Zone Read: Eagles-Washington, the Day After
Nick Foles walked slowly and gingerly from his locker to the podium in the media room at Lincoln Financial Field.
He had removed his jersey and shoulder pads and cleats. But he hadn’t showered yet and still was in his game-worn pants, pads protecting his thighs and quadriceps.
If Foles hadn’t realized it before, he found out with about 9:56 left in the fourth quarter that as a quarterback in the NFL, it’s always wise to keep your guard up because you never know when the next hit is coming.
Foles had let up after it looked like Washington defensive back Bashaud Breeland was down on an interception return. But behind him to his right came 325-pound defensive lineman Chris Baker with a leveling blow that lifted Foles off the ground and put him in a daze, sparking a melee on the Washington sideline.
“No I didn’t,” Foles said, when asked if he saw the hit coming. “He got me pretty good. I did not see him. …I thought the guy was down so that’s why I wasn’t looking for anyone. The next thing I know I’m just obliterated, so I don’t know.”
Still frames from the play show what Foles was talking about:
Players are asked to make split-second decisions, but Breeland was on the ground before Baker decided to unload on Foles. Jason Peters went after Baker when he saw what had happened, and both players ended up getting ejected.
“Knowing that they had my back in that situation when a guy does a dirty play, all of those guys just kept fighting,” Foles said. “Our team was fighting throughout the whole game and I’m really, really proud of my teammates today.”
The feeling was mutual. Foles’ teammates saw him take the hit, get up, return to the sideline and never miss a snap. While Peters went right after Baker, other players on the field went to tend to Foles, who was lying on his back.
“I see Nick on the ground, so I went there,” said tackle Andrew Gardner. “And I was just kind of looking at Nick. And looking at him, I said, ‘He’s done.’ I didn’t think he was coming back in. He was just kind of sitting there, toughening up, sucking up the pain. I thought he was done, certainly gonna be out a few plays.”
Added Dennis Kelly: “The fact that he got up and was fired up, just as fired up as the entire stadium, I think it really shows his level of commitment to winning and to this team. It’s a great sign for your leader, your quarterback that he’s able to take something like that and just stare it in its face and say: ‘What else you got?’
“I saw him down. I assumed he was gonna be out, just the way the hit sounded and everything like that. I’m impressed because he got up and it seemed like nothing happened to him. And I think that shows his character.”
Chip Kelly learned of Foles’ toughness in college when his Oregon squads would pound the then-Arizona QB snap after snap. Kelly was amazed at how Foles always got up and demonstrated a unique resiliency. He saw the same in Sunday’s victory.
“Nick just stood in there today, and that’s one thing, I said it before about him and I knew it because when I played against him in college, he’s going to stand in there,” Kelly said. “He’s a tough sucker. He got hit a lot today.”
Added tight end Zach Ertz: “He took worse hits in college. I can guarantee you that. The one shot that he took on the peel-back was B.S. in our opinion, but he’s a true leader of this team. And as he goes, we go, and he did a good job of leading us after that.”
“I think it does [go unnoticed] because he’s so mild-mannered and such a nice guy,” said DeMeco Ryans. “His toughness does go unnoticed. But to each his own. When it’s time for him to step up and battle for our team, he does it week in and week out.”
Going into the game, Foles was playing behind a pair of backup offensive linemen in Dennis Kelly (left guard) and Gardner (right tackle). By the end of the game, that number had doubled to four as Wade Smith and David Molk both entered the game.
Foles was competing against a defense that had 10 sacks in Week 2, and his biggest weapon, LeSean McCoy, averaged just 1.2 yards per carry on 19 rushing attempts.
With the defense unable to slow down Kirk Cousins, it was Foles who had to respond under difficult circumstances. The results? He completed 27 of 41 passes for 325 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. After two uneven performances to start the season, Foles delivered one of the finest outings of his career.
“I didn’t know anything,” said Molk, when asked if he knew about Foles’ toughness before Sunday. “This is my first year here. I didn’t know anything. But to see a guy do that, that’s amazing, that’s absolutely amazing.
“I want to carry him to his car, honestly. Whatever it is, whatever he needs, jump on my back so I don’t have to ride yours.”
It wasn’t just the toughness, but the throws that Foles made. He looked more comfortable than he did the first two weeks and squeezed the ball into some tight windows. Perhaps most impressive was a ball to Jordan Matthews in between Washington defenders in the second quarter. The touchdown gave the Eagles a 21-20 lead before halftime.
“I thought he made some big-time throws,” said Kelly. “The one right at the end of the first half that he ripped right off the linebacker’s ear to Jordan was a big-time throw. They’re throws that he’s made since I’ve been around him. What you’ve got is a guy that’s just an unbelievable competitor and understands what the game plan was and really took advantage of it.”
Foles will be sore today. He’ll probably see replays of the hit from Baker. But he’ll also see replays of the 27-yard strike to Jeremy Maclin that gave the Eagles a fourth-quarter lead they never relinquished.
He will receive treatment, watch film, make corrections and get ready for the trip to San Francisco, knowing he has the backing of his teammates and that he’s the quarterback of a 3-0 team.