The Westlake boys met near midfield once the game was in the books. Drew Brees, the elder by 10 years, had just secured the sixth postseason win of his career and was moving on in search of his second Lombardi Trophy. Nick Foles was heading home. That was the reality of the situation.
But that wasn’t the whole story. Foles had just completed a season in which he finished with the third-highest quarterback rating (119.2) in NFL history. He established a record for best touchdown/interception ratio (0.63%) all while leading the league in yards/pass attempt. He thrived in a system that wasn’t supposed to suit him and helped the Eagles capture a division title.
Foles had two interceptions on the entire season while tossing 29 touchdown passes. Brees had two picks in the first half alone Saturday night.
“I just let him know what a great season he had. What he accomplished this year as a first-year starter is nothing short of phenomenal,” said Brees, who lost his first playoff appearance to the Jets, 20-17, back in 2004. “I’m a big fan of his. I love the way he plays. The offense is great for him. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of him.”
Foles finished 23-of-33 for 195 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 105 quarterback rating. It wasn’t his cleanest outing of the year. He was a little off to start the game, was whistled for an untimely intentional grounding and took a bad sack at the end of the first quarter that helped thwart a promising drive.
“I don’t think so,” said Pat Shurmur when asked if it took Foles a little time to settle into his first playoff game . “I think he was seeing the field well and I thought he executed well. I wouldn’t read into that first playoff game thing. I think everybody was out there competing, it just took us a little while to get it going and score the points…Nick was seeing things well. When we were talking on the sideline with him he was able to tell us what was going on.”
Foles, as Jeffrey Lurie mentioned afterwards, helped bring the Eagles back from a 20-7 deficit. His last pass of the 2013-’14 campaign was a three-yard touchdown toss to Zach Ertz to put his team up, 24-23.
“How can you not be impressed with Nick, with everything he accomplished, including tonight?” said Lurie. “He had no turnovers and led us back from 20-7. He is incredibly impressive.”
When the emotions tied to a playoff loss eventually recede, optimism about the state of the franchise will remain. A lot of that optimism will be because of Foles, who is only 17 starts into his professional career.
“I think it’s important that they get some time away now. It’s been a long year,” said Shurmur. “And then when he gets back we’ll just keep going on the fundamentals just like you do every year. The good news is now when he’s watching the tape, he’ll be watching the stuff that he was doing, and I think that’ll help him get even better with the details of what we’re trying to do.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
A closer look at one of the drives that really cost the Eagles.
Lurie says that the success in year one under Kelly is just the tip of the iceberg.
Billy Davis says any failings in defending the run fall on him. Sheil with more in the Zone Read.
Colt Anderson takes the fall for the killer New Orleans kickoff return late in the game.
“Mental busts” prevent the Eagles from advancing.
Kapadia offers his observations from the Eagles’ 26-24 loss.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Oregon’s all-purpose standout De’Anthony Thomas will skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. From GoDucks.com.
Thomas leaves Oregon in the conversation as the best all-purpose player in school history. His 5,345 career yards trail only all-time greats LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, with whom Thomas teamed in the Ducks’ most recent Pac-12 championship season of 2011. Thomas holds Oregon records for kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.1), and he’s fourth in career scoring (278 points)…
Thomas will be the second underclassman from Oregon to enter this year’s draft, joining cornerback Terrance Mitchell. The Ducks still await a decision from cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, with the deadline to declare Jan. 15.
Mark Eckel casts his Coach of the Year vote for Chip Kelly.
Kelly changed everything about the 2013 Eagles from the way they ate, to the days they practiced to the schemes on both offense and defense, and all of a sudden, 4-12 became 10-6, and the Eagles are not only in the playoffs, they are division champs.
In a good year for coaches, where Reid took Kansas City from 2-14 to the playoffs, where Ron Rivera believed to be fighting for his job in Carolina, went 12-4 and where the league’s best coach, Bill Belichick just kept winning in New England as player after player landed on the injury list.
Any one of those four would be a good choice for the Coach of the Year, but the vote here — as did 18 years ago — goes to the Eagles head coach.
Players will be available to reporters from 10-noon as they clean out their lockers. Kelly speaks at 12:45.