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Eagles again counting on Nick Foles in high-stakes games

December 20, 2018
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FILE - In this Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, file photo, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles passes against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game in Los Angeles. The Philadelphia Eagles are again counting on Super Bowl MVP Foles to win high-stakes games. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Foles understands his Super Bowl MVP trophy isn’t going to help when J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are chasing after him.

No matter the pressure, he usually stays calm and plays with poise.

The Philadelphia Eagles are again counting on Foles to win high-stakes games. Foles, who was 3-0 in the playoffs last season, led the 14-point underdog Eagles to a victory on the road against the Rams last week to keep them in the playoff race.

He has to do it again Sunday when the Eagles (7-7) host the Houston Texans (10-4).

“Because I’ve done those things doesn’t guarantee me anything when I step on the field next time,” Foles said about his recent success. “Every time you step on the field, it’s a new game.”

Foles is starting because Carson Wentz has a stress fracture in his back. He replaced Wentz last December after a knee injury ended his season. The Eagles already were the No. 1 seed in the NFC at that time. Now they’re desperate to stay in the mix.

“We’re fighting for our lives right now. It’s a little different for us, different feel,” coach Doug Pederson said.

Having Foles around is a confidence-booster for the team.

“Obviously, he’s been a starter in this league before, so that’s something that he’s comfortable with, and he just understands the plan and goes and executes,” Pederson said. “He just wants to win. He doesn’t care about credit and all that. He wants to win, and he’s helped us do that.”

The Texans are closing in on an AFC South title and looking to secure a first-round bye. It’ll be a tough challenge on the road and they know Foles is no ordinary backup.

“He’s a good player, he’s smart, he knows what he’s doing,” said Watt, who has 14½ sacks after playing only eight games the previous two seasons because of injuries. “He does great things. He can move around a little bit, he knows the system, he knows the guys, knows how to find the open guy and get it to him. He does a great job.”

Unlike the Eagles, the Texans fell apart after losing their star quarterback last season. They were 1-8 without Deshaun Watson, who tore a knee ligament in the seventh game. Watson has been outstanding since his return and has Houston on the verge of a playoff berth.

“Everything he’s put himself through to be in a position to where he’s at today, I can really appreciate that,” Pederson said.

Here’s some things to look for when the Texans seek their first win over the Eagles in five tries:

SIMPLE AND BALANCED

The Eagles cut back on their pre-snap movement on offense and committed to running the ball in their 30-23 win over the Rams. All three touchdowns were on running plays, two by Wendell Smallwood and one for rookie Josh Adams.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Already missing three-fourths of their starting secondary and starting nickel cornerback Sidney Jones, the Eagles got a big boost when rookie Avonte Maddox returned to play outside cornerback against the Rams. Maddox and second-year pro Rasul Douglas had strong performances to help limit a high-powered offense. They’ll face another difficult challenge going against DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas.

KICKING EDGE

Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn leads the NFL with 34 field goals and has made 12 in a row, including all five tries in a win over the Jets on the road last week.

“His ability to be able to make all of the different types of kicks that you need to make, especially in outdoor games on the East Coast, it’s very important,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a very talented kicker.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE

The Eagles are going with more formations featuring tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field together and using two wide receivers and one running back. It helps to create matchup advantages and also improves blocking in the run game.

“That personnel for them with (Goedert) and Ertz on the field at the same time is very challenging. No doubt,” O’Brien said.

LEADING THE WAY

Hopkins leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with 1,321 yards receiving and he ranks third in the AFC with 11 TD catches. He has 507 career receptions, the second-youngest player (26 years, 6 months, 9 days) to reach 500 behind Larry Fitzgerald (26 years, 2 months, 29 days).

“There’s a lot of people that I look up to in those categories that are wearing the yellow jacket right now that I’ve passed,” Hopkins said. “So, of course that means a lot to me.”

___ AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.

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