LANDOVER, Md. – The question to Nick Foles was how he felt, and it was more about how he felt below the neck than above it, but the quarterback tried to dodge the question more successfully than he dodged a sack in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s playoff-clinching win.
“I’m good. I’m good. I’m excited. We get to keep playing football,” Foles said. “So, I’m really excited about it.”
For the second straight game, the Super Bowl MVP, standing in a second straight season in place of Carson Wentz, took a hard shot to the ribs during a pass attempt. Last week, it was 255 pounds of Jadeveon Clowney hitting him as he threw. On Sunday, it was 259 pounds of Ryan Kerrigan smacking him down.
Foles came out of the game for one play against Houston, but he left Sunday’s game with 12 minutes to play and didn’t return.
There was no reason to put him back out there – maybe there was no reason to still have him out there in the first place – so perhaps the caution was simply better late than never. The Eagles were in control of the game against a checked-out Redskins team from the early going. Washington offered some resistance on defense, but its offense was utterly toothless. For the game, the Redskins gained 89 net yards, and it didn’t look easy to get that many.
Foles was done for the day, whatever the reason, and the Eagles will take a good look at him before saying much more. Since they still won’t be specific about how long it took them to discover a fractured vertebra in the franchise quarterback, they’re not going to be rushing into diagnoses with Foles.
So, Nick, really, how do you feel?
“I’m sore. We’re going to continue to figure out what’s going on,” Foles said. “We’re going to find out more about what’s going on in the morning. Like I said, I don’t have a lot of information right now. Tomorrow [Monday] is a big day.”
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It is, maybe as big as Sunday. Getting into the playoffs was the goal and they achieved that, which is no mean feat for a team that lost, 48-7, to New Orleans on Nov. 18 to fall to 4-6. But after winning five of their last six, including three straight with Foles as the starter, they are not just alive but gathering some familiar momentum. With Foles, that is.
“I’m not the doctor, but I hope he’s OK,” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “I hope Nate is ready to play football.”
That would be Nate Sudfeld, who finished Sunday’s game and, assuming Wentz isn’t cleared to play, would be the next man up if Foles is unable to start or is injured again. Well, if any team can believe a backup is able to win playoff games, it should be the Eagles, but having to go with Sudfeld would be testing the limit, even for them.
“My plan is to get ready to roll,” Foles said. “Obviously, we have to look into a lot of different things tomorrow, and unfortunately I couldn’t finish the game today. But I want to wear that jersey one more time, and hopefully more, but all we have guaranteed is this week.”
Against the Redskins, Foles played exactly as the Eagles need him to play. With the exception of a ball that got away from him on their first drive and became an interception, he managed things quietly; hitting little passes with precision, moving the ball around, leaning on the run game, employing effective play-action.
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In one remarkable stretch, he tied a league single-game record (set by San Diego’s Philip Rivers last month) of 25 consecutive completions. He threw an incompletion with 7 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first quarter, and didn’t throw another until there was 1:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Midway through that stretch, he took the team on a second-quarter drive that lasted 19 plays and chewed nearly 12 minutes off the clock before ending with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.
The Eagles were up by just 10-0 at that point, but it might as well have been 100-0 the way they were controlling play. When Foles finished off the third period with another long drive (a mere 13 plays, that time), he did finally throw that next incompletion, but he followed with a pass to Agholor that the receiver finished off by sweeping the ball over the goal line before falling out backward.
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“I had no idea I had completed that many in a row,” Foles said. “I was just playing. Like I say, ‘Stay in the play.’ I found out later that the one I missed [setting a new record] on was one I double-clutched and threw a horrible pass, but we scored on the next play, so it wasn’t meant to be.”
With Foles, and with the Eagles, over these last two seasons, it is sometimes difficult to separate what is from what is meant to be. It certainly didn’t seem ordained that they would make the postseason this time around, or do with it what they did the last time around.
So, all we can do is wait and watch and check the injury report. Foles said Monday is a big day, and he knows all about big days in this game.