Alshon Jeffery majored in sociology at South Carolina. But he has spent the better part of the last three weeks talking about chemistry.
As in the chemistry – or lack of it – between himself and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
Before Carson Wentz got hurt, Jeffery was a big part of the Eagles’ passing game. He had a team-high nine touchdown catches, including a career-high seven in the red zone. He finished second on the Eagles to Nelson Agholor in third-down receptions, with 19, including 17 for first downs.
He had four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in Foles’ first start against the Giants in Week 15, but then was targeted just two times and didn’t have a catch in the Eagles’ 19-10 Week 16 win over Oakland, and everybody did the sky-is-falling thing. It was the first time since his rookie season in 2012 that he didn’t have at least one catch in a game.
Had just one catch (for eight yards) on two targets in the one quarter of work he and Foles got against Dallas in the final week of the regular season, further causing concern heading into the playoffs.
Jeffery insisted that it was no big deal and that everything would be fine in Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Falcons.
“That was you guys saying all that last week,’’ Jeffery said after Foles completed 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards and no interceptions in the Eagles’ 15-10 win. “Nick did a helluva job. The o-line did a helluva job blocking and giving him time to throw.’’
Jeffery did a helluva job, too. Chemistry with Foles wasn’t an issue. They looked as if they had been playing pitch-and-catch together for years.
Jeffery had four catches for 61 yards against the Falcons, all four of which helped set up two Jake Elliott field goals that ended up being the difference in the game.
Foles hit him for 15 yards on a quick sideline route with one second left in the first half that set up the first of Elliott’s three field goals, an Eagles playoff-record 53-yarder.
It was similar to the sideline pass Jeffery caught in Week 3 against the Giants from Wentz with one second left in the game. Elliott booted a franchise-record 61-yarder that day to beat the Giants and kick-start a nine-game win streak.
“It’s just something that we practice all the time,’’ Jeffery said. “Nelson [Agholor] said he was wide-open, too, and would’ve scored a touchdown if Nick threw it to him. But we’ll take the field goal.
“I was just trying to catch the ball and get out of bounds before the clock ran out, just like against the Giants. Jake told me at halftime, just keep catching the ball and getting out of bounds with one second left.’’
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Foles’ completion to Jeffery was one of the pivotal plays of the game.
“That was huge,’’ he said. “Just to be able to get down there with – we were out of timeouts. That play got us into field-goal range for Jake. Jake’s been doing that all season long. It was great to get momentum, with our defense coming back out to start the second half.’’
Jeffery’s other three catches came on an important 12-play, 74-yard third-quarter scoring drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Elliott that gave the Eagles the lead for good.
Backed up against their goal line after the Falcons’ Matt Bosher put a punt inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line, Foles completed a 12-yard pass to Jeffery on second-and-8 that gave the Eagles a first down and some much-needed field-position breathing room.
On the very next play, Jeffery ran a quick slant off a play-action fake and Foles threw him a chest-high strike for 13 more yards.
After a pair of Jay Ajayi runs gained just two yards, Foles went back to Jeffery on third-and-8, this time for 21 yards and another first down at the Atlanta 43.
“I think it was a two-man coverage,’’ Jeffery said of the 21-yard third-down completion from Foles. “I was just trying to be physical at the top of the route and try and make a play.
“Nick did a helluva job finding me and getting me the ball, and I did a helluva job getting open. The o-line did a helluva job, too.’’
Jeffery said he never questioned whether the moment – a divisional-round playoff game that has put the Eagles into next Sunday’s NFC championship game and one win away from the Super Bowl – was too big for Foles.
“I was excited to see what he was going to bring. He’s in his confidence zone. He’s playing his game. The past two weeks, he was more comfortable. He was aggressive. Playing his style.
“You guys are the ones who doubted him. We didn’t ever doubt him. We believe in whoever lines up behind there at quarterback. We’ve still got 21 other guys out there.
“We’re gonna hear the same thing next week [about Foles]. It is what it is. We’re just gonna go out there and play our game.’’