Sunday was the first game Nick Foles has played in the snow. He’s practiced in it, he said, but never played in it.
That’s not all that surprising. Foles hails from Austin, Texas and played his college ball in Arizona. Typically when he’s suited up for a home game over his career, it’s been short-sleeve weather.
Given his lack of experience in that department, Chip Kelly was asked a few weeks ago if there's any way to help get a quarterback prepared to play in the elements.
"We've got the weather machine and we crank it up," Kelly joked. (Though if any team in the league had a weather machine, it would be this one.) "It's just getting comfortable and getting a feel for it."
No other way to go through it except to go through it, in other words.
Foles' initiation into winter ball was an especially cruel one. We couldn't find a player on the Eagles that has ever played in similar or worse conditions. It was extreme even for those who grew up around cold weather.
"You're seeing a lot of white [when you're dropping back]," said Foles.
It was a struggle early. With the snow coming down hard and visibility limited, the second-year signal-caller went 4-of-10 for 35 yards in the first half. He threw his first interception of the season with about 12 minutes left in the second quarter, as his pass intended for Riley Cooper sailed over the receiver's head and into the waiting arms of Lions cornerback Chris Houston. With 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions to start the season, he fell one touchdown shy of Peyton Manning's record. He went 237 attempts overall in-between picks.
"If you let, on any level, one interception defeat you, you cannot play this game," he said. "I know a lot of hype has been made for the touchdown-interception ratio that I don't even worry about. I care about the wins...I am going to move forward and I can't wait to get back on the field and throw a touchdown, make a big play, because that's what the teammates look at, they look at the quarterback in that situation to see how I respond."
Foles began to adapt. His receivers obviously weren't moving at their normal speed or cutting as precisely in the eight inches of snow, so he had to rediscover timing. He started taking something off his throws, learning that passes with steam on them weren't going to be caught. And he loosened the reins a bit and started playing more of a backyard brand of ball, as shown on the touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Foles admitted afterwards that he was just throwing it in the area of Jackson and Cooper and trusted that someone would make a play.
He ended 11-of-22 for 179 yards with a TD and an interception. He fumbled only once (and recovered it), whereas his counterpart Matthew Stafford fumbled the ball five times on the day.
This certainly wasn't a game to concern yourself with stats or streaks. It was about survival and Foles survived, improving to 6-1 as a starter this season.
"We know as a team we are going to be okay because we have each other's backs," said Foles. "That is something that is special and something that is growing here in Philadelphia. That is how you win games. You win as a team and we are learning, we are getting used to each other, we are bonding as a group.
"It was just a big win because it does allow us to grow together as a team because we went through all of this together. We were able to stay on the right path and continue to motivate each other. Nobody wavered from what we knew we would accomplish, so it is a huge win."