Nick Foles flourishes in the face of adversity

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Nick Foles flourishes in the face of adversity

December 8, 2013, 9:00 pm
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Nick Foles completed 11 of 22 passes, threw for a touchdown and ran for another on Sunday. But here's the most important part: He won. (AP)

In the end, the statistics revealed a very pedestrian game for Nick Foles.

He threw for the second-fewest yards of his career in a game he started and finished.

He registered his lowest completion percentage since the Oct. 20 nightmare against Dallas and third-lowest of his 13 career starts.

He completed just 11 passes, tied for second-fewest of the season.

He threw his first interception in nearly a year and missed out on tying Peyton Manning’s record for touchdown passes to start a season without an interception (see 10 observations).

But here’s what matters most: In his first game ever in the snow, in a game where he could barely complete a first-half pass, in just his second meaningful December game as a starting quarterback, Foles won.

He helped rally the Eagles from a 14-point deficit to their fifth straight win, a 34-20 triumph over the Lions at the Linc that improved his starting record this year to 6-1 and kept the Eagles in a first-place tie with Dallas atop the NFC East (see story).

“That was a very, very unique game,” said Foles, who passed for 179 yards and shook off an awful start to complete 11 of 22 attempts (see Instant Replay). “I’ve never played in a game quite like that, and just obviously you want to do well in the first half. Weather conditions aside, we still have to go out there and execute.”

The stats don’t look pretty, but Foles passed another major December test.

He confronted his first snowstorm and persevered after misfiring on nine of his first 13 attempts. The Austin, Texas native who played his college ball at Arizona completed just 4 of 10 passes before the break, with several throws going over receivers’ heads or behind them.

The Eagles have another outdoor game left, against Chicago in two weeks at the Linc, and would host a home game in January if they win the division. It’s safe to assume they’ll need Foles to have good games in bad weather if they have playoff aspirations.

“Of course, playing in this kind of environment, you learn a lot,” he said. “Having the ability to go out there and throw in the snow with all of that definitely made me mature as a player. I’ve done it [now], so now if we ever face that again I will be better equipped than I was before playing this game.”

Foles had thrown 233 passes without an interception, the eighth-longest streak in NFL history, before Chris Houston picked off pass No. 238 in the second quarter.

Not only did the streak end, but so did his chance of tying Manning’s record of starting the season with 20 touchdown passes before his first pick. Foles had 19 before Houston got him.

From that point on, despite awful conditions, he didn’t turn the ball over again and didn’t get sacked. The Lions, meanwhile, fumbled seven times and lost three. Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford fumbled five times, losing one.

“I think it’s a real credit to those guys in terms of what we did ball security-wise,” coach Chip Kelly said. “Besides the one pick, where the ball sailed a little bit on Nick, we didn’t lose a fumble on the day. I thought that was outstanding.”

If there were questions about Foles’ ability to deal with wintry elements, they were answered in the third, but it took some time.

He misfired on his first three passes after the half to start the game 4 for 13. On the next series, Kelly called three straight runs and punted. Foles went 9:43 without a completed pass spanning the second and third quarters until he hit LeSean McCoy four a 4-yarder with 6:31 left to go in the third.

Three plays later, he tossed a picturesque 44-yard strike to Riley Cooper to the Lions’ 19-yard line. On the next snap, Foles found DeSean Jackson for a touchdown.

“I knew it was one of those things where I would adjust to it and we would adjust as a team, because the routes changed up a little bit because of the speed of them,” he said. “When I was making throws I couldn’t really zip them, because if you zip them in that weather, it is hard to see the ball and with the gloves or the hands it would slip right through. So it was just adjusting to how I wanted to throw the ball. As the course of the game went on, I got more and more comfortable with it, and we all adjusted and made some big plays.”

From the 4-yard pass to McCoy until the end of the game, Foles completed 7 of 9 passes for 144 yards.

He finished with a 73.9 passer rating, but if Brent Celek had scored an easy touchdown late in the fourth instead of intentionally taking a dive to run out the clock (see story), his passer rating would have been 90.9.

Not to worry, he’s still the NFL’s leading passer with a 120.0 rating.

So he didn’t tie Manning’s record, but Foles couldn’t care less about the interception, just how he responded.

“You let, on any level, one interception defeat you, you cannot play this game,” he said. “I left it a little high, but I know how I can fix it. My teammates look at me in those situations and they look at the quarterback when there is an interception is thrown, and 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 learn from it, it’s an interception. 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.”