Even on slow runs, Foles gets it done

Nick Foles goes 4 yards and stretches for the Eagles' first touchdown against the Redskins, getting past Brandon Meriweather and London Fletcher (59).
Nick Foles goes 4 yards and stretches for the Eagles' first touchdown against the Redskins, getting past Brandon Meriweather and London Fletcher (59). (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: November 19, 2013

There's a mythology developing around Nick Foles now, and his coach is happy to cultivate it.

For months, Chip Kelly has relied on the same anecdote to illustrate Foles' toughness and quick thinking, to bat away every question about whether Foles can be the Eagles' long-term answer at quarterback, whether he's really the kind of quarterback Kelly wants.

One would think Foles' performance so far this season would be enough. After completing 17 of 26 passes for 298 yards Sunday in the Eagles' 24-16 victory over the Redskins, Foles has an ungodly 127.9 passer rating this season.

But people still wonder about Foles, because people still are learning about him. He's in just his second year as a professional, after all, and so Kelly falls back on that anecdote: Sept. 24, 2011. Oregon, coached by Kelly, beats Arizona, quarterbacked by Foles. The final score is 56-31. Kelly never mentions that. What he always brings up - always, and he brought it up again after Sunday's win - is that Foles, who is righthanded, completed a pass in that game by throwing the football with his left hand.

"We knocked the snot out of him," Kelly said. "We chinned him. He was going down, switches the ball to his left hand . . . then gets up and makes another play against us. I've always admired him."

In Kelly's retelling, Foles' completion (to a running back named Keola Antolin) is always for 13 yards, even though the official box score says it actually was for 11. The detail is irrelevant; Foles' nerve and presence of mind are what mattered. Those are not qualities that a football coach, even one as cerebral and system-driven as Kelly, easily forgets. And they were worth noting Sunday, because Foles orchestrated Kelly's read-option offense pretty well, even if he doesn't have the speed of, say, a three-toed sloth.

Foles carried the ball nine times for 47 yards, scoring the Eagles' first touchdown and securing three first downs.

"Michael Vick, 2.0," Eagles center Jason Kelce said.

Kelce was joking, of course. In fact, Foles' teammates gave him a good amount of ribbing for his running, suggesting that he didn't have to start dashing out of the pocket and taking hellacious hits to earn their respect.

"Those don't count. He's sliding," wide receiver Riley Cooper said. "He's a warrior. He's a tough, tough, tough kid and a great quarterback. But he's sliding."

No, Foles didn't need to prove to his teammates or Kelly that he was tough enough to succeed as an NFL quarterback. The concern, at least since training camp began, was that he was an ill fit for Kelly's offense, which is why Foles' nine rushing attempts Sunday were so revealing.

Over these last three weeks, Foles has thrown for 10 touchdowns, and the Eagles have averaged 33.3 points a game, and there's been no sense that Kelly has any fear of asking Foles to do whatever the system demands. Have a lead-legged quarterback run the read-option? Whatever. Foles is 6-foot-6. He's a good athlete. He'll make it work.

"If I get 5 yards," Foles said, "it's a great play."

As dynamic as Kelly's offense could have been when Vick was healthy, the entire operation has a calmness about it under Foles that doesn't seem coincidental. The players understand the offense better after 11 weeks, and that makes a difference, too. But the notion that the Eagles ought to risk a high draft pick next year on finding a more capable quarterback than Foles gets more outlandish by the day - especially since they are 6-5 entering their bye week and are in first place in the NFC East.

"Much like a coach, you'd like the quarterback out there to remain steady," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "That's part of Nick's nature, and I think it shows up in his play."

It's as good a reason as any for what's becoming one of the most startling stories of this entire NFL season. Nick Foles completes passes with either hand. Nick Foles has 16 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Nick Foles has the Eagles pointed toward the playoffs. This is his mythology, and at the moment, it's all true. After Sunday's game, no one asked Chip Kelly who his starting quarterback was. No one needed to. The silence said everything.



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