WILL MORE SCREENS OPEN DOOR TO SUPER BOWL?
If the Eagles want to move on this weekend, the offense will have to do more than it did last week against the Atlanta Falcons.
More points will likely come in form or misdirection plays, counters and screen passes.
If there is one area of the game Nick Foles does better than Carson Wentz it is his ability to feather a screen pass like he did in the fourth quarter to running back Jay Ajayi that went for 32 yards and set up what turned out to be the deciding field goal in the Birds 15-10 win over the Falcons that put the Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (FOX 6:40 PM).
That play was the second consecutive screen called by head coach Doug Pederson, something coaches do not do very often. The first screen, also to Ajayi on second and ten from the Eagles 17-yard line, went for just three yards.
Pederson was asked what possessed him to run the same play.
“Back-to-back? There you go,” Pederson said. “Sometimes you can catch a group off guard when they don’t expect two screens back to back. I’ve done it one other time in Kansas City with success. It’s just something that you just kind of get in the flow of the game, get in the feel of the game.”
On the 32-yard play it was center Jason Kelce who made the initial key block to spring Ajayi. Then
Left guard Stefen Wisniewski darted up field and took out not one but two defenders allowing his running back to make it a special play.
“To be honest, that was crazy, I don’t think I’ve ever blocked two guys like that on a screen before,” Wisniewski said at his locker after the game. “I’ll look forward to seeing it (on film). But live, I know I saw the one guy, I hit him…normally I’ll just stick on the one guy but I saw the other guy come out the corner of my eye and hit him. I don’t know what made me do that or what happened, I’m blessed to be able to pull it off in a huge game, in a huge moment.”
Right guard Brandon Brooks said the formula for good screen plays is simple.
“First, coaching,” Brooks said. “(Our coaches) do a good job on coaching us up on what we need to do, where we need to be. From there (it’s) running backs or tight ends, whoever is getting the ball, setting us up, staying on their landmarks and getting north and south down the field.”
Pederson was asked about the Eagles screen game in general and about Ajayi’s big play.
“The screen game has been something we’ve worked on the last couple of weeks, and it had to get better as the season wore on for us,” the coach said. “I’ll tell you, it was just set up perfectly for us and well-executed to have Wis (Wisniewski) downfield and block one, but take out two, obviously helps the play. But screens are a big part of the game. This is something, too, that the Vikings use quite a bit, as well. It’s a tough play if it’s called in the right situation.”
Foles was asked about Pederson calling the same screen pass a second time.
“I love it. I mean, you just said it, its 32 yards so I love it,” Foles said. “A lot of times when you run a screen, teams don’t expect it again. And then we have probably the most athletic linemen in the league. I mean, they are amazing, what they can do. And that’s why screens work: you have to get out and they lead the way. I mean, that was a huge play in the game for us.”
Tight end Zach Ertz was asked if Foles answered any questions to any doubters Saturday with his performance:
“No, I’m sure everyone will have their doubts,” Ertz said. “We’re not worried about them. We’re worried about the guys in this locker room. Everyone’s going to say the Eagles don’t have a chance, and we’re going to relish in that opportunity again.”
This Sunday, Foles will be asked to what many people think is impossible…lead the Eagles to a berth in the Super Bowl.
Even though he has won all three starts in games that meant something, the Cowboys game in which Foles played one forgettable quarter did not, he is still being counted out.
And while he truly led his team to a win to that put the Eagles in a great spot to go to Minneapolis, he would not take a shot at his detractors.
“Honestly, I don’t need to,” he said after the game.
He was asked why he doesn’t need to say anything to those who doubted him:
“Because it doesn’t matter,” Foles said. “They are doing their job, but it doesn’t affect how I play or what I believe. And ya’ll asked me last week am I confident in myself; well, I am confident in myself because I know how hard we work and I know that we believe in one another in that locker room. So there is no need to waste my time to say anything about it because we went out there and played great team football. We played Philadelphia Eagle football tonight and that’s the most important thing. I don’t need to say anything else to anyone.”
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii