The NFC Championship game is rapidly approaching and the hype surrounding the matchup of Case Keenum vs Nick Foles is growing by the day. The pair have have endured a rollercoaster path so far that will be set to culminate in the highest rise or the steepest fall. Foles comes into this game suitably prepared, but will that be enough to overthrow Minnesota’s Defense?
Last week’s stunning win over Atlanta saw a progressional curve for Foles. There were understandably doubts coming into the matchup. The veteran quarterback was coming off of a few disappointing outings where accuracy, consistency and an ability to move the chains all seemed to evade him. A week behind the scenes to gel with the team during practice and an opening quarter of playoff jitters passed by and Foles caught fire.
Completing 23/30 passes for 246 yards may not seem like a grand day out, but against an unforgiving Atlanta defense that were licking their lips at a chance to seal the deal, Foles avoided turnovers and found a way to sustain drives. In fact, his production went beyond that in a way that fits his career perfectly.
Foles has produced a 100+ passer rating in each of his first 2 career playoff games, with the first one coming in 2013 against the Saints. The only other Eagles QB with a 100+ passer rating in back-to-back postseason contests was Donovan McNabb during the 2004 playoffs. It’s an astounding feat to say the very least and if the Eagles continue to keep the offense simple, Foles could be dangerous at the very least.
The advantage here? There’s no hugely emotional week following a miracle scenario. There’s no travel. There’s a full week of practice at home with the team. A week of practice in which Foles has reportedly look as good as he ever has.
“I think something that got lost in the shuffle is that Nick never had a training camp.” Zach Ertz told reporters earlier this week. He was hurt pretty much the whole preseason. He didn’t play a preseason game. He was here in the offseason during the OTAs but the focus from our perspective was getting on the same page with Carson [Wentz]. So we were never able to get those reps with Nick and so finally when Carson went down, the focus was kind of jamming everything into getting on the same page with Nick and it’s not easy to do that, especially when defensive schemes are changing each and every week.”
The extra bye for the Eagles prior to last week’s win was hugely valuable for Foles, who had a real opportunity to gel with the wideouts he had not yet had a chance to click with.
“We had two very, very intense practices.” Ertz continued. “Today as you guys saw, today we were in full pads again for that same reason to just make sure that we’re on the same page with Nick. It’s obviously developed a lot. Last week in the and the second half was huge for our offense. I thought we were able to execute extremely well. I thought Nick played great in the second half, and as an offense, we were kind of rolling.”
Minnesota will understandably aim to make life difficult for Nick Foles, but with a balanced run game that looks to split the pass/rush ratio 50/50 and the inclusion of the RPO’s that Foles was so lethal in executing during that incredible 2013 campaign under Chip Kelly, the Eagles offense could well be set for a breakout. The value of the run-pass option has been spoken about constantly throughout the course of the season but for this game in particular, they fit the Eagles offensive mold perfectly.
“Now it’s been a part of the offense that I’ve been associated with for the last five or six years.” Pederson said. “So it’s going to continue to develop. It kind of goes hand in hand with your quick passing game a little bit. Ball is out of the quarterback’s hands and it’s a way that you don’t have to block everybody, quite honestly.”
Getting the ball out quick? That sounds like one sure-fire way to avoid a tenacious Vikings pass rush. With a full week to prepare and a string of impressive practices, Foles seems dialed in and ready to roll. There’s no miracle mentality here. Just the DNA that runs through the team so prominently that has guided them to this point. One game at a time.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports