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Foles passes latest test with flying colors

It was difficult to not peek ahead to the Cowboys, to the game with the most meaning, to the season finale for the whole NFC East enchilada, to the biggest test of Nick Foles' short NFL career and a chance for him to wipe away the one stain on his resumé.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

It was difficult to not peek ahead to the Cowboys, to the game with the most meaning, to the season finale for the whole NFC East enchilada, to the biggest test of Nick Foles' short NFL career and a chance for him to wipe away the one stain on his resumé.

But the quarterback had blinders on, delivered in prime time, and had arguably the finest of many fine outings in this unforeseen season as the Eagles spanked the Chicago Bears, 54-11, on Sunday night.

Meaningless? Tell that to Foles and his teammates, who wanted to rebound from a scattershot effort against the Vikings last week, and hoped to enter next week's game in Dallas with momentum.

"If we're going to line up and kick off," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said, "you tell us what time to show up, and we'll be there."

Foles doesn't need to be reminded about his performance against the Cowboys in October. He has a 24-hour rule, as in, Win or lose, I need only one day to enjoy/commiserate over a game.

"You can't let one game defeat you," Foles said. "If I know anything about myself I'm going to keep fighting."

But that game, when Foles completed only 11 of 29 passes for 80 yards and missed open receiver after open receiver, cannot be forgotten. Not only for the result - a 17-3 loss to Dallas when the Eagles could have made up ground in the division - but for how uncharacteristic it seemed.

There have been various hypotheses: Foles still had a groin injury. Foles suffered a concussion on the first drive. Foles just wasn't good and never will be the franchise's savior. In truth, it was just a blip on the season's screen, a reminder that he was starting in only his eighth NFL game and that everyone has a bad day.

Foles wasn't even technically the starter then. Now he is.

"I have grown since that game," Foles said.

Despite having the balloon of Sunday night's possibilities popped by the Cowboys' comeback win over the Redskins earlier in the day, Foles and company didn't let the fact that they couldn't clinch the division affect their play.

The Eagles offense was sharp from the first drive, something coach Chip Kelly obviously wanted to establish after last week's woeful start in Minnesota. You always want to start strong, but the Eagles came out with something to prove and beat a Bears team that had something to play for - the NFC North crown - into submission.

Foles completed 18 of his first 21 passes without ever missing an open receiver. The three incompletions came when he threw two out of the back of the end zone to avoid sacks and when he purposely flicked a pass into the ground at the foot of a receiver as he escaped pressure.

Overall, Foles connected on 21 of 25 attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He has thrown 25 touchdowns this season, with only two interceptions. His quarterback rating is 120.1, and he will enter the final Sunday atop the NFL, ahead of the Broncos' Peyton Manning.

On the Eagles' first possession, Foles scrambled for 10 yards on second and 4. Several plays later on third and goal at the 5, he rolled to his right and had three receiving options. Tight ends Zach Ertz and James Casey were covered, but Foles bought time and fired a touchdown pass through a hole and to Riley Cooper just before he got hit.

The Eagles scored another touchdown on their second drive. The key play occurred when Foles had time, moved to his right, and floated a 27-yard completion to Ertz. A series later, Foles connected with tight end Brent Celek for 24 yards off the play fake. They hooked up later for a 10-yard score when the quarterback found his receiver alone on a cross.

Foles took a couple of sacks in the second quarter, and maybe he held the ball too long, but he hardly ever makes a bad decision. He's had only three turnovers despite taking more than 650 snaps this season.

One of Foles' underrated attributes is how he pump-fakes or how he looks safeties off to draw defenders away from intended receivers. He hit Cooper for 16 yards on third down in the second quarter after he shifted a defender away. He did the same with a pump on a 17-yard toss to Jason Avant.

In the second half, the Eagles didn't need Foles to carry the offense. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown iced the Bears on the ground. But he made a few stellar throws - the best a 32-yard bull's-eye to Cooper.

The balance of the offense made the Eagles virtually unstoppable. It's a wonder Kelly made his unit one-dimensional against the Vikings. But it was a learning moment for both the coach and his quarterback, who was inconsistent.

The Eagles are a work in progress, as is Foles. He has yet to lead Kelly's Eagles on a late game-winning drive. He has yet to play in a playoff clincher. He has yet to play in the postseason. But he hasn't yet been placed in those situations.

Sunday's test lost most of its luster, but Foles shined in a game that some may have labeled meaningless. For those who know better, it was another test the second-year quarterback passed.

The final exam is next week.

"That's a big game. I know what's on the line," Foles said. "Everybody knows what's on the line."