Foles ‘Calms the Storm’ for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles need to win out and get some help elsewhere to make the postseason just as the team has been forced to move to its backup quarterback after a "stress injury" to Carson Wentz's back.
That's a recipe for disaster in most NFL cities but in Philadelphia there is an almost eerie calm surrounding the NovaCare Complex.
Heck, for the second consecutive week Doug Pederson has even scaled back the practice schedule, giving the players Tuesday off for the second consecutive week and turning Wednesday -- typically the most important session in any NFL week -- into a walkthrough due to two consecutive lengthy road trips and the workload the defense saw it games at Dallas and at Los Angeles.
"It's coming from me," the coach said of the schedule. "We think about -- go back two weeks ago against the Cowboys, the defense was on the field for 95-plus plays, long road trip. Had another long road trip coming back from L.A., got back early Monday morning. For me, I need to make sure our guys are as fresh as they can be this time of the year going into the game.
"I just wanted to make sure that we have more of the mental preparation down today. That's why I backed off just a little bit and we'll do two extended, longer walk-throughs than we've done in the past. We can still get a lot of work done. We'll still have our meeting schedule and all that. Still, want to make sure our guys are fresh for Sunday."
It seems almost counterintuitive to scale back physical preparation, however, just as you have inserted the backup at the game's most important position.
Foles, though, is no ordinary backup, the reigning Super Bowl MVP who has 46 NFL starts under his belt and is a gaudy 21-7 in his last 28 starts in an Eagles' uniform.
"Nick has a real unique ability to really kind of calm the storm, kind of get through the first series or two of the game, see how the defense is playing and then he can begin to attack as the game progresses," Pederson said.
A long-time backup himself during his playing days Pederson explained that emotion is the part of the equation that makes coming off the bench so difficult.
"The adrenaline obviously hits you first," the coach said. "Your juices are flowing. You're pretty excited and got that butterfly feeling in your stomach and it's a unique feeling for anybody that's felt that. It's a unique feeling. And of course, once the ball is kicked off and snapped and you're out there, your ability I think as a backup to try to slow the game down, is crucial. If you rush your drops; if you get through your progressions too fast, the game's too fast."
And nothing is going to be too fast for the guy who outdueled Tom Brady on the biggest stage of them all.
"I think as a backup quarterback -- and it's hard to simulate those things in practice during the week, as much as you try to. This is where a guy like Nick, being a veteran guy, who has played a ton of games, can really just kind of calm things down for himself and really kind of process the game in his head during the week," Pederson said. "That's what a backup quarterback has to do. You kind of have to play out the scenarios during the week without all the emotion. Then you throw the emotion on top of it and that's where it's tough."
Tough for most but not for Foles, whose talent for winning football games has almost created a civil way between Eagles diehards -- the so-called Foles-ian Society vs. the Wentz Wagon.
For Pederson, though, he is secure in his marriage to Wentz for the long haul and grateful to have the best backup in the NFL for a must-win game on Sunday.
"He just wants to win," Pederson said of Foles. "He doesn't care about credit and all that. He wants to win, and he's helped us do that here."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen