The Eagles were down 35-31. Nick Foles was in at quarterback. You would think Doug Pederson might have tried to run the ball or call a conservative play. Instead, Pederson had the Eagles line up in an empty set and called a pass play. Foles bobbled the snap, but then secured it and ran for 9 yards.
Pederson wasn't interested in playing it safe. He wanted to win.
That was the right message to send to his team and the rest of the NFL. Yes, Carson Wentz is done for the year. The Eagles aren't. They also aren't going to be conservative. You won't see them running the ball, avoiding turnovers, and hoping for the best. Pederson is going to give Foles a chance to lead the offense.
This is a unique situation. Foles is the backup quarterback, but he's four years removed from one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. He posted one of the highest passer ratings ever and was the MVP of the Pro Bowl. It would be one thing if Foles was a descending player in the twilight of his career. He's 28 years old. He's in his prime.
Backup quarterbacks usually fit into one of three categories. There is the young player who is being developed for the future. Think of Kevin Kolb in 2007-09. There is the former starter who is declining due to his age and the beating he's taken over the years. He just isn't as good as he used to be. That was Jim McMahon back in 1991 and '92. The other category would be the scrappy veteran who knows the system. Think of Koy Detmer and Chase Daniel for that.
Foles doesn't fall into any of those categories. He could easily be starting for multiple teams in the league. The Eagles are lucky that Foles was available to be the backup. I know players and coaches loved Chase Daniel last year, but I couldn't imagine if he was getting ready to take over this team right now. Daniel has very little game experience, two starts. Foles has won big games and even started in the postseason. If you have to lose your starter, Foles is the kind of guy you want out there.
The Eagles are going to miss Wentz. He was an MVP candidate for a reason. However, this is a team. Wentz wasn't everything. Just look at Sunday's opponent and you see the importance of the whole team. The Giants have a veteran quarterback who has won two Super Bowls and played in multiple Pro Bowls. The Giants are 2-11 because they have an awful offensive line, limited weapons, and a porous defense. The Eagles have a good offensive line, proficient weapons, and a stout defense. Manning has the far better résumé. Foles has the far better team.
Sunday is going to be really interesting. I think the offensive game plan will actually be pretty similar to what Pederson would put together for Wentz. The difference will be in the execution. Foles isn't going to be nearly as much of a playmaker as Wentz was. When things broke down, Wentz had some magic. Foles will be much more likely to dump the ball off to a back. He won't be bouncing off tacklers and then throwing a downfield strike to Nelson Agholor for a 58-yard touchdown.
Foles isn't as gifted, but he can be better than Wentz in some areas. Foles might make better reads. He might make quicker decisions. Experience helps a quarterback to see things quicker and clearer. I wonder if Foles can improve the downfield passing game. Deep accuracy has been an issue for Wentz so far in his career. Foles isn't a great downfield passer, but he might prove to be better than Wentz.
The big area of concern for me heading into the game is pressure. Steve Spagnuolo is a veteran coach and he loves to blitz. He also will move defensive linemen around, looking for favorable matchups.
Stefen Wisniewski has had a good season at left guard, but he's dealing with an ankle injury right now. He sat out more than half the game last week. If Isaac Seumalo or Chance Warmack is at left guard, you know the Giants will attack that spot.
Wentz played well under pressure this year. Foles struggled last week. Aaron Donald got the best of Seumalo in the fourth quarter and the Rams blitzed aggressively. Foles didn't have much time and he wasn't effective when the pressure got to him. The Eagles must block better this week.
Don't make too much of what you saw from Foles last Sunday. He had little practice time going into that game. There wasn't much chemistry with the receivers. Timing was an issue. You aren't going to solve all of the timing and chemistry issues in one week of practice, but it can make a difference.
There is no question that Foles will need help. He needs receivers to make plays. He needs the big guys up front to give him time. He also needs some help from the running game.
The Giants are 31st in run defense. The Eagles ran for 193 yards against them back in September. This would be a good week for Pederson to call a lot of runs and see if LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement can just overwhelm the Big Blue defense.
Don't expect the Giants to just lay down. They lost 30-10 last week, but that was a 10-10 game with eight minutes left. Things got away from them and Dallas started making big plays. The Giants played hard. They really wanted to win that game. They may see Sunday's game as their Super Bowl, a chance to upset the high-flying Eagles.
New York's offense is a mess right now. It has only scored 21 points once in the last seven games. It has scored 12 or fewer points in three of the last four games. Jim Schwartz needs his defense to bounce back from last week's erratic performance. The Eagles' defense needs to play well for 60 minutes, not just the fourth quarter.
The Giants' offensive line is missing multiple starters and wasn't great even when those guys were healthy. In the previous meeting, Manning got rid of the ball as quickly as he could for most of the game. That negated the Eagles' pass rush but limited the effectiveness of the offense for much of the game.
If the Giants are making short, quick throws, the Eagles must tackle well. Unfortunately, they haven't done that in the last two games. Tackling is something to watch for. This is a game the Giants can win, but only if the Eagles help them out with turnovers, penalties, and sloppy play, such as missed tackles.
Don't be surprised if Pederson comes out throwing the ball. He would love to build a quick lead and then use his backs to batter away at the Giants' defense.
It will be interesting to see the emotion in this game. Do the Giants give up if they get down early? Do the Eagles get frustrated if they start slowly? The Eagles need this win to stay atop the NFC. This is an important game for them. They need to play like it. Pederson's message should be to stay aggressive, have some fun, and go kick some butt.