As rookie tackle Dennis Kelly put it, there were no “movie-quality quotes” out of Nick Foles in the final moments against the Bucs Sunday. He did not grab a facemask or launch into any inspirational speeches. Yet Andy Reid said afterwards that Foles was able to rally his teammates down the stretch and made everyone play better.
How did he do it?
“Well, when your quarterback shows confidence and poise, it just gives everybody that boost that they need,” said Jeremy Maclin. “The ball is in his hands, and for him to be confident and for him to be showing the leadership skills that he has, it makes everybody else rally around him.
“You guys are seeing Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes.”
There are definitely reasons to be encouraged. Foles has gotten better in each of his four starts despite mounting injuries on the offensive side of the ball, and is showing a sound understanding of the game. Not all of it is obvious. Take, for instance, the 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. While some passing options may have been available, the play design was a screen and if Foles threw it once he broke the pocket the Eagles would have been flagged for an ineligible man downfield.
“That speaks credit to Nick, understanding that you can’t throw that ball because there is a lineman already downfield,” said Maclin.
Also not in the stat sheet is the amount of plays that Foles successfully checked to against the Bucs.
“Nick throughout the game on several occassions, if he wants the play, he’s got it. He’s very good that way. He audibled many times throughout the game,” said Mornhinweg. “He did an outstanding jobs with his audibles and hey if he wants a play, he takes ownership of it.”
You saw that on the final play of the game when Foles told his coaches what he wanted to run. Even in a moment as important as that, Andy Reid rolled with him.
“He trusts me. That’s big when you have a coach that trusts you in that situation,” said Foles. “I told him I was comfortable with the play and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
There will be overreaction in Philadelphia this week. The Foles mania that cropped up during the preseason will be back in full effect. To balance things out, there will be detractors who will point to the Bucs’ porous secondary and the fact that the game was virtually meaningless.
Somewhere in the middle will be the truth when it comes to Foles and the significance of his outing in Tampa. But it’s hard to deny that there is significance.
“How important is it for a young guy? I’ll tell you it’s a step forward,” said Reid. “He had to battle. It just wasn’t a smooth event. We had our ups and downs, ebbs and flows of the game, and he hung with it. I thought he made people around him better.”
Added Mornhinweg: “It certainly with no doubt gives the man confidence. I’m certain it gives other people around him — which is just as important — great confidence as well.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Lots of Foles coverage:
With the game in his hands, the rookie delivered.
Reid talks about the decision to let Foles call the final play.
Sheil gives his instant observations from the win over Tampa.
Another offensive weapon down, as Brent Celek leaves with a concussion.
When the day started, the Eagles were positioned to get the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft. What would that net them?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Dan Graziano analyzes the defense’s performance:
In the first game since the firing of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, the Eagles got sacks from defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins, seemed to ditch the much-maligned “Wide 9″ alignment Washburn instituted last year and held Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to 189 yards on 14-of-34 passing. They didn’t create any turnovers, and it was their seventh game in a row without an interception, but the big guys up front and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did a much better job this week of limiting the opposing team’s passing attack. And even once the Bucs appeared to figure things out in the second half, they couldn’t get far enough ahead to hold off the comeback.
Eric Adelson of Yahoo! adds some further color to the excitment around Foles’ night:
In fact, one of the first things Foles saw after the game was Reid, waiting in the locker room for him as he came off the field. Reid cupped his right hand around the back of Foles’ neck, leaned in to congratulate him, and patted him on the shoulder as the quarterback walked into a mob of teammates screaming “Nick Foles! Nick Foles!”
“We don’t look at him as a rookie,” Avant said.
Maybe not. But Eagles fans definitely have reason to look at him as a good reason to wait til next year.
With Thursday’s game against the Bengals right around the corner, Monday is a work day for the Eagles. They have a walkthrough practice at 3:30. Reid will not have his normal day-after press conference.