Eagles' Foles plays to win

Posted: December 19, 2013

NICK FOLES passed for a career-high 428 yards, tops in the NFL last weekend. He threw three touchdown passes, just one interception, and had a passer rating of 103.5.

Still, the second-year signal caller has almost been universally talked about as having just an OK performance against Minnesota.

That's pretty much the same way Foles feels as he evaluates his day. To him, the primary statistic that matters is the won-lost record. Because the Eagles suffered a critical loss to the lowly Vikings, there's little chance he feels good about his play.

"We didn't win," Foles said. "I missed some throws that didn't give us an opportunity to win. I'm a firm believer that as an offense we have to score more points than the other team no matter how many they score.

"I didn't put us in a good enough position. Obviously there were some good plays in the game, but not enough. I look at it as, I've got to make a play. It's tough, but that's part of being a quarterback."

How a quarterback responds to a loss is just as important. Foles played the worst game of his young career when the Eagles lost to Dallas, 17-3, in October.

After sitting out a game with a concussion, he bounced back by tying a NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a victory against Oakland in his return.

"I've learned to handle [not doing enough to win a particular game]," Foles said. "It hurts, but you have to have a short memory out there. [If a bad play happens,] I learn from it and move forward. Hopefully I don't make the same mistake again."

Primarily because of his own performance, the standards have been raised for Foles.

No matter what people were looking for from him when he took over for injured Michael Vick in Week 5, the point is that he has now helped put the Eagles in a position to win the NFC East and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

That's the measuring stick now for Foles, coach Chip Kelly and the entire Eagles organization. At this stage, anything but the postseason would be a disappointment.

"When you have success, people's expectations do grow," Foles said. "They see you play consistently and they expect that every week. That's what I expect. But I can't let a game where I feel I don't play well or did not help our team as much as I should affect me where I can't play at that level.

"If I mess up, I keep fighting through it. My goal every week is to play a perfect game. In reality that is not possible, but that's why you have a short memory. My teammates are looking at me, as quarterback, to see how I react in adverse situations. Is he going to lose composure or keep firing the ball? I'm going to keep firing."

At the beginning of the season, an 8-8 finish would have been seen as a positive.

When Foles first went in for Vick, people just wanted to see him show some things that might indicate he could develop into the Eagles' quarterback of the future.

Now, however, the Eagles (8-6) are in control of their own playoff fate by having a one-game lead over Dallas with two to play.

What they do in the next two games against Chicago on Sunday and at Dallas in the regular-season finale will determine the success of this season.

For all of the things Foles has surprisingly accomplished in his eight starts this season - going 6-2, tying the TD-pass record and being named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for November in addition to two weekly honors - it now comes down to Chicago and Dallas.

However it happens, the only responsibility Foles has right now is to get the Eagles into the playoffs.

That's what the expectation should be. That's what good quarterbacks in this league do with these types of opportunities.

Foles is not too young or too inexperienced. That's a crutch that he has outgrown.

Of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in 2012, Andrew Luck (Indianapolis), Robert Griffin III (Washington) and Russell Wilson (Seattle) took their teams to the playoffs as rookies. Luck and Wilson will be returning to the playoffs as 2013 division winners. Foles has the opportunity to join them.

"This is why we play the game," Foles said. "You play for opportunities like this. I'm excited for the week of preparation. Playing sharp as a quarterback is my goal this week and that requires great preparation.

"There is a lot more attention that comes with this, but I'd much rather be in this position than where we were last season.

"Every game you play is a meaningful game. Don't misunderstand me, because every game you get to play in the NFL is a blessing, but to have a chance to get to continue to play on into the playoffs is what we play for.

"The city is excited. There is a lot on this game come Sunday."

Foles' sole responsibility is to find a way to win the game by any means necessary. It's not about the individual statistics, only the final score.

Foles says he wants to be a great quarterback. Winning in situations like this is what great quarterbacks do.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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