PHILADELPHIA -- Having their backup quarterback behind center in their biggest game of the season isn’t going to change much for the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons. Coach Doug Pederson still wants to throw the ball downfield and isn’t ready to put shackles on quarterback Nick Foles despite a shaky end to his regular season.
Foles is starting in place of injured MVP candidate Carson Wentz, who tore up his knee last month. The quarterback who once threw 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions in a season for the Eagles and led them to the playoffs is going to be let loose on the Falcons.
“My message to Nick is, ‘Listen, you have a great opportunity. Just go be Nick. Go play. Let’s go execute the offense,’” coach Doug Pederson said.
That means he is going to get the opportunity to throw the football and be aggressive. This falls in line with the approach Pederson has taken with Foles ever since he took over in the fourth quarter in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Pederson had Foles throw 38 passes in the two games he played start to finish.
The Eagles seem to have complete confidence that Foles can run the offense without any major alterations. Pederson reiterated his confidence in his backup quarterback Tuesday.
If anything, it seems they want Foles to be more aggressive than they have seen so far. He’s averaged 5.32 yards per pass attempt this season. Wentz averaged 7.5 before his season was derailed by injury.
Foles, 28, averaged 9.12 yards per attempt during his magical 2013 season. The Eagles are hoping to rekindle some of that magic in the playoffs.
They’re going to take their downfield shots.
“Sure. He is playing quarterback. Opportunity is there, rip it,” Pederson said. “If it’s not, check it down. It has been the mindset all season long in the offense. We’re not going to change it.”
It’s not going to be easy to hit big passing plays against the Falcons. Atlanta allowed just four passes of 40-plus yards this season; only one team allowed fewer. The Falcons allowed 43 passes of 20 or more yards, tied for eighth in the NFL.
The outside perception is that the Eagles (13-3) are going to rely on their running game this postseason to offset their deficiency at quarterback. That may not be the case.
“As much as we and everybody else wants to run the football, you have to be able to stay aggressive in the pass game and get the ball down the field. Nick has proven that over the length and entirety of his career, he not only can get the ball downfield, he can do so very well,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “He wants to throw the ball downfield. He's aggressive in his mind-set, as aggressive a guy as I've been around. He's looking to throw it down the field. Some guys are the dink-and-dunk kind of guys. That's not Nick. Nick is aggressive.”
And the Eagles need him to just go be Nick.