Vikings Plan to Make Foles Beat Them
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - "Go be Nick."
That's what Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday when asked what his message would be to his starting quarterback before Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.
That doesn't mean 27-and-2 Nick Foles or seven-touchdown Foles. It also doesn't mean the Foles who contemplated retirement after losing his job to current Vikings starter Case Keenum or the guy who struggled so mightily in the final five quarters of the regular season it created the underdog narrative for the No. 1 seed that the city of Philadelphia has embraced.
"Being Nick" means the clean QB1 who showed up for the divisional round against Atlanta and helped lead the Eagles to a 15-10 win with a solid if unspectacular 23-of-30 passing performance for 246 yards.
“Feed off of last week, obviously, but it’s a different set of challenges, a different team," Pederson said. "You don’t have to force anything. Let the offense work for you.”
Scheme is big because the Vikings aren't exactly being shy about their plan coming in. If Minnesota is looking up at the Eagles on the scoreboard on Sunday night, its goal is to make sure Foles beat them.
“They have a good offense, a good running game. We have to go in and stop the running game to make them one-dimensional,” second-team All-Pro defensive end Everson Griffen said earlier this week. “We’ve got to make Nick Foles win the game."
The Vikings, of course, have the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL as well as the top scoring defense and best third-down defense. The unit sits No. 2 vs. both the run and the pass so it can generally accomplish its first goal in any game.
Against New Orleans in the divisional round that meant stopping the Saints' dynamic RB duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. From there Drew Brees was able to make some brilliant throws in the second half to put NOLA on the precipice of victory until the "Minnesota Miracle" saved the Vikings season.
Like Brees, Foles is from Austin, Texas and Foles actually broke all of the future Hall of Famer's passing record at Westlake High School but there isn't much of a comparison at this level.
Brees is a superstar and Foles is the guy who turned Philadelphia from significant favorite in this game if Carson Wentz was under center to the underdog that is the favorite of those peddling creepy German Shepherd masks.
“The biggest thing with Nick Foles is you’ve got to get around him," Griffen said. "You’ve got to affect him and make him be a little hesitant in the pocket. With no pressure, he has a very good passer rating but when he’s getting hit, it comes down a lot. We have to get to him in different ways, but we have to stop the run first to get to him.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen