Finding a rhythm on Sunday will be crucial for Eagles QB Nick Foles, who faces his toughest test yet

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Since taking over for Carson Wentz after an ACL injury over a month ago, quarterback Nick Foles has been the topic of discussion heading into the playoffs. Would he be able to play mistake-free? Can he make the plays when needed to win the game? After a solid performance and a comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons, it seems less and less people are talking about the Eagles quarterback.

Foles’ performance could be categorized as better than solid, joining the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and others as quarterbacks to have completed playoff games this season with a 100 or better passer rating.

The six-year veteran proved against the Falcons that getting into a rhythm is vital to his and the Eagles’ success. In the NFC Championship Game on Sunday evening, Foles will face his toughest test yet.

The Minnesota Viking boast the league’s third-best percentage in forcing opposing teams to have three-and-out drives. Of 174 opponent drives in 2017, 51, or 29.3 percent, have resulted in three-and-outs. To avoid falling into this trap, Foles will need to find a rhythm like he did against the Falcons.

In two key drives, the former draftee of the Eagles completed five and six consecutive passes. On the Eagles go-ahead field goal drive in the third quarter, Foles completed five consecutive passes for 70 yards. On the fourth quarter field goal drive in which the Eagles forced Atlanta to need a touchdown to take the lead, the 28-year old completed six consecutive passes for 67 yards. Those two second-half drives were the difference in the game.

Number nine understands the importance of finding that same rhythm too.

“There’s four teams left,” Foles told the media this week. “But that’s where just getting into the rhythm of your preparation and trusting that and eliminating distractions, whatever they may be, that pull you from your focus during the week…And the more you can just stay in the moment of preparing, doing what you have to do to get ready for Sunday’s game, when you step on the field, it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere, but that will allow you to play at your best.”

One of the biggest reasons for Foles success as of late has been head coach Doug Pederson’s game-planning. Pederson has put together a plan to keep the defense on its heels and allow Foles to make decisions for himself. Having over a month to work together, Foles’ and Pederson’s chemistry is better every week.

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“When Coach Pederson calls it in,” said Foles, “I know what he’s thinking, why he’s thinking it and that’s a good thing. That’s just with the experience you get, the more you play for a coach, the more you understand what they are thinking when they call a play. And the more you see them install the plays in meetings and then you’re able to run them in practice and talk to them about what he sees, what you see. It’s just like anything, you build that relationship. So, each week we get stronger.”

That trend will need to continue into the NFC Championship Game and again, Foles will need to have his best game of the season. The Vikings play a different style of defense in the secondary than the Falcons did.

“We are going to have be able to take some shots,” said Foles. “Against Atlanta, they played a different coverage where they tried to keep everything in front of them. Minnesota does a really good job. They are a little bit more diverse in their coverages. They like to switch it up. They do a good job of rocking and rolling the safeties, and they play a lot tighter down. They are not going to give us as much underneath, so yeah, we are absolutely going to have make some larger completions.”

The short and intermediate passes have been the bread and butter of the Eagles offense that is predicated on the run-pass option. Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and Foles will need to get creative to install an offense that not only can beat the Vikings defense but also one that can allow Foles to get into a rhythm and have a successful game.

There is no doubt that Sunday’s matchup will be a low-scoring affair. Every play will count.

Follow Brenden on Twitter @BrendenP_NFL.

 

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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