Nick Foles keeps a daily checklist. That is how the most-popular person in Philadelphia deals with all that surrounds him, whether it’s the adulation of a fan base that saw him win the Super Bowl or preparing for Sunday’s must-win game against Washington. Foles should get royalties for how often he says he must “stay in the moment,” which was a mantra during the Super Bowl run.
On Sunday, that checklist will include a game that the Eagles must win to preserve their hopes of reaching the postseason. (It will also require help from Chicago, which must beat Minnesota.) If the Birds' season ends Sunday, it will likely be Foles' final game as an Eagle.
The Eagles will need another big game from Foles, though, just to have a chance for one more game, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP remains empowered by his experience 11 months ago. That’s because Foles believes the Eagles’ edge will come as much from the intangible qualities as all the game-planning and preparation that goes into facing the NFL’s 14th-ranked pass defense.
“A lot of the guys I played with are here,” Foles said Thursday. “We were in that huddle, we were going through the games in the playoffs, we were playing with one another, so we know how each other tick. ... A lot of the times the best team on Sunday – obviously preparation, execution, all the things you hear about – but the thing that’s going to win is the brotherhood, being able to fight through adversity. Because it will happen.
“There will be mistakes made. I might throw a pick. I might fumble. But what are we going to do? That’s where we need to react and be confident and be positive, as opposed to, ‘Oh man, we’re in trouble.’ And that’s what you see with this team. Happened last game. There were a lot of missed assignments. There was a couple [of] turnovers. We didn’t play our cleanest ball. But we played well.”
Foles was alluding to Sunday’s performance against Houston, in which he went 35 of 49 for a franchise-record 471 yards with four touchdowns, one interception, and one fumble. He needed to lead the Eagles on two-minute drive to win the game.
Foles calls such drives the “highest-pressure situations there are in this game,” and while players don’t want to be in them every week, they are “some of the most fun times.” The quarterback likes to say that when he’s on the field, he tries to disregard the score and situation and just play loose and free. He admits those end-of-game situations are different because the clock, down, and distance are critical.
What’s helped Foles is that he has a command of the Eagles' offense, and the coaches have a sense of how to use him. Foles said that was one of the key features of the Super Bowl run – the value of the communication between the quarterback and coaching staff and the comfort with the game plan. He wants to rely on plays that he has practiced and knows. He said it’s something he’ll carry with him as long as he plays.
The “stay in the moment” emphasis is applicable in high-pressure games such as Sunday’s in Washington. Foles said the value of that perspective was fortified during the Super Bowl. In fact, when he’s gotten away from it and enlarged a situation or put pressure on himself, it hurt him.
“I realized I needed to hone in, and when I did just focus on the simple things in the day and everything should be overwhelming me, it wasn’t,” Foles said. “And it was actually peaceful. Playing in the Super Bowl, it was a big-stage scenario – it’s a really big stage -- but I remember staying in the moment, not worrying about the clock, not worrying about the score. When the play was called, just getting in the huddle. Just reminding myself that, it was peaceful. Which it shouldn’t be. But it was.
“And then from then on, I’ve made a mistake of not doing that, and then getting back into it. So it was very recent that I have understood that. It took me a long time to realize that. And I still haven’t figured it out. I still get overwhelmed.”
The debate about Foles and Carson Wentz has become a hot topic in Philadelphia. Coach Doug Pederson has insisted repeatedly that Wentz is the Eagles’ long-term quarterback. But that doesn’t take away from the team’s all-in focus with Foles this week, and perhaps the coming weeks if they’re fortunate.
To listen to Foles this week is to hear a player aware of his own situation and how his time in Philadelphia might be expiring. But, he’ll try to squeeze more time out of his Eagles' career, and he’ll do it by emphasizing the intangibles that helped bring a Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.
“That’s how we’re going to win,” Foles said. “It’s not going to be perfect.”
Linebacker Jordan Hicks missed Thursday’s practice with a calf injury. Hicks played Sunday after a four-game absence, so this is an apparent setback. Pederson will address Hicks' injury at his 10:30 a.m. Friday news conference. ... Center Jason Kelce also missed practice because of a knee injury. Kelce was considered a limited participant on Wednesday. ... Also absent were defensive end Michael Bennett (foot), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), and quarterback Carson Wentz (back). Bennett is likely to play against Washington, while Wentz will be out and Jones is not expected to return by then. ... Tackle Jason Peters (quadriceps), guard Isaac Seumalo (pectoral), wide receiver Mike Wallace (foot), and linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring) were limited participants. It was Wallace’s first practice since Week 2.