A calm Nick Foles is back ‘in the moment,’ trying to keep the Eagles' playoff hopes alive
As the Eagles fight for their playoff lives, Nick Foles seems to be in a good place heading into Sunday's critical game against the Houston Texans.
Nick Foles showed up at his news conference in the NovaCare Complex auditorium Wednesday afternoon dressed for comfort. The Eagles quarterback was wearing a pair of five-finger shoes on his size-16 feet.
“I just wanted comfy shoes,’’ he said. “[I’m] fixing my toes. When you wear cleats all your life, your toes don’t look too good.’’
Foles is all about comfort right now, whether it’s his toes or his recurring role as Carson Wentz’s replacement.
He stepped in last year after Wentz tore up a knee late in the regular season, and led the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl title.
Now, Wentz is hurt again – this time a fractured vertebra in his back – and Foles once again has been called from the bullpen.
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He shook off three months of rust last week and helped keep the Eagles’ playoff hopes alive with a solid 24-for-31, 270-yard passing performance in an impressive 30-23 road win over a Rams team that most people already had penciled in as an NFC championship game participant.
“When you play when it’s not necessarily expected and you have pick up the speed in a night game against one of the best teams in the NFL, it’s important to trust in your coaches and trust in your teammates, and realize that you’re not the only one out there,’’ Foles said.
“You’re the one feeling all of these emotions because you haven’t played in a while. But when you step on that field, everything calms down. I talk about being in the moment. The most calm I was [Sunday] was actually in the huddle when the game started.’’
With Wentz out indefinitely, Foles will start again Sunday when the 7-7 Eagles host the 10-4 Houston Texans.
This Nick Foles is different from the one who took over for Wentz in Week 14 last year, and even different from the one who started the first two games of this season before Wentz was medically cleared to play.
Much like the shoes on his feet, he is more comfortable now than he was the previous two times he took over for Wentz.
When he first replaced Wentz last year, Foles said he tried to be perfect, tried to do everything the coaches told him.
“It slowed me down and caused a little bit of stress because you’re trying to do everything right,’’ he said. “When we took a step back [before the playoffs], we were able to talk about different plays I like, the way I liked the offense, the way I liked it structured. What I feel, personnel-wise, that we do well.
>> READ MORE: Carson Wentz would’ve benefited from a lot of what the Eagles’ offense did against the Rams
“All of that allowed me to read and react and just play the game. And just go out there and see it and not have to think. Just go unconscious. Get in the zone.’’
Stay in the moment, as Foles repeatedly told us during that incredible postseason joy ride last winter.
Last week against the Rams, just as in the playoffs, Eagles coach Doug Pederson handed Foles a game plan tailored to what the 29-year-old quarterback does well and what he is most comfortable with.
It allowed him to, as he said, “read and react.’’ A lot of run-pass options. A lot of quick passes that thwarted the Rams’ pass rush. He spread the ball around, completing passes to seven receivers. He showed more willingness than Wentz to put up some 50-50 balls and let receivers like Alshon Jeffery, who has one of the biggest catch radiuses in the NFL, make a play. Jeffery had his best game of the season, catching eight passes for 160 yards.
“I thought the coaches did a great job with the game plan last week,’’ Foles said. “Obviously it was a unique week with everything going on. But I felt comfortable with everything. We just went out there and played ball. We didn’t have to think too much. Just had to play.
“I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of thinking [involved]. But it was simple in my mind because I had seen it so much throughout my life. I just went out there, read and reacted, trusted my teammates. Let the play come to me.’’
He admitted he didn’t do that enough in his two September starts. When he re-signed with the Eagles after being the Super Bowl MVP, he knew he likely was returning to Wentz’s shadow. And he was OK with that. But then Wentz’s return was delayed and Foles found himself as the season-opening starter.
“I just put a lot of pressure on myself from what had happened before,’’ he said. “You’re coming off the Super Bowl. You don’t know if you’re going to start or for how long.
“When I had the chance to step back [after Wentz returned in Week 3] and support Carson and help on the scout team, you don’t expect to play again. You want the guy [Wentz] to play. I wanted Carson to succeed. I wanted him to play.
“It means I wasn’t going to be in the limelight. I was going to be in the background. But I was OK with that.’’
Now, he’s back in the limelight, back as the Eagles' starter, at least for now.
Somebody asked him Wednesday whether this felt like déjà vu -- whether it felt the way it did last year when Wentz got hurt on that dive into the end zone against the Rams and he took over.
“It’s different,’’ Foles said. “It’s a different moment. If you starting thinking that way, you’re going to get lost in it all.
“This is a totally different scenerio. Last year, we were one of the top teams in the NFL. This year, we’re fighting. We’re fighting to get into the [playoff] hunt. We’re in the moment, but we’re fighting. Different scenerio, different year, different obstacles.’’