It can be said that the NFL Postseason is the biggest stage of professional football. For quarterbacks, it is the time of the year where legacies can be cemented. These games demonstrate whether a quarterback can rise to a high level or quake under immense playoff pressure.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles may not have the flashy reputation that Tom Brady or Drew Brees possess. Well, except if you are in the city of Philadelphia. To Eagles fans in the “City of Brotherly Love,” Foles is considered a saint. He is elevated on a pedestal as the man under center that got the Eagles its first Super Bowl in franchise history. Time and time again, it is Nick Foles who comes up with clutch plays in the playoffs with the game on the line. Last week in the NFC Wildcard Game against the Chicago Bears, he threw a two-yard pass to Golden Tate on fourth and goal. It would be the eventual game-winning touchdown that would send the Eagles to the divisional round.
Another playoff game, another big-time play by Nick Foles. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“I think the big thing is, we saw some adversity tonight in the first half (and) I had a couple of turnovers,” Foles said. “No one loses faith, no one stops believing, everyone just keeps talking, keeps believing in one another, and we just rallied.”
Battling Adversity is Nick Foles’ Blueprint
Before Foles became entrenched in Eagles lore, he was born and raised in Austin, TX. He would go to an affluent high school called Westlake, which enrolls approximately 2,600 students per year. Ten years earlier, Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback that Nick Foles is facing this week, was a football star. He went 28-0-2 as the Westlake starting quarterback, leading the school to a state championship.
It was initially hard for Foles to fill the void of Brees. Even 10 years after he graduated, Westlake was still enamored by Brees. There was only one way Foles could win over the people of Westlake: by playing stellar football.
In the two years as a starter, Foles threw for 5,658 yards and 56 touchdowns, breaking all records that Brees previously held. Despite not winning a state championship, it was clear that Foles was going to be a quarterback of the future.
“Yeah, he [Foles] went to the state championship, but lost,” Brees said. “We had a great high-school program. I know they went to at least three or four state championships after my class left. They haven’t won another one, though. He has done great things, great things.”
Foles Became a Perennial Backup Quarterback
Brees and Foles would meet for the first time in the 2013-14 Wild Card Game. While Brees had a Super Bowl under his belt with the Saints, Foles was embracing the opportunity of being the starting quarterback. A reality that he was not familiar with when he got to the NFL.
After a solid college career with Michigan State and Arizona, the Eagles drafted Foles in the third round of the 2012 Draft. But immediately he was placed in the backup position, sitting on the bench watching Michael Vick.
When Vick suffered a hamstring injury, then Eagles coach Chip Kelly gave the starting job to Foles. The Eagles quarterback showcased his high talent and skill, finishing the season with 27 touchdowns to two interceptions, an NFL record for touchdown to interception ratio. As a result of Foles’ stellar play, the Eagles clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2010. His playoff performance against Brees and the Saints was sensational in defeat to a last-second field goal, generating 195 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
But the Eagles quarterback did not meet expectations the following season. He struggled generating points and turned the ball 14 times during the 2014 season. The Eagles would trade the quarterback to the then St. Louis Rams, beginning the constant cycle of starting and being replaced under center.
Foles would start only a handful of games for the Rams, to be eventually replaced by Case Keenum and Jared Goff. The Rams would trade Foles to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he only started three games at quarterback before being benched. It would be the toughest stretch of the quarterback’s career.
“If you don’t love this game it’s hard to do,” Foles said. “So when you lose your joy. I grew up in Texas, played some Texas high school football. That stuff is real. I touched a football the day I was born. So when the joy goes away, that’s a hard thing. But that journey that I went on strengthened me.”
Foles’ Second Stint with Eagles Pays Off With Super Bowl
When the Eagles signed Foles the second time, he would be the backup for the drafted franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. In Wentz’s second season, it looked as though Foles would never get the opportunity to start again. In 13 games played, Wentz was having an MVP-caliber season, throwing 33 touchdowns for 3,296 yards.
However, against the Rams, Wentz would go down with a season-ending knee injury. The Eagles, who were the number one seed in the NFC going into the playoffs, thought their season was doomed without Wentz. Little did fans realize what would happen when Foles would become the starting quarterback.
In his first playoff game since the loss to the Saints, Foles and the Eagles squeaked out a close game against the Atlanta Falcons, 15-10. Then, in the NFC Championship Game, Foles would shut out his former teammate Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings 35-0, throwing 352 touchdowns for three touchdowns.
It all culminated in Super Bowl LII, when Foles outplayed five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Despite the Patriots generating a record 505 yards of offense in a 41-33 defeat, Foles responded under pressure with clutch passes on third down. No play showcased the quarterback’s calmness under pressure than the fourth and goal “Philly Special” that gave the Eagles the lead after the first half. Not only did Foles give the city of Philadelphia its first Super Bowl, but he gave the Eagles organization the belief that on the biggest of stages, he can deliver in adverse moments.
Foles Called Upon Eagles for Greatness
Five years later, Foles and Brees will meet again in a playoff game. This time, it will be in the raucous Louisiana Superdome, where the Saints are undefeated during the postseason. When the Eagles visited the Saints earlier this season, they were handed their worst loss of the season, losing 48-7. According to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, he believes his team is in a different place leading up to the Divisional Round showdown.
“I think you’ve got to look at where we’ve come from and what we’ve done,” Pederson said. “Just the way this team has come together at the end of the regular season. This team believes. This team believes in everything that we’re doing. And we’re different. It’s a different mindset. It’s a different football team. We’re a different group than when we played New Orleans the first time.”
Last week against the Bears, the Eagles defense was very impressive. They limited the Bears running game and only forced Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky to complete one touchdown pass all game. On the other side, the Eagles offensive line did an incredible job protecting Foles, preventing Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack from getting any type of pressure. Their performance in the trenches was reminiscent to how the Eagles performed last year down the stretch, utilizing their physicality and toughness to give the team success.
But the success of this Eagles team is at the beat of the performance of Foles. He delivered in getting the Eagles back to the playoffs after being replaced by Wentz once again. The third and nine pass to Alshon Jeffery in the red zone and the subsequent touchdown pass to Tate prove once again Foles’ ability to be unflappable in clutch situations.
On Sunday afternoon against the Saints, the Eagles look to continue their mission on becoming the eighth team in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Count on Foles to fly the Eagles to victory.