OAKLAND — Truth in the NFL is elusive, like LeSean McCoy catching a screen pass in space. Truth in the NFL is fleeting, too, there and then gone, our sporting Snapchat.
So what do we make of Nick Foles? What now?
Two weeks after he and his game were dismantled by the Dallas Cowboys — dismantled and then concussed besides -- Foles returned Sunday and played a game for history. Yes, history.
Foles threw for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders; that is not a misprint. Against a defense that had put up good numbers in the first half of the season, Foles — aided and abetted by coach Chip Kelly’s play-calling — absolutely shredded the Raiders’ secondary, making it look uncompetitive when he wasn’t making it look inept.
Against the Cowboys, in a game billed as the chance for Foles to take the starting job away from Michael Vick, Foles folded. Two weeks later, given another chance when Vick re-injured his hamstring, Foles unfurled the kind of game that will not soon be forgotten — accurate, decisive, devastating, 49-20.
So, which is the truth?
And why is this so hard?
“Sometimes you’re going to have bad games, and they’re tough to deal with, but you always have to watch the film and see what you did wrong,” Foles said. “I saw the things I did wrong and knew I could fix them by working on them in practice, studying the film...That’s where that 24-hour rule comes in handy.”
Twenty-four hours is all he allows himself to dwell on a game just finished. It is the most important cliche among the panoply that Foles routinely offers. It has always been a necessity in the NFL but never more than now, where performance swings with wild regularity. You really do have to reinvent yourself every week.
That is what Foles did Sunday. The numbers, for posterity: 22-for-28 for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns. Foles’ quarterback rating was 158.3, which is the highest there is. He now shares the touchdown record with a half-dozen players, including the Eagles’ Adrian Burk, who threw for seven in a game in 1954. Peyton Manning did it most recently, in September.
In 1954, Burk actually had been removed from the game after his sixth touchdown but returned to get the seventh after the team public relations director informed coach Jim Trimble about the record. By contrast, Kelly removed Foles from the game early in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a sign in our office — I walk by it every time: ‘Adrian Burk did it at Griffith Stadium,’” Kelly said. “I don’t know what the record is, but this isn’t about records. It’s about going out and getting a win. If I put Nick out there, trying to get a record, and he gets hurt, that’s just being silly. I also think records are made to be broken when they’re supposed to be broken. If you ask Nick, I think it’s the same thing. It’s a hell of a thing to do, and not many people in the history of the game did what he can do, but we were trying to win the football game and make sure we got out of there healthy.”
Foles said he was unaware of the record while he was playing. He said he did not even know how many touchdown passes he had thrown, or about the record, until after he had been removed from the game.
“Whenever I’ve looked at records throughout my whole life, the greatest thing about it is the guys you do them with,” Foles said, after which he gave credit to pretty much everyone on the team except himself.
But this was very much about him, and how he would rebound after the Dallas loss and the concussion, and everyone knew it. Center Jason Kelce talked about how Foles was more vocal and involved in everything this week, and about “a little bit different look in his eye, going into the game...It’s more just his mannerisms and everything. He was obviously upset with the way he played before, in the Dallas game.”
Running back LeSean McCoy said the only comparable game he had seen was Michael Vick’s game in Washington in 2010, when he threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more. McCoy said, “(Foles) just seemed so focused this game, like he had something to prove today.”
The numbers cannot help but get your attention. After the Eagles’ offense went two games without a touchdown, and Foles had to deal with his failures against the Cowboys, and Kelly had to deal with people saying that his offense had been figured out by the NFL, this kind of explosion was, frankly, stunning. It was not predictable and is is not easily explained.
Except for this: the NFL, more than ever before, is a league of ephemera. The ink fades on the words you write about the NFL almost before it dries. The opinions that you express about the NFL, that you express with such booming authority, get carried away by the wind created by the turning calendar.
It is all about next week. It is all about the next game on the schedule. We grew up learning about the game and loving the game and holding certain truths to be self-evident -- you know, thing like the necessity of being able to run the ball in December in the Northeast, or that defense wins championships. Back then, things were just true -- year after year, decade after decade.
Now, though, who really knows? When Nick Foles can have a day like he had at the O.co Colisuem, the conclusion consists of an audible “wow,” followed by an uncertain silence and a look at the next game on the schedule: at Green Bay.
So, for Nick Foles, which is the truth?
And, yes, he says there is a 24-hour rule after wins, too -- even after wins that put him in the NFL record book.
On Twitter: @theidlerich