Nick Foles disembarked from the team plane on the morning of Dec. 11 after a week on the West Coast as the starting quarterback for a playoff team. There wasn't much time to process or reflect. It was a whirlwind – he would start against the Giants days later, and the hopes of the NFL's best team and one of the most rabid fan bases depended on Foles.
"Things happen fast," Foles said. "That's this league. You can't slow down because it's going."
Foles finally has time to catch his breath this week. It comes after two substandard performances – an ugly game in a win over Oakland in Week 16, and one uninspiring quarter against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. The Eagles returned to practice Wednesday as part of their bye-week work. They'll be on the practice field again Thursday. They won't know their divisional round opponent until the weekend, but Foles is trying to make these days count.
"This is a great week to go back and self-scout," Foles said. "For me, it's going back in my past, different situations, what concepts I liked. …That's the beauty of this bye week, is we get a lot of great work in, but you can self-scout yourself."
Similar to coach Doug Pederson, Foles has watched film from his record-setting 2013 campaign, and even watched the footage from his playoff start that season. He wouldn't divulge what he learned from that game that he could incorporate in the playoff game next week, but he insisted he's had time to reflect and learn this week.
Foles said the first two days this week included "a lot of rest." He's worked on recovering his body, but he also made sure he was a devoted husband and father during the rare mornings at home. That included allowing his wife to sleep late while Foles watched their 6-month old daughter. He read to her during his morning coffee.
"Those little things reenergize you," Foles said.
Foles insisted after the Cowboys game that his confidence was not shattered. For all the psychoanalyzing that could take place of the starting quarterback, it's the performances that matter most. Foles knows the last two weeks weren't good enough. He completed 46.9 percent of his passes for 202 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
"Obviously on Sunday and the week before, that's not how I want to play," Foles said. "But if anyone's ever played a sport, you can't sit here and say, 'OK, that's what it is.' I've had games like that and I've come back and played at a higher level.' So you keep looking at it, keeping grind, keep working."
In Foles' career, he's had 14 starts with a passer rating better than 100 and 16 starts with a passer rating lower than 80. He's had only nine starts with a passer rating between 80 and 100. This shows the wide variance he has between playing exceedingly well and notably poor, without many average games in between. The Eagles need the better Foles in January.
Foles has taken stock of the situation he's in and the opportunity that's in front of him. Foles packs much into his work week, and the pressure is magnified as the starting quarterback. Since Foles joined the lineup, he's needed to help the Eagles secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage all while adjusting to receivers he hasn't had much work with and taking more practice snaps than he's had all season. So he hasn't stopped to think much of his last playoff appearance until this week.
"It has been a whirlwind. A lot's gone on the last couple of weeks," Foles said. "I had some time to reflect – me [in 2013], playing in this game, what that season was like, the atmosphere, the visualization of it all. Because that's important. It's going to be here before we know it."
Foles' weekly preparation has developed since he was last in this situation. He's included what he learned under Alex Smith last year in Kansas City while also taking what Chase Daniel introduced to Carson Wentz last year. That came from Drew Brees in New Orleans.
And while the bye week has helped Foles get a head start on next week, its most value might be the first chance to decompress since he became the starter. If it goes well, he'll have a few weeks before he has early mornings free for his daughter again.