Since return, Nick Foles making quality decisions

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Since return, Nick Foles making quality decisions

Eagles Extra: Team is firing on all cylinders

November 13, 2013, 7:00 am
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Nick Foles threw for 228 yards, three touchdowns and had a 149.3 quarterback rating against the Packers. (AP)

The Eagles have a simplified process for their quarterbacks, an over-generalized approach that can be applied to any passing play. It goes like this: Touchdown, first down, get down.

That’s what Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur tell all their quarterbacks: Touchdown, first down, get down. It’s about decision making -- and Nick Foles is making some excellent decisions lately.

The idea -- again, a hyper-distilled guideline for a hyper-complicated offense -- is to look to score first, whether it’s a big play or something shorter in the red zone. If that’s not there, the quarterback should look to find a first down. And if the first two options are shot, they want the quarterback to simply take what’s available or hold the ball and continue the drive -- the football equivalent of living to fight on the next down. In total, it’s about maximizing opportunities while minimizing mistakes.

That’s precisely what Foles has done since returning from the concussion he suffered in the Dallas game. Before he was injured against the Cowboys, Foles had the worst start of his career in both stats and decision making, completing just 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards and an unsightly 46.2 quarterback rating.

But in the two games since being cleared to play again, Foles has been better than anyone could have anticipated. Foles threw for over 400 yards and tied an NFL record with seven touchdowns against the Raiders, then had his gear from the game enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Canton (see story). Foles followed that up by throwing for 228 yards, three touchdowns and a 149.3 quarterback rating against the Packers last weekend. It was the best QB rating ever by a visiting signal caller in Lambeau Field.

“I feel more and more comfortable,” Foles said. “I think the big thing, going from college to the NFL is adapting to the speed of the game, adapting to terminology of everything that happens. These guys that we go against every week are pretty darn good athletes. The windows are a lot tighter. The windows that were there in college aren’t really there in the pros. You really have to do a lot of stuff with your eyes and your body to open everything up. It’s an ongoing process of working on all those things that help open up routes and stay on time and deliver the ball.”

Foles has excelled in those areas in the last two weeks. According to resident researcher Reuben Frank, he’s the first quarterback in NFL history to record a QB rating of 149 or better in consecutive games (see story). And he's just the second quarterback ever to start a season by throwing 16 touchdown passes before throwing a pick. Peyton Manning was the first.

“Nick did a good job [against the Packers],” Shurmur said. “There were a couple of plays where he pulled [the ball down] and got conversions on third down, which is good. Nick is willing to do that. He’s smart. He makes good decisions. Nick’s a good decision maker in the pass and the run game. That points to why he has many touchdowns and [no] interceptions.”

Like the rest of the Eagles, Foles hasn’t performed well at Lincoln Financial Field this season. Excluding the Chargers game (he threw one pass against San Diego while Michael Vick was briefly out and being checked for an injury), he’s only started once at home. That was against Dallas. The road has been much friendlier to Foles. He has a 146.9 quarterback rating away from Philly this season.

It’s a small home sample size, but Foles is aware that the good decisions he’s made on the road need to be made at home on Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He has five career interceptions (none this season), three of which have come against Washington.

“I made some mistakes, some [bad decisions] with some throws,” Foles said about his history against Washington. “It didn’t turn out so good. You just have to bounce back from those situations. When I go out there, I’m not trying to throw interceptions. I’m trying to throw touchdowns. Sometimes, there’s going to be some tight windows that you have to fit it in. But, really, it’s just trying to be smart with the ball. If I feel like it’s not there, it’s alright to check it down and get five, 10 yards. That’s a great play. Then you can come back to it and move forward instead of putting the ball at risk.”

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