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Foles does what it takes, as always

ARLINGTON, Texas - They kept coming for Nick Foles on Sunday night - DeMarcus Ware and Jarius Wynn and George Selvie and Jason Hatcher, all of them collapsing the pocket, diving at Foles' feet, driving the Eagles' offensive line backward into his face.

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

ARLINGTON, Texas - They kept coming for Nick Foles on Sunday night - DeMarcus Ware and Jarius Wynn and George Selvie and Jason Hatcher, all of them collapsing the pocket, diving at Foles' feet, driving the Eagles' offensive line backward into his face.

Everything has been so tidy and calm for Foles most of this season whenever he's dropped back. The Eagles had started the same five linemen in front of him and Michael Vick all season, had developed a cohesion that was supposed to seal Foles inside a cocoon and let him pick apart a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL.

Dallas had used 20 defensive linemen this season entering Sunday, an absurd number, especially in a scheme that predicates its defensive success on pressuring the quarterback with four down linemen.

But the Cowboys had left Foles baffled and concussed on Oct. 20, confusing and battering him into the worst game of his otherwise marvelous season, and now, with the NFC East title and the Eagles' first playoff berth since 2010 in the balance, they were measuring his mettle all over again.

And as the clock melted down to 0:00 on a 24-22 Eagles victory, on a division championship, Foles walked off the field as if he were leaving a theater after seeing a so-so movie. There was little reaction. There was no elation. There was just him.

This is the posture we've come to expect from Foles, and still it was striking to witness, given the tension of the game, the stress and strain and punishment that the embattled Cowboys' defense had inflicted on him.

Five sacks, a forced fumble, an intentional-grounding penalty, a stuffed quarterback sneak on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line - so much chaos around him, and for all the praise he's gotten for his levelheadedness, Foles never had to be so composed in his two-year NFL career.

The Cowboys kept coming for him, kept whittling that Eagles' lead down to two points late in the fourth quarter.

And for a 24-year-old who had set records at the highest level of Texas high school football, who had been the centerpiece of the University of Arizona's program during his time in Tucson, this was the toughest test during his life in the sport.

Time after time Sunday, he had responded as he had all season. Twice on the Eagles' first possession, he completed clutch third-down passes that led to a field goal.

Their second drive was more of the same: another third-down completion, this time to rookie tight end Zach Ertz. A fine throw across his body while rolling to his left, finding DeSean Jackson for 20 yards.

Then, a calculated risk: With the Cowboys' pass rush closing in on him, he lofted a jump ball toward Jason Avant. It was a good chance to take. Avant has the best hands on the Eagles. The man cracks safes. He came down with the football over Dallas safety Jeff Heath for a 22-yard gain.

Foles tossed a 3-yard touchdown to LeSean McCoy on the next play. This was the Nick Foles everyone had gotten used to, a different one from two months ago.

"The Philadelphia offense that I saw on the field [in October] is not the Philadelphia offense that I'd seen on tape," said Brad Sham, who has analyzed and called Cowboys games on radio since 1977.

"From the Oakland game, when Foles threw [seven] touchdowns, it looks like that was the place where they realized what they could be, and the Nick Foles that I saw on tape was a guy who made extraordinary decisions, which I think is the difference in quarterbacks."

If there was a flaw in Foles' decision-making Sunday, it was that he did at times hold the ball too long, that he was too trusting in an offensive line that struggled to block Ware and Hatcher and the rest of the Dallas defensive line.

Nevertheless, anyone who suggests Foles is nothing more than a product of Chip Kelly's system, that he'd be an excellent backup quarterback on another team or under another coach, ought to remember how many times Kyle Orton - an excellent backup quarterback - threw behind his receivers Sunday.

The last time Orton did it, Brandon Boykin intercepted the pass, and it cost the Cowboys the game and their season.

Foles finished with his customary sparkling statistics: 17 of 26, 263 yards, two touchdowns.

But in a way, he was the difference in the game for what he didn't do.

He ran Kelly's scheme as well as he could amid that Dallas pass rush, and he didn't make a backbreaking mistake. It was enough. Barely.

Yes, the Cowboys kept coming for Nick Foles all night long Sunday, and just like the team he guided to a division championship, he pulled off the greatest accomplishment of this enchanted Eagles season. He escaped.