Nick Foles, Eagles' receivers have 'big left hook' working

AP Images

Nick Foles, Eagles' receivers have 'big left hook' working

Nick Foles went into Sunday's game against the Vikings having completed one pass of 40 yards or more in his last 361 pass attempts over three seasons for three different teams.

The Vikings went into the game having allowed only five 40-yard completions all year.

So naturally, Foles became the first quarterback since Joe Flacco against the Colts in 2013 to hit three 40-yard pass plays in a postseason game.

One of the biggest reasons the Eagles reached Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis is Foles' ability to beat the Vikings deep. Something no other quarterback had done this year.

“Those are game-changers in the sense of momentum change," Foles said. "Any big explosive play just ignites the sideline, ignites the fan base, ignites everyone. So anytime you can get that, that’s huge. 

"Methodically driving 80 down the field yards is great too, but anytime you get an explosive play like that, it’s really big. We haven’t had many of those the last couple weeks just because of the defenses we’ve played, and a lot of it was underneath, but it was great to get some over the top."

In the span of 13½ minutes over the second and third quarters Sunday, Foles threw a 53-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery, a 36-yarder to Zach Ertz to set up a field goal just before halftime, a 41-yard TD on a flea flicker to Torrey Smith and a 42-yarder to Nelson Agholor to set up another touchdown.

In those 13½ minutes, the Eagles turned a 14-7 lead over the Vikings into a 38-7 lead.

And that was that.

Then it was just a matter of booking flights to Minneapolis.

"Everybody knows that Nick is a good deep ball thrower," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He can make all the throws, but he's a very good deep ball thrower. 

"We said it right from the very start. He's not afraid to throw it. He wants to throw it. But what he's demonstrated in the last few games is that, hey, we can dink and dunk, we can throw it deep, take your shots."

When you think about it, it's not surprising that until Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Foles didn't have a completion longer than 32 yards since replacing Carson Wentz and didn't have a completion to a wide receiver longer than 25 yards.

Foles missed all of training camp, thanks to an elbow injury. He didn't play in the preseason. He had never played a meaningful snap with Jeffery, Agholor and Smith. And he never got reps with the first offense until after Wentz got hurt.

Deep balls take the most timing and chemistry, so it makes sense that they were the last thing to materialize for Foles, now six games into his stint leading the Eagles.

"The fact that he's had a chance to work with our guys now for the past month, there's a lot more confidence there," Doug Pederson said. 

"They're on the same page. The run game obviously helps. Some of the play-action stuff we've done helps him. Listen, that's who Nick is. Just having time now with the offense has been able to open up some of those opportunities down the field."

Why is this so important?

Big plays win games. It's no coincidence that 24 of the Eagles' 31 offensive points Sunday night came on drives that included a deep ball.

"Again, it's the analogy we've used of boxing," Reich said. "It's jab, jab, jab, then throw the big left hook. And it's how do you know when to throw that? When do you have him set up?"

The 53-yarder to Jeffery couldn't have happened a month ago. 

It was a classic scramble drill, with the offensive line giving Foles time after the play broke down and Jeffery just finding an opening in the defense.

This was a play that doesn't exist in any playbook. It was just the product of chemistry developed over the past few weeks.

"That was just Foles standing in the pocket and Alshon being a football player and knowing that no one was back there," Smith said.

"That was huge by them and that was a key play for us. But Nick has been on fire the past few weeks throwing the ball deep in practice, so it was no surprise.”

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week. 

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday, so he’s going to miss the Giants game. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. So he’s going to miss his fourth straight game. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles vs. Giants 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

Eagles vs. Giants 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

The Eagles (5-7) are hosting the New York Giants (2-10) at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night. 

Here’s everything you need to know: 

• 6:30 p.m.: Eagles Pregame Live on NBCSP 
• 8:15 p.m.: Eagles vs. Giants on ESPN 
• 11:30 p.m.: Eagles Postgame Live on NBCSP 
• 1 a.m.: Birds Outsiders on NBCSP 

The ESPN broadcast crew for this game is Joe Tessitore (play by play), Booger McFarland (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline). 

Merrill Reese, Mike Quick and Howard Eskin will have the call on 94WIP. 

The Eagles opened as 8.5-9.5 favorites over the Giants. They were 7.5-point favorites on the road last week against the Dolphins and lost. 

The referee for Eagles-Giants is Scott Novak. For the second straight week, the Eagles have pulled a first-year ref. Novak had been a side or field judge since 2014. He was the ref for the Eagles’ loss to the Vikings in Minnesota earlier this season. In that game, the Vikings were penalized four times for 30 yards, while the Eagles were penalized seven times for 49 yards. 

So you're telling me there's a chance 

No one wants to win the NFC East. With a win on Monday night, the Eagles can tie the Cowboys (6-7) for a lead in the division. According to FiveThirtyEight, if the Eagles beat the Giants, their chances to win the division would be at 47 percent. In any other season, they’d be completely out of contention but the NFC East is awful this year and it’s still wide open. 

Hello, old friend 

Rookie Daniel Jones has a high ankle sprain, so it looks like Eli Manning is going to start this game for the Giants. It’ll be his first start since he was benched early this season. The Giants’ offense will obviously change with Manning under center. We know he isn’t going to run or hold onto the ball. He’s going to get it out quickly. 

By the way, Manning’s career record right now is 116-116. 

Recent domination 

The Eagles haven’t lost to the Giants since Week 9 of the 2016 season, which means they’ve won five straight against the G-men. The Eagles are 9-1 in their last 10 games against the Giants and are 16-4 in their last 20 against them. This has been a very lopsided rivalry for a decade. 

But it is worth noting that four of those last five wins against the Giants have come by one score. Just one was a blowout. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles