It took awhile, but Coach Chip Kelly found his quarterback.
Nick Foles started 10 games for Philadelphia this season, throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions being intercepted just twice. Now, he faces a vastly improved New Orleans defense, whose front four has have applied heavy pressure to opposing passers.
Foles and Saints quarterback Drew Brees attended the same high school in Austin, Texas, although the 34-year-old Brees is 10 years older.
Despite winning seven of their final eight games, the Eagles would have missed the playoffs had they not beaten Dallas in a winner-take-all finale for the NFC East crown.
“I think going back to when we were 3-5 has kind of been the same situation for us, but we have not spent any time talking about dealing with anything differently,” said Kelly, the first rookie coach in Eagles history to win a division title. in his debut season. “We know last week’s game, we lose to Dallas, we go home. So it’s the exact same situation we are in this week.”
As tough as they are in the Superdome, the Saints are a different team on the road. They are 1-5 away from home since Oct. 13, and the franchise is 0-5 in road playoff games under coaches Sean Payton (0-3), Jim Haslett (0-1) and Jim Mora (0-1). Of course, That doesn’t count winning the Super Bowl on a neutral field in Miami.
Payton was asked this week about people who have compared Kelly to “a young Sean Payton.”
Actually, both coaches are 50, and Payton is a month younger than the Eagles coach.
“First off, I feel like you are piling it on. I just turned 50,” Payton joked with reporters this week. “I take offense to that.”
Payton did concede, however, that Kelly’s innovative style was somewhat reflective of his own.
“Obviously, the system he is familiar with and what he was very successful with at ¿ Oregon, he has applied to his talent in Philadelphia,” the Saints coach said. “I think the first sign of good coaching is taking the pieces you have and building a system around that, and I think he has done that extremely well.”
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
Category NO PHI
Points scored | 25.9 (10) | 27.6 (4)
Points allowed | 19.0 (4) | 23.9 (17)
Pass offense | 307.4 (2) | 256.9 (9)
Rush offense | 92.1 (25) | 160.4 (1)
Pass defense | 194.1 (2) | 289.8 (32)
Rush defense | 111.6 (19) | 104.2 (10)
Sacks | 49 (4) | 37 (20)
Penalty yards | 51.0 (16) | 52.9 (19)
Turnovers | 0 (15) | +12 (5)
If the Eagles can establish the run with LeSean McCoy — not an easy task against a defense that allowed one 100-yard rusher in the last eight games — they can control the clock and keep Drew Brees off the field. That will be key, because Brees can dissect that league-worst pass defense. EAGLES 31, SAINTS 28