Now we'll find out about Foles

Nick Foles
Nick Foles
Posted: December 19, 2013

So you want to know if the Eagles have found their franchise quarterback. You want to know if Nick Foles is good enough to someday lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl title that has forever eluded them. You want to know whether the quarterback is going to be a deer in the headlights or an Eagle who soars when the pressure is raised a few notches higher.

If that's what this season is ultimately about, then Chip Kelly and his coaching staff could not have asked for better circumstances with two games remaining.

It is terrific to throw seven touchdowns in a Week 9 game at Oakland and it's wonderful to throw 19 touchdowns to start the season before throwing a single interception, but quarterbacks in the NFL are measured more in terms of big wins than great personal accomplishments.

That's why Joe Montana is considered better than Dan Marino in that NFL era and why Tom Brady will be considered just ahead of Peyton Manning in their shared era. Foles has had his name mentioned with Manning's a couple times already this year, but as this season nears its conclusion, you wonder if he can do the things that have made Eli Manning a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants.

To this point, Foles has been better than Brady was in his second season, better than Eli has been in any regular season and far better than anyone, including Kelly and the Eagles, expected him to be. He has been so good that even when he throws for a career-high 428 yards and three touchdowns, as he did Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, the performance is looked upon as just OK because it also included an interception and four sacks in a losing effort.

"I agree with [the critics]," Foles said. "I missed some throws that didn't give us an opportunity to get a win and I'm a firm believer that as an offense we have to score more points than the other team no matter how many points they score. I didn't put us in a good position."

It could be easily argued that the Eagles defense and some of Kelly's decisions put the team in a worse position, but the fact that Foles said the right thing and seems to always say the right things is endearing and encouraging.

Besides, Foles' ability to lead the offense to some big point totals will be vital in these last two weeks when the 24-year-old quarterback plays in the most crucial games of his young NFL career. If Dallas loses to Washington on Sunday afternoon, Foles will get an opportunity that night to lead the Eagles to the NFC East title at Lincoln Financial Field.

If Dallas wins, the Eagles still have plenty of incentive to beat the Bears in an effort to get the No. 3 seed in the NFC if the Eagles win in Dallas the following Sunday. That reward would likely allow the Eagles to avoid the Seattle Seahawks if they reached the second round of the playoffs.

"It is a huge game," Foles said. "We're playing on a Sunday night on a huge stage against a great team on our home field and . . . this is why we play the game."

Both the Bears and the Cowboys pose interesting matchups for Foles and the Eagles because they are high-powered offensive teams with suspect defenses. That, of course, is an accurate description of the Eagles, too.

So this pursuit of an unlikely NFC East title will likely come down to how Foles finishes out his first season as the Eagles' primary quarterback.

In his only two college bowl games at the University of Arizona - the Holiday Bowl as a sophomore against Nebraska and the Alamo Bowl as a junior against Oklahoma State - Foles completed just 51.8 percent of his passes and threw one touchdown and four interceptions. Both games were lopsided Arizona losses.

These final two games against the Bears and Cowboys will be far bigger than those two games and could tell us more about how ready Foles is to take the Eagles into the future.

"He's got a very balanced psyche," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "He doesn't let things rile him up. I think he played consistently at least mentally through the [Vikings] game. Yeah, the games are not going to be perfect and that's when the mental toughness comes in."

The last time Foles lost a game (against the Cowboys), he also suffered a concussion that forced him to sit out a week. He threw those seven touchdowns against the Raiders upon his return.

The stakes have risen after his second loss and Foles is eager to rise with them.

"I know everybody is excited and I'm excited about this week's preparation," he said. "Playing sharp quarterback on Sunday, that's my goal . . . and I've got to have great preparation. That's the key to this week."


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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