelphia. 

It’s funny to look back at it now. The big trade most Eagles fans were clamoring for just a few years ago, in hindsight, could have been absolutely disastrous.  

More on the Eagles