Foles left the field with the lead

Eagles' Nick Foles runs off the field after losing to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, January 4, 2014 in the first round of the NFC playoffs. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )

First-and-10 on the Eagles’ 23-yard line.

Time remaining: 7 minutes, 59 seconds.

Score: Saints 23, Eagles 17.

Nick Foles, this is your life.

The career is just out of diapers. The future is obviously unknown. But in the here and now, after a kind of tentative day, this was the moment of Foles’ young professional life. And even if he did not do it alone -- not hardly -- these are the times when people look at quarterbacks and being to keep mental score.

And Foles passed.

On the drive, he completely four out of five passes. One he didn’t complete, a 43-yard rainbow to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, resulted in a penalty for defensive pass interference. And in the end, when Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz with a 3-yard touchdown dart, the Eagles had come all the way back from a 20-7 deficit to take a 24-23 lead. That is how Foles left the field with 4:54 remaining.

It is the bright side, such as it is.

Going in, most people saw an Eagles victory over the Saints. Some saw a defeat in a shootout. Few saw it the way it played out, with the Eagles getting the ball run down their throats, not that it matters. Dead is dead, after all. The rest is just paperwork.

And the Eagles’ dream is dead -- because of a kick return after the Ertz touchdown, and a horse collar tackle on Cary Williams at the end of the kick return, and then more pounding the ball on the ground. At the end, Shayne Graham kicked 32-yard field goal with no time remaining and the Saints knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs, 26-24.

But Nick Foles left the field with the lead. In his first playoff experience, as uneven as it was, Foles brought the Eagles back from a big hole. That is something. Despite the ending, that is something. It is why the people who hung around at the end applauded the young quarterback as he made his way off of the field and into the tunnel.

In Chip Kelly's first year as coach, the Eagles went a lot farther than anyone expected, or had a right to expect. They did it with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson and a solid offensive line and a defense that got better every week. And they did it with Foles, coming off of the bench to replace Michael Vick.

The Eagles held a 7-6 lead at halftime and the concern was plain. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees had thrown two interceptions, which was not likely to happen in the next half, and the Eagles had only seven points to show for it. One reason was a terrible sack that Foles took in the first half, effectively snuffing a potential touchdown drive.

Foles had all day to throw it in the first half, but he seemed just a little bit reluctant to pull the trigger -- sort of how it was in Dallas the week before. There are plenty of times, given the run fakes and the reads he needs to make on many plays, when Foles takes a while to get rid of the ball -- but this was not that. This was hesitation, born of the coverage he was seeing, or the enormity of the moment, or something.

But history will show that Foles overcame his hesitation. To repeat: with just under 5 minutes remaining, he left the field with the lead in his first playoff game.

Again, that is something. 

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