MINNEAPOLIS — If Nick Foles knows anything, he knows comebacks.
He came back from football oblivion, pushed the game’s margins by poor play on bad teams. He was one prayer session away from quitting the game at just 27 years of age.
And then, two years later, he was living the American dream in its most Arctic big city, quarterbacking the Eagles in a billion-dollar glass palace and beating the Patriots, perhaps the best franchise in modern NFL history.
He side-armed a 2-yarder to Zach Ertz. He rolled out and hit Nelson Agholor for 10 on second-and-long. He snapped a dart into double coverage, 18 yards, again to Agholor. Then, Agholor in the flat, and 10 more, but a bad one to Alshon Jeffery in the end zone.
Not for Nicky 6.
He saw Zach Ertz facing Eric Rowe in the left slot, and Ertz cut in, and Foles threw it, and Ertz caught it, and dived, and scored.
And, with that, Nick Foles had Tom Brady-ed Tom Brady.
He had won a Super Bowl, 41-33.
The most canine of the Underdogs was the MVP of Super Bowl LII. Going to Disney World. The whole nine yards.
“I thought about hanging up the cleats,” Foles said afterward. “I prayed about it.”
It made sense, to a degree, that the least likely player would be the best player on a team denied a Lombardi Trophy since the Super Bowl was born 52 years ago; especially so on the 2017 edition of Eagles. For a team decimated beyond belief, losing seven of its top 26 players, Foles had gone 5-0 in meaningful games. He replaced Carson Wentz, the franchise quarterback and the 2017 season MVP favorite before his knee collapsed in Game 13.
Foles’ completion to Ertz was his 28th, on his 48th and final pass, for his 373th yard and his third touchdown.
It gave him a 115.7 passer rating for the playoffs. He deferred to his teammates, but that might be the first lie he’s told in years. Jeffery and Agholor were good.
Foles was great.
“I knew I didn’t have to be Superman,” he said.
But then, he was.
“We dreamed about this moment,” he said.
It was a performance for the ages, even if it was not completely unprecedented. It made him the 10th backup quarterback to win a Super Bowl in relief, and the first since … wait for it …
We’ve seen Brady on the MVP stage. This was Foles’ moment, on the first step, wife Tori just beneath him, with 7-month-old daughter Lily in his arms.
“That’s what life’s all about, right there,” Foles said. “Time does stop when you look in your daughter’s eyes and celebrate this moment.”
“A lot of people counted him out,” said coach Doug Pederson. “Didn’t think he could get it done. This whole postseason Nick has shown exactly who he is.”
He looked less invincible earlier. The TD to Ertz redeemed Foles from what had been his worst moment of his playoffs.
But then, Foles’ first playoff interception was as improbable as … well, as everything else that has happened to him since Wentz lost his ligaments in December. He’d thrown for 153 yards in the first 25 minutes of Super Bowl LII. He was 11 for 18, with a touchdown.
This was another bomb, but as the ball descended, Jeffery, a step ahead of Stephon Gilmore, decelerated. Foles couldn’t get quite enough power behind this deep throw, but maybe, just maybe, Jeffery might make more magic. They’d already connected beautifully on a 34-yard touchdown pass, and on a 19-yard, over-the-head NFL Films special.
Jeffery saw it was going to be short, and he gave it his best, basketball-player effort: tipped it twice, but fell away. Duron Harmon intercepted it. Brady and James White eventually turned it into a touchdown, which made it 15-12 with 4 seconds to play before the 2-minute warning.
Would this change Foles’ approach? Would he turn timid? Would Nicky 6, the self-described “gunslinger,” holster his weapon?
Nicky 6 lives for this.
When the Eagles got the ball back, Foles found Ertz for 7 yards, then dealt a lovely butterfly softly down the right sideline to rookie running back Corey Clement, who straight-armed Harmon at the 25-yard line before he was dropped at the 10.
And then — and then — on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Pederson called “Philly Special,” and Foles lined up wide right, watched Clement take a direct snap, and, as Clement flipped it to Trey Burton coming around from the end, Foles loped into a corner route. Foles, who needed more than 5 seconds to run his pre-draft 40-yard dash. Howie Roseman is faster than that. Now.
But you don’t have to be fast when you’re confident, and utterly fearless, and completely uncovered. Foles caught the pass, and gave the Eagles a 10-point halftime lead, and thanked his lucky stars, and, surely, his well-loved God. He thanked them both that he didn’t retire when the Rams cut him after the 2015 season.
He would have missed his resurrection season in 2016, when Andy Reid recalibrated his body and mind.
He would have missed the brotherhood of Birds: The Eagles’ quarterbacks room, where Wentz, Foles, third-stringer Nate Sudfeld and coordinator Frank Reich study football and, sometimes, pray.
He would have missed throwing a Super Bowl touchdown. He would have missed catching a Super Bowl touchdown.
He would have missed being a point down in the fourth quarter to Brady and orchestrating a comeback that included Jake Elliott’s Super Bowl-clinching 46-yard field goal.
He would have missed it all if he’d quit.
“I prayed about it,” Foles said. “I’m glad I made the decision to come back and play.”.
He wouldn’t have missed this for the world.