The Birds will take on an NFC Wild Card winner at The Linc on Saturday, Jan. 13
By Al Thompson
It may be time for Eagles fans to pump the brakes on what appears to be a down-trending attitude toward Eagles starting quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles has played nine meaningful quarters of football since he took over for MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who tore the ACL of his left knee in the third quarter of the Birds’ 43–35 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
In those nine quarters, Foles has produced 11 scoring drives, five ended in touchdown passes, six ended in field goals.
The first nine quarters for Wentz in 2017 went like this: Five touchdown passes and five field goal drives.
Obviously you can’t compare the overall talent and ability of Wentz with Foles. The point is Foles has been and should continue to be productive this postseason.
In his one playoff appearance for the Eagles in January 2014 against the New Orleans Saints, Foles threw two touchdown passes and had no interceptions.
He handed the Eagles defense and special teams a 24–23 lead with 4:54 left in the game. Foles never got his hands on the ball again. A special teams meltdown doomed the Eagles to a 26–24 loss.
On Sunday, no one expected a result.
The Eagles deactivated running back Jay Ajayi, defensive ends Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham, linebacker Nigel Bradham, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and defensive backs Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills.
The rest of the starters played a quarter at most except running back LeGarrette Blount who reportedly had a contract incentive for $300,000 if he rushed for 750 yards on the season.
Blount needed 21 yards coming into the game to secure the bonus. He got it in the second quarter against the Cowboys on a four-yard run. He finished with 37 yards on nine carries.
The Eagles lost the game 6–0 and finished the regular season 13–3, far better than anyone expected.
Foles played just the first quarter in near zero-degree wind-chill weather and was 4 of 11 for 39 yards. He wasn’t sacked but threw a bad interception to his deep right meant for Alshon Jeffery.
After the game, Foles talked about his confidence after these last two games.
“I feel great. Honestly I feel great,” he said. “I know I can still go out there. I know what I can do. Sports are crazy at times. You don’t always play 100 percent of what you want to do, but you keeping trucking along. You keep working and I feel great. I feel really confident. I know the guys are confident in me. I’ve played with a lot of these guys. I’ve played with a lot of these coaches and I’m excited to get to work, get ready for the playoffs and keep this thing rolling. And we’re playing in [Lincoln Financial Field], so I’m really excited about that.”
Foles also talked about why he has reason to be confident going into the playoffs.
“I’d say because I’ve played a lot of football,” he said. “I know who I am as a player and I also know that throughout my career and my life, I haven’t always played great games. I’ve been in games where execution hasn’t gone like we wanted it to. And the key is you remain confident because you know who you are. You know that you’re going to prepare every day to do everything to the best of your ability. It’s not like we go out there and say, ‘hey we’re not going to play to the best of our ability today.’ We went out there and played as hard as we could. We didn’t execute, but that’s stuff that we can fix because I know every single guy in that offensive huddle and on this team gives everything they have. That’s something that you can’t just teach. That’s something that’s within and we have that. The 13–3 — that’s because of that. Guys believe and they give everything they have. So that’s how I’m confident because I’m confident in myself and I’m confident in my teammates because I know what we’re capable of doing and that’s great things.”
Nate Sudfeld played the rest of the way. He didn’t score but was a respectable 19 of 23 for 139 yards. He didn’t thrown an interception but was sacked three times.
Sudfeld got the crowd energized with a 22-yard run in the third quarter for a first down.
Sudfeld said he felt good about his effort.
“I feel more confident in my game than ever,” Sudfeld said. “I’m excited to keep going on this journey with these guys.”
The Cowboys played all their starters the entire game and were held scoreless through three quarters. Dallas managed just six points on a 19-yard touchdown catch by Brice Butler with 12:19 left in the fourth quarter. The extra point was no good.
Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey also missed a 23-yard field goal attempt with 16 seconds left in the game.
Sean Lee, who played college football at Penn State where the weather is pretty similar to what the players, coaches and fans experienced on Sunday, said he thought playing in the extreme cold was just fine.
“It’s weather where, the more you play, as you go on, the more you warm up,” Lee said at his locker after the game. He then started to laugh “I’m not going to lie, after being in Dallas for the last seven years, it is a little bit harder to get used to. The blood has thinned out a little bit when you first get out there and like anything else, you get used to it. A lot of times it’s fun to have that type of weather, it’s good football weather.”
Ezekiel Elliott was told of Lee’s comment about playing in the bitter cold being fun and was asked if he thought it was fun.
“No,” Elliott said at his locker after the game. “Not at all.”
Elliott finished with 103 yards on 27 carries (3.8 yards per carry) and no trips to the end zone. Elliott, who was playing in his second game since serving a six-game suspension, caught three passes for 38 yards.
Elliott seemed to forget he was playing against mostly backups and Dallas scored just six points.
Elliott was asked about getting over the 100-yard rushing mark against the NFL’s top ranked defense against the run.
“It definitely was tough,” Elliott said. “It was just one of those days when it was slow and you had to fight for those yards.”
Eagles defensive end Chris Long said he liked playing in the cold and appreciated the fans who made it out to the stadium.
“It was chilly, but it was fun,” Long said. “It was fun to see our fans out there in the cold … at least we were running around. Those guys were out their with their beers and whatnot. It looked like they were having fun. They’ve been kind of their backbone all year, that energy they bring and that will continue here in a few weeks. That’s what makes this place fun to play at home.”
Long said playing backups and playing so well defensively would pay dividends in the playoffs.
“It’s important,” Long said. “You’ve got to have everybody at their best in the next two weeks. Dallas, they played their studs all the way through the fourth. So that was good for those guys to be in there. And a lot of those guys held their own. They did a really good job.”
Sudfeld was asked if he put his coaches, teammates and Eagles fans at ease that he could fill in if it ever came to that.
“I put myself at ease since I’ve been putting in my work in with my coaches and my teammates,” Sudfeld said. “It’s up to them if they feel at ease. I am really confident at what we can do and I’ll do my job if I’m asked.”