One of the things that Nick Foles did so well in 2013 was executing in the Red Zone. Any Eagles fan can tell you that was a frustrating place in recent years. Many a drive stalled in scoring territory, leading to short field goals for David Akers and Alex Henery.
That changed last year. Foles played brilliantly in the Red Zone. Check out these stats:
26 – 37 – 197 … with 16 TDs and no INTs … completed 70 percent of his throws…rating of 122.4
That is truly outstanding. Michael Vick wasn’t nearly as good. He was 5 for 19 with 1 TD. Even his magical season of 2010 wasn’t as good in the Red Zone as Foles last year.
38 – 68 – 190…with 13 TDs and 1 INT … completed 55.9 percent of his throws…rating of 94.6
I think Kelly’s offense helped. He ran a lot of crossing routes, which are very difficult to defend because there are so many bodies in such a tight space. The congestion makes it difficult to play tight man coverage. Reid tended to spread things out and try to get the ball to a playmaker quickly. I always thought he made the mistake of using the flats instead of getting the ball into the end zone itself.
But let’s not ignore Foles here. He made a huge difference for a few reasons. First, accuracy. Foles can be a precise passer. He throws the ball with good touch, but also some velocity. Foles is mechanically sound and that means he is able to repeat throws over and over. He’s not improvising in the Red Zone. Foles can put the ball where he wants. We’ve seen him throw fades. We’ve seen him throw an arcing pass over a defender to a receiver. We’ve seen him hit receivers running crossing routes along the back line. And he also gets the ball to his guys when they are wide open on play-action passes where the fakes work.
Foles also doesn’t need players to be open. He is willing to throw the ball to a covered receiver. Too often Donovan McNabb and Vick needed someone to be wide open. That doesn’t happen on a regular basis in the Red Zone. There are a lot of contested passes there because of the congestion. The key here is that Foles isn’t forcing the ball to a covered player. He sees someone that is covered, but where there is an angle to work with. Foles will then put the ball into a safe spot and give his receiver a chance to make the play. This is especially important when throwing to big WRs and TEs. You want to take advantage of their size. Give them a chance to make plays for you.
The final point to make about Foles in the Red Zone is that he anticipates throws. This ties in to the last point about not needing players to be open. Foles watches a play unfold and knows where to put the ball before the receiver comes open. You cannot react in the Red Zone. There isn’t enough space and time to play like that. You must be proactive. You must anticipate which receiver will come open and be ready to pull the trigger instantly.
There were some plays where Foles moved around and bought time for his receivers to get open. Vick and McNabb were very good at this as well. If you don’t have anything initially, move around and keep the play alive. Someone should come open if you can give them a couple of extra seconds to shake free. Foles also proved adept at throwing on the move. He has been good at this since his first Eagles practices under Reid.
I don’t think Foles play in the Red Zone was a fluke. His numbers might not be quite as good this year, but I still think he will be a very good Red Zone QB. That situation fits his skill set well.
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Chip Wagon took a look at one particular Red Zone play that they liked and broke it down. Terrific throw by Foles on a play that was ignored for far too long.