The Secret to Nick Foles’ Situational Success
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There are shrinking violets and then there are those who crave the stage.
The one key metric that helps define the Eagles last-season run is the team's recent success in situational football, specifically third and fourth downs.
During the Eagles' 16-15 win over Chicago on Wild Card Weekend, which was punctuated by a fourth-down conversion in which Nick Foles hit Golden Tate for a 2-yard score on a sprint-right option, Foles ended the game 8-of-11 for 79 yards with the TD and a 122.9 passer rating on third and fourth downs against perhaps the most dynamic defense in football.
And that's actually a step back from typical Foles. Over the last four games since Foles was put back in the lineup for the injured Carson Wentz, the veteran signal caller is 38-of-46 [82.6 percent] for 431 yards and five touchdowns with a 132.9 passer rating on third and fourth downs.
In his postseason career as a whole Foles is 40-for-52 [77 percent] for 522 yards with six TDs and no interceptions for a 146.5 passer rating.
Those are almost video-game numbers and the question of Foles' success in the most high-pressure moments of these games had Doug Pederson pausing when asked what the QB possesses that makes him what he is in big spots.
"One of his strengths, as we've said, is he plays that point guard. He wants to distribute the ball and put it in his playmakers' hands," Pederson explained.
Foles took a similar path when asked about the gaudy situational numbers.
"Obviously our coaches put us in great position to execute the play versus a defense we're wanting to see but then it's on us as players being on the same page and trusting one another," Foles explained.
Trust is the key word for Foles, best evidenced by him putting the season on the shoulders of Tate in Chicago, a receiver who was added midseason and is behind Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and perhaps even Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert at times in the Eagles' offensive pecking order.
"It's everything from making sure we get the protection right, making sure everyone understands the route, recognized the coverage, adjusts their coverage to the route, I'm on the same page as the receivers," Foles said. "That's where it's relationships, communication and actually trusting one another. It will always be that way as long as I play the game. That's what I've seen. That's the key to third-and fourth-down."
Pederson added a few other layers to that.
"I'll tell you this. One of the things, we're better on first- and second-down, too, so our third-downs have been not quite as long as they were early in the season," the coach said. "That's a benefit to the whole operation. So it does make it a touch easier to complete a shorter pass or run the ball in some of those situations which we've been able to do."
It also sure helps when the triggerman isn't afraid of the stage, however.
"From Nick's standpoint, just managing that on third-down. Great communication with [C Jason] Kelce on protections. If we're going to run left and we need to run right, all that stuff has been ironed out," Pederson said. "He just manages that well. That's what he's doing."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen