It’s Nick Foles, not Carson Wentz, who has Falcons’ attention

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles speaks with members of the media at the team's NFL football training facility in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles speaks with members of the media at the team's NFL football training facility in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The outlook of the Eagles’ season dramatically changed Dec. 10.

During a third-quarter touchdown run against the Rams, MVP candidate Carson Wentz sustained a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee. The Eagles wound up winning the Week 14 game and concurrently the NFC East. Yet, the locker room was somber after the win. Wentz, a quarterback who was in the midst of a stellar season, wouldn’t join the team for its playoff run. His season was over.

With Nick Foles under center, the Eagles moved forward with a next-man-up mentality and won two of their final three regular-season games. This is the time of year where uncertainty comes into play.

The Falcons are going into Philadelphia for Saturday’s game as an experienced bunch ready to right their wrongs from an epic Super Bowl LI collapse. Based on the Falcons’ NFC wild-card performance, a win at the Rams, the team looks primed to show up at Lincoln Financial Field to end the Wentz-less Eagles’ season.

Wentz won’t play Saturday, but the Falcons are not overlooking Foles.

Safety Keanu Neal sees some similarities between the two quarterbacks.

“I think Carson (Wentz) is a little bit more athletic, but they're both good players,” Neal said.

Defensive end Adrian Clayborn thinks the only drastic difference is Wentz’s running ability.

“Carson Wentz is more of a dual (threat),” Clayborn said. “He can run and pass. Foles, that really isn't his game, but he can (run) if he needs to. That's probably the main difference.”

The Falcons vow not to ease up because the Eagles don’t have their No. 1 quarterback.

Foles was 47-of-87 passing for 439 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in the final three games before the No. 1-seeded Eagles’ playoff bye week. The third contest, the meaningless season finale versus the Cowboys, he barely played.

There was noticeable regression with the Eagles’ offense with Foles as the signal-caller. However, when Falcons coaches analyze game film, they see an offense still operating under the same principles.

“I think when you’ve played for a while and it’s been done at a high level, which he has, that lends to that kind of respect,” coach Dan Quinn said of Foles. “He’s done it at a high level, and he takes care of the ball. He really looks equipped in that kind of system in the gun and doing all of the things that they do.”

The two teams met in Week 10 last season in Philadelphia. Wentz and the Eagles won that game 24-15. Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel remembers it well. He said the Eagles hit them “right in the mouth” running the football. Philadelphia ran for 208 yards, with Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles carrying the ball. On Saturday, the team will feature running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. Corey Clement and Smallwood will spell Philly’s two primary running backs. It’s a stable of running backs that are more imposing from a year ago.

No matter who the quarterback, Manuel believes that the Eagles’ offensive game plan is still run-oriented.

“They are a running team even when Wentz was at quarterback. He threw it around, but they are a running team,” Manuel said. “What they ask Wentz to do, they don’t ask Foles to do all the exact same things, but the offense hasn’t really changed.”

The play calls might not have change much, but the production has declined with Foles at quarterback.

Foles’ career-year in 2013 seems like decades ago. In that season, he was the NFL passer-rating leader and threw seven touchdowns in one game, feats that earned him his first and only Pro Bowl invitation. The Eagles are banking on some of the old Foles magic to return. Meanwhile, the Falcons recognize that the six-year veteran is still a quarterback to be respected even though he’s not Wentz.

“Foles is a pro quarterback,” Manuel said. “He’s been here, he’s been in it, he’s been a starter so you have to prepare for him that way.”