Certain things cannot be quantified. Certain things cannot be explained. People openly mocked Doug Pederson following the win against the Rams in early December. Pederson said it’s next man-up. That felt like a cliche at the time. Sure, the Eagles could replace Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks. Even Hall of Fame LT Jason Peters, too.
But Carson Wentz? No shot.
There’s not one moment where everything just clicked. Yeah, Nick Foles played the best game of his life in Sunday’s win over Minnesota, but it didn’t just magically happen. After the game, Foles gave a Gary Gaines type answer to a question about the journey since Wentz’ injury. Foles entered in the fourth quarter with Wentz tearing his ACL in Los Angeles six weeks ago. Chris Long made the play on defense to give the Eagles a win, and ultimately home-field throughout the NFC playoffs. Everybody said the right things following the game. There was disappointment, certainly, but the overriding message didn’t falter inside the locker room even if the perception of the Eagles changed drastically from the outside.
Foles discussed the belief his teammates showed in him, even when he threw terrible interceptions in Week 16 and Week 17. Even when commentators said the only reason why the Eagles beat the Falcons was Steve Sarkisian’s play calls. Even when the rest of the country assumed the only way the Eagles could beat the Vikings would be to score defensive touchdowns and run the ball.
“We kept working and we kept getting more reps in practice. It’s just a rhythm thing. You just have to keep working. You’re not always going to have a great day. I’m sure down the road I’m going to play a bad game again,” said Foles (shout out Bo Wulf of The Athletic for transcribing this essential quote in his post-game story). “That’s the game of football. You’re going out there and competing at a high level, so you should never get down. You should always learn from those experiences and look forward to working through them. That’s the beautiful thing when you look back at the journey and you realize that it wasn’t always great. There were bumps in the road but you were able to overcome them with the people around you who believe in you and love you.”
Nothing has been won yet. The goal remains the same: Super Bowl champions. The biggest game of the season, Feb. 4, will also be the most difficult challenge. This is New England. Led by the best coach of all-time. Led by Tom Brady who has already won five championships, including two of the past three. In fact, the last time the Patriots won three titles in four years the third title came against the Eagles. Philly remains an underdog.
There’s a feeling surrounding this team. It’s something that cannot be truly explained. Throughout the season, fans witnessed it from afar. From Chris Long donating every game check to education opportunities to Malcolm Jenkins continuing to shine a light on important causes. Patrick Robinson struggled in preseason months after being cut by the Colts. Nobody expected him to make any impact. Robinson returned the touchdown Sunday against the Vikings, making a play like he has all season. Nelson Agholor was benched following the worst game of his career last season. He’s now one of the best slot receivers. Because he believed in himself. Torrey Smith dropped football after football this season. He dropped another one in the first quarter on a ball from Foles. But that didn’t matter. Foles trusted Smith, going back to him in the third quarter of Sunday’s win with a touchdown score. Foles himself almost quit football altogether, his confidence shot following a stint with the Rams. The man that drafted him in Philadelphia, Andy Reid, gave him a call to be Alex Smith’s back-up in Kansas City. Foles now finds himself one win away from his entire life being changed forever.
Foles kept working and working with his receivers. His coaches trusted him to make big plays. It’s hindsight, but listening and reading things before the Eagles took on the Vikings after the fact is comical. Foles would have training wheels, essentially. He’ll hand the ball off to Jay Ajayi. Maybe some dinky throws to Zach Ertz. A couple times he’ll try to throw deep to Torrey Smith, but Minnesota will cause way too many problems. Nobody, even the most optimistic fans, envisioned three touchdowns and only seven missed throws in the beatdown. The credit goes to Foles.
It’s going to feel like an eternity, these next handful of days before Super Bowl Sunday. The story lines will be exhaustive. How terrible Minnesota fans were treated in Philadelphia. Tom Brady going for ring No. 6. Super Bowl XXXVIII rematch. But Foles stepping in for Wentz. That story line won’t grow tiresome. Foles deserves all the praise in the world. He kept at it. And his teammates kept believing. And here they are.
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