CHICAGO -- The most impressive thing about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is that he knows these moments won't last forever. Someday he'll have a different uniform, a larger paycheck and heavier expectations from a franchise that will see him as its undeniable starter. It's that reality that keeps Foles reflective and appreciative of the excitement he keeps creating for his current team. It's also a chief reason why losing in the postseason has become something he simply cannot do.
As much as people will focus on a blocked 43-yard field goal by Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey in the Eagles' 16-15 NFC wild-card win on Sunday, that blown opportunity will obscure what Foles did for his team in this victory. He once again proved that he can deliver his best performances even when he looks his worst. He reminded us that there's a calming effect he has on this team, an enviable asset that is usually hard to find in men who work as backup quarterbacks. Most importantly, he helped push the Eagles one step closer to winning another Super Bowl with him under center.
It's gotten to the point where Foles can't really do anything that blows our minds anymore. If anything, he's making another strong case for why the Eagles are in such good hands when they have to rely on him.
"Nick is Nick," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "He's going to stay calm. He's going to stay collected. Just very efficient. It wasn't pretty at times. (He had) the two turnovers early in the first half, which could've led to some points. But he hung in there and he did some good things."
This game essentially summed up everything the Eagles have come to expect from Foles. He didn't fall apart after throwing those two interceptions in the first half, even though one of those turnovers -- an ill-advised, off-balance throw that Bears safety Adrian Amos picked off after Foles tried to hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor in between four Chicago defenders -- should've made Pederson's head explode. Foles simply shook off his mistakes and set his mind to moving forward. His teammates, in the process, kept believing good things would happen.
The Eagles know full well what Foles can do by now. They saw him take over for injured starter Carson Wentz late last season and lead the team to its first-ever Super Bowl win. Nobody in Philadelphia will ever forget the sight of Foles out-dueling New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in that 41-33 win last February. Sooner or later, the Eagles believe that Nick Foles is going to show up when they need him most.
That moment came after the Bears took a 15-10 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Trubisky to Allen Robinson with 9:04 remaining in the game. It seemed that everything was working against the Eagles at that stage, especially since Soldier Field was rocking and the Bears' stingy defense was rolling. All Foles did was steady his offense and lead it all the way to the Chicago 2-yard line with 1:10 left on the clock. Three plays later, Foles hit wide receiver Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down that gave Philadelphia the lead for good.
That score said far more about Foles than his final numbers (25 for 40, 266 yards with two touchdowns and two picks). That touchdown was a reminder of how clutch he can be.
"We were over there talking and I figured that, from studying [Chicago] in those situations where the game is on the line, they like to blitz and bring a lot of pressure," Foles said. "So why don't we move the pocket and put one of our best guys on one of their guys and let him win? So Doug and I discussed it and he was all for it."
Foles actually is the perfect person to be leading this Eagles team because he embodies so much of what they are about presently. These Eagles were left for dead after the New Orleans Saints beat them, 48-7, on Nov. 18. The Eagles fell to 4-6 that day and they were looking up at a host of teams that had far better playoff chances than them. When a fractured back sidelined Wentz for the final three games of the regular season, Philly's hopes became even bleaker.
Then a funny thing happened: Foles started playing and the breaks started working in the Eagles' favor again. He started the first two games of the season as Wentz worked himself back from a gruesome knee injury, but the player who showed up in late December was far more effective. Foles led the Eagles to three straight wins, two of which came over playoff teams (the Los Angeles Ramsand Houston Texans). He also completed 77 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and three interceptions as the Eagles secured a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season.
Foles has been good enough that there have been legitimate debates about what the Eagles should do with a backup who's delivered so much postseason success and a starter who has yet to even play in a playoff game. The reality is that Foles knows exactly where he stands. This team belongs to Wentz. The only question is what happens to Foles in the future.
For now, that's a question the Eagles don't need to answer. However, Foles is well aware that his next loss could easily be the last game he ever plays for this franchise.
"I always try to take a moment and just sit there and reflect," Foles said. "You're enjoying it with your teammates, but you're also giving it everything you have. I realize that I'm blessed to wear this jersey at least one more week and that I get to play with these guys one more week. That's something that I really look forward to and I'm pleased to be a part of it."
The Eagles obviously feel the same way about their backup quarterback. When Wentz went down in December, some of his teammates erected a shrine in the team's locker room to commemorate the good vibes of the man who's earned the nickname "St. Nick." It was their way of showing their faith in a player who's already produced so much. They understood there was no reason not to expect more miracles in their future.
Philadelphia now has new life and another meeting with the Saints, this time in next weekend's Divisional Round. They know they will be underdogs and that New Orleans will be looking to inflict as much damage as it did in that last beating. The only difference in this game will be the presence of Foles. From everything the Eagles have shown so far, that's more than enough reason to feel good about their chances.