GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Sometimes it just happens like this, with defenders going bump in the afternoon. In the end, as everyone knows, it is what you make of the opportunities that matters. To somehow deride Nick Foles for his good fortune is to deny the unpredictability of a sport where the ball is not round.
Foles has been very lucky and he has been very good, both of those things, and he is the quarterback of a playoff-contending team as a result. Following up on his NFL-record seven touchdown passes against the Oakland Raiders last week, when more than a few defenders fell down on the job, literally, Foles threw three more in the Eagles’ 27-13 win over the Green Bay Packers.
One of the touchdowns was a total gift, an under-thrown ball that would have been intercepted had two Packers defenders not collided. Instead, they managed to deflect the ball into the air and into the arms of Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Another touchdown featured a great catch by wide receiver Riley Cooper on a ball that Foles said he intentionally threw oddly wide of both Cooper and the coverage.
It has all fallen right for Foles in the last two games, and that is true. And if your eyes told you he wasn’t as good this week on a blustery day at Lambeau Field as he was last week, the numbers are still outrageous — 12-for-18 for 228 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 149.3 quarterback rating.
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And the results? They are quite real. Foles has bounced back from the disaster that was his game this year against the Cowboys, and from the concussion he suffered that day, and even from a first half against the Packers where he seemed a bit tentative. The resilience is what strikes you now. As wide receiver Jason Avant said, “He hasn’t let bad times determine his future.”
Foles’ reaction to adversity will be the story of the rest of the season for the Eagles. Hard games are ahead. Bad bounces are inevitable. How he handles all of that will tell everyone all they need to know. People want to decide if Foles is going to be the Eagles’ quarterback in 2014 right now, but that is not possible. His success has given the franchise the gift of what should be a reasonable sample size upon which to judge. They are going to need all of it, though, in order to give them a chance to watch Foles in every situation.
So far, Foles said, his resume is “good, but I need to improve. There’s a lot of stuff I want to improve on. We have two wins now, back to back, that we need to continue to build on. We haven’t done a great job of winning at home — that’s out next big thing.”
They have not, in fact, won a game at home. That is Foles’ next mountain. In the meantime, though, it is impossible not to recognize the essential level-headedness of the guy. Yes, he got sacked and fumbled in the fourth quarter against the Packers, and it could have been a big play in a closer game. But there is no pattern here, except that he almost never makes game-jeopardizing errors. He still has not thrown an interception this season.
“Nick does a great job of protecting the football,” Kelly said. “...He doesn’t really make egregious mistakes out there. If he misses...he may not be accurate on a throw but that’s what he’s missing. It’s not that he’s got a guy wide open and he was supposed to look right but he was looking left.”
It will be interesting to see if the pressure of being in the playoff hunt in November and December — with a 5-5 record, the Eagles are legitimately in the conversation now -- will have an effect on him. The guess is that it won’t, but you never know. So far, offensive guard Evan Mathis says he has not noticed a lot of variability in Foles’ personality.
“Not at all not at all,” Mathis said. “Nick is a very even-keeled guy. I think that’s the best way to be in this league. You’ve got to be the same guy, no matter what.”
None of us knows how this will play out — just as none of us knows how this game might have gone had that underthrown pass been intercepted, or if that odd duck in the wind to Cooper had been incomplete, or if a fourth quarter replay ruling on a potential touchdown catch by the Packers’ Jordy Nelson had gone the other way.
We cannot know the future. We can only know what we are seeing. And what we are seeing is a young quarterback who is making the most of the opportunities being presented to him.
And no, Foles said, he does not believe in luck or in luck’s law of averages.
“I believe in the good lord and that’s it,” he said. “(The Jackson touchdown) bounced that way but we have to continue playing, no matter what. You can’t worry about it bouncing the other way and giving them something, or something like that. I’m glad it worked out that way. I’m very thankful that it did.”