Foles Plans to ‘Keep on Going’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In an effort to fill the seemingly unquenchable thirst of football fans, NFL media has come up with a convoluted measurement of the quarterbacks who remain alive in the playoffs: trustworthiness ranking.
To no one's surprise Eagles quarterback Nick Foles finished eighth in the eight-man field which includes superstars like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Foles' counterpart in Saturday's divisional-round encounter, Atlanta's Matt Ryan. The group also contains the untested, however, like Case Keenum, Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota, with the latter two's seemingly only redeeming quality in the wild-card round being their legs.
The disrespect of Foles has trickled down to the rest of the 13-3 Eagles with Philadelphia being the first No. 1 seed labeled as an underdog in the current playoff format even though the Falcons are the sixth seed.
“It just puts a bigger chip on our shoulder and just adds fuel to the fire, and that’s what this team, obviously, has been going off of all year,” star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said earlier this week. “People doubting us every week. So we just want to go out and shut those doubters up.”
Coach Doug Pederson, meanwhile, let it slip how he feels at his Tuesday press conference.
"We [have] a great opportunity. Back's against the wall," Pederson said. "Let's come out swinging and see what happens."
Linebacker Nigel Bradham even confirmed that signs are posted all around the Novacare Complex to let the Eagles know they are home underdogs this weekend.
Foles is not insulated from the talk but he admitted Wednesday that there are plenty of voicemails and text messages going unreturned this week as he tries to focus on the task at hand and halt his five-quarter, end-of-season slump.
“I haven’t executed as well as I wanted to the past couple of weeks," the veteran admitted. "But, I go out there and play and having this time to self-scout, go through practice, you realize just go out there and play. “Maybe I wasn’t doing that as much those last couple of games. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes, the hardest things are the simplest things. Basically, get out of your own head and go play the game you know how to play.”
Pederson had a similar message to Foles.
“We have a great opportunity," the coach said. "Let’s go be Nick. Let’s go play. Let’s go execute the offense.”
What exactly is being Nick, though?
“It’s just going out there and playing and staying in the zone and trusting my instincts,” Foles explained. “I’ve played this game a long time. There’s a reason I’ve been able to do what I’ve been able to do."
For fans and even the media, a bye week can foster a paralysis by analysis type of environment where is the slightest thing can be blown out of proportion.
For Foles, it was an opportunity to finally decompress a bit after the whirlwind of taking over for Carson Wentz before starting preparation for the Falcons.
"I think sometimes the outside, whether it be the media, the fans, can make it bigger than it really is," Pederson said of the playoff environment. "When you boil it down, it's football at the end of the day. It's football at the end of the day. Just go do your job. Do what you've been coached to do all week long and give it your best effort on Saturday. If it's good enough, great. If it's not, then we focus on next season."
For the Eagles to get to next week instead of next season, Foles will have to carry his own water. That's not to say he needs to be Wentz but he does have to be the competent starter who is 3-0 during his career against the Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn Cover-3 philosophy.
“Doesn’t matter how pretty it is, just want to get to the W,” Foles said. “That’s it. Doesn’t matter how you get it. Just get the W and keep on going.”
WEDNESDAY NOVACARE NOTES:
-The Eagles again practiced indoors Wednesday even though the temperature reached into the 40s. Head coach Doug Pederson said he hoped to get outside at least once this week but the recent snow and ice has wreaked havoc on the NovaCare practice fields. Thursday, the temperature is forecasted to be near 50.
-Starting middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe returned to practice as expected after missing Tuesday's session with a hamstring problem. Ellerbe was listed as limited but is on track to play Saturday. Also added to the injury list after tweaking his hamstring was rookie cornerback Sidney Jones.
Jones, of course, made his NFL debut in Week 17 after a long and arduous rehab from the torn Achilles suffered at his pro day in March. It certainly seemed to be trending that the talented Jones would dress against the Falcons, probably in place of fellow rookie Rasul Douglas, but this could change that.
Listed as full participants were running back Jay Ajayi (knee), defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle), cornerback Jalen Mills (ankle), left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee).
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen