With Vick Sidelined, Foles Steps Up

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Michael Vick went grabbing for the back of his leg as he scooted out of bounds following a 13-yard run late in the second quarter. He assured his coaches on the opposite side of the field that he was OK by giving a thumb’s up, and stayed in to finish the drive.

When Jason Pierre-Paul tracked him down and sent him to the turf in the end zone on the following series, though, Chip Kelly recognized that his quarterback was ailing, and sent Nick Foles marching in to replace him.

“The coaches understood that, why have me in the game when I’m not 100 percent when you have a healthy quarterback on the sideline?” said Vick.

Kelly allowed that Vick could have gone back in and played if something happened to Foles, but trusted the second-year signal-caller enough to call his number in the middle of a critically important game. Foles rewarded that confidence, going 16-of-25 for 197 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown tosses in a 36-21 Eagles win.

“I’ve said since the day we walked in here that you have to have two quarterbacks,” said Kelly. “Felt confident in Nick with Mike not being 100 percent.

“When I sat down with him and Mike and when we told them what was going on in camp [that Vick would be the starter], he just said, ‘Hey coach, you can always count on me, I’m going to be there,’ and that’s what he’s done…In this league I think you need two quarterbacks, and we were fortunate that we had Nick today.”

Kelly did his best to squash any talks of a quarterback controversy (though there is sure to be plenty of conversation about it outside of the NovaCare walls this week). Asked if Vick is his quarterback when healthy, Kelly firmly responded: “Yes.”

It’s unknown exactly when Vick will be ready to go. The 33-year-old said after the game that he once sustained a very similar injury, and that he missed a week with it. Kelly was unsure whether Vick would be ready to return to the practice field when the team begins its preparations for the Bucs on Tuesday.

For all the hits that Vick has endured, he was frustrated that the injury came on a play where he wasn’t even touched.

“I never question why things happen, I never question God, but I’m just running by myself and running out of bounds. I tried to slow down and I think I just took the wrong step,” said Vick, who will get treatment on the hamstring in the morning.

As for his thoughts on Foles’ day, Vick said: “Nick looked great. Played a great game. That’s what we expect out of Nick, and that’s what Nick expects out of himself.”

The offense took on a different look with Foles in the game, even if the head coach contended that the game plan wasn’t altered. The Eagles were heavily reliant on the ground attack in the first half. They finished the opening quarter with zero passing yards. Vick kept the offense moving with his feet, racking up 79 yards on seven carries. He was 6-of-14 through the air for 105 yards without a touchdown or an interception.

The passing game was the only thing working with Foles in the game. Consider LeSean McCoy‘s numbers: he had 12 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown with Vick in, and eight carries for minus-two yards with Foles under center.

“It definitely changes the dynamic of the game when he is not out there,” said DeSean Jackson of Vick, “but I think as you saw with Foles he does a great job of making a decision and really letting the ball come out early and just giving the receiver an opportunity to just go out there and make a play on the ball.

“I was very impressed. He came in and gave us a shot to win so that’s all that really matters.”

According to Jason Avant, the Giants played some more zone coverages and gave some two-high safety looks when Foles was in. Giants corner Prince Amukumara went as far as to say that the Eagles’ “whole game-plan changed.”

Things got dicey in the third quarter. Foles was handed a 16-7 lead when he entered, but found himself down 21-19 after back-to-back Giants touchdowns within a three-minute span. The offense responded with 17 unanswered points to close out the game. The Eagles went into the fourth with a one-point lead thanks to Alex Henery‘s fifth field goal of the game (the Eagles were 2-of-5 in the red zone Sunday). Foles built the advantage to 29-21 with a pretty 25-yard toss to Brent Celek, who came up with a nice catch. Later, Foles found Jackson from five yards out to ice it.

Foles lost the quarterback competition to Vick this summer and, despite his quality pinch-hitting efforts, will return to the bench when Vick is ready assuming Kelly stays true to his word. What does Foles need to do to claim a full-time gig?

“I’m not even thinking that way,” he said. “The first thing that happened when Mike got hurt was I prayed for him. My job was to go in there — Mike was hurt — and get a win. I had a great team around me to help me do that. I’m excited to go on the bus and be with the team. But I don’t think like that, so I can’t answer the question.”