AS THE Eagles' left tackle, Jason Peters is charged with protecting Nick Foles' blind side. It's a task that the six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All Pro usually performs better than any other left tackle in the business.

But sometimes, stuff happens.

Stuff happened Sunday with 10:07 left in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 37-34 win over the Redskins. It started with that errant pass by Foles that sailed over the head of tight end Brent Celek and into the arms of Redskins rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

The pass initially was ruled an interception, but eventually would be reversed when replays clearly showed the ball had hit the ground. Breeland returned the interception that wasn't 17 yards to the Philadelphia 31, where he was tackled by Todd Herremans.

Foles happened to be in the vicinity of the play, still dwelling on the potentially costly pick he thought he had just thrown in a tie game, when Redskins nose tackle Chris Baker came out of nowhere and delivered a vicious blindside shot on him.

While Peters couldn't get there in time to protect Foles, he did get there in time to dispense some justice. He charged at Baker and gave him a left-arm shiver to the head.

Baker responded by wrapping both of his paws firmly around Peters' facemask and pulling him forward as both teams gathered on the sideline and started calling each other unflattering names. Or singing "Kumbaya," I'm not sure which. OK, I am sure. It wasn't "Kumbaya."

Anyway, the zebras eventually restored order, the interception eventually was changed to an incompletion, Peters and Baker eventually were thrown out of the game, and Foles eventually got up off the ground and threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin that sent the Eagles on their way to their first 3-0 start in a decade.

Peters expects to receive a hefty fine from the league later this week, which he readily acknowledges he deserves. "I definitely got a fine coming," he said yesterday. "But I'm willing to pay it."

The 32-year-old Peters regrets leaving his team in the lurch Sunday. But he doesn't regret seeking vengeance on the guy who blindsided his quarterback.

And you know what? If somebody else tries to do something similar to Foles in the future, he'll also come looking for them.

"I'd do the same thing if it happened again," he said. "The guy cheap-shotted my quarterback. I wanted to protect him.

"Our team is tight-knit. When a guy puts a cheap shot on a smaller guy . . . Nick ain't too small, but he's a quarterback. I just took it upon myself to go after the guy."

Turns out, though, that the league doesn't think Baker cheap-shotted Foles. Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, who was a defensive back for both the Eagles and the Redskins, told the Washington Post's Mark Maske yesterday that there wasn't anything wrong with Baker's hit on Foles.

"When you look at the rule, he didn't do anything illegal," Vincent said. "People can say it was a cheap shot and you can talk about whether it might fall under unsportsmanlike conduct.

"But when you know the rule [about hitting the quarterback on a change-of-possession play] and you look at the play, he didn't hit him in the head. He didn't hit him in the neck. We looked at it. I looked at it very closely. He's not going to be fined for that."

Vincent did not return messages from the Daily News last night.

Peters' ejection could have cost the Eagles a victory given the state of their offensive line at the moment. But it earned him a heaping helping of love from the team's feisty fan base.

"It was wrong," Peters said. "I got kicked out of the game, which definitely hurt the team. We ended up winning, but any situation where you're a starter and you get kicked out of the game, you don't want that. So I'm going to try and stay away from that."

Unless somebody goes after Foles again.

This is Peters' sixth season with the Eagles. Just four players on the roster have been here longer - Herremans, Celek, linebacker Trent Cole and long-snapper Jon Dorenbos.

He arrived in Philadelphia in 2009 with baggage. A 4-year starter with the Bills, he was immensely talented, but had a reputation as a guy who didn't like to work particularly hard, was difficult to coach, and when the going got tough, well, he'd take his lunch break.

His first 2 years with the Eagles, that often was the case. But then Howard Mudd was hired as the team's offensive line coach and everything changed.

Peters matured and blossomed into the best left tackle in the game under Mudd, and has remained at that Canton-bound level under Mudd's replacement, Jeff Stoutland.

Five years ago, Peters wouldn't have bothered to come to his quarterback's rescue.

But that was then and this is now. Peters is one of the Eagles' team leaders now, and one of Foles' best buddies on the team.


"Me and Nick have been tight since Day 1," Peters said. "Even when he wasn't starting. [Sunday] wasn't nothing new for me. I've had his back since Day 1."

Talk about your NFL odd couples. Peters and that Mr. T approach-with-caution look. Foles and that whole Gomer Pyle thing he's got going on.

"He's just a talkative guy," Peters said. "We'd stand in the sun [on the practice field] or sit in the [players'] lounge just talking when Mike [Vick] was here and he was the backup. That's how we got so tight."

Said Foles: "I love Jason. I wouldn't want to have anyone else out there [at left tackle]. He reacted and had my back. I'll support Jason Peters forever. I have his back."

Peters can't keep Foles out of harm's way by himself. The Eagles' offensive line has been decimated by injuries and Lane Johnson's PED suspension, which has one more game to run.

All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis is out until early November as he recovers from an MCL injury in his right knee. Center Jason Kelce, perhaps the most important player on the Eagles' offensive unit, will have sports hernia surgery this week and probably is gone until mid-November. Kelce's replacement Sunday against the 49ers, David Molk, will be making his first career start.

"You've just got to have faith," said the perpetually faithful Foles. "You've got to trust your line. You've got to trust yourself. A lot of guys, especially young quarterbacks, you get hit a lot.

"[When that happens] your clock starts going fast. You just have to calm yourself down, take deep breaths, go back to your reads, go back to really thinking through the play."

And believing that when all else fails, your good buddy, the All-Pro left tackle, will have your back.