PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles slid his right hand up under his left arm. A reporter had spotted the abrasion on the back and asked him about it.
“Football,” Foles said. “You get hit.”
As a quarterback, you get hit and hit and hit some more. But it's part of the job to jump back up as if nothing happened, as if nothing hurts, as if nobody on your offense whiffed on a block and almost got you swatted like a fly. It's part of the job to hide the banged-up hand from public view.
Foles spent six weeks as the Eagles' starting quarterback last year. He wore down over that stretch, finally sitting out the final game with a hand injury. In 2012, those games meant nothing in the standings. The Eagles were playing out a frazzled string and Foles went 1-5 in his six starts.
This year, the Eagles are playing for the NFC East title with two games to go.
“There's a lot of attention that comes along with it,” Foles said, “but yes, I'd much rather be in this situation than what we were in last year. Every game you're playing is a meaningful game. Last year, we were playing for each other because there was no way at the end of the season that we could have continued on into the playoffs.”
Foles threw for a career-high 428 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in Minnesota. On Monday, the civic conversation was about how inconsistent he was in a 48-30 loss.
“I agree with it,” Foles said. “We didn't win. I missed some throws that didn't give us an opportunity to win. It's part of playing quarterback. It's tough. I've learned to handle it. It does hurt, but that's why I keep fighting and I have a short memory when I'm out there. When that play happens, I have to forget about it. I learn from it and I move forward and hopefully it doesn't happen again.”
The Eagles lost more than a game in Minnesota. It seemed at times they'd lost their collective minds. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson got into a shouting match with his position coach, Bob Bicknell. Roc Carmichael got called for a taunting penalty when the Eagles were losing by 12. Cornerback Cary Williams got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and was benched by defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
“I was frustrated,” Foles said. “But as a quarterback, you just can't show it. Guys are looking at me to see how I respond. If I get frustrated, it's really going to impact the whole team. I've really got to stay on an even keel and just keep going and keep the guys together. My teammates are looking at me as a quarterback. They're trying to see how I react in those adverse situations. When everything's going wrong, when guys are going crazy, when composure is lost -- what's the quarterback doing? Is he going to lose composure or is he going to keep firing that ball? I'm going to keep firing that ball. We're going to be stronger because of this.”
Around the league, established franchise quarterbacks are delivering horrendous performances. Eli Manning has thrown 25 interceptions this season. Robert Griffin III has been benched. Tony Romo threw killer interceptions to cost the Cowboys a game against Green Bay Sunday. And that's just in the NFC East. Detroit's Matthew Stafford threw his game away against Baltimore. Even Drew Brees threw a couple of interceptions in an upset loss to St. Louis.
Foles has been better than most of them this season. He led the Eagles on a five-game winning streak to get to first place with an 8-5 record. Getting judged for a few bad throws in a loss is part of his job description. Fortunately, Foles understands that.
“For sure,” he said. “When you have success, people's expectations do grow. When they see you play consistently well, that's what they expect every week. And that's what I expect. I expect nothing different. But I can't let a game where I don't feel like I played well, and I don't help our team as much as I think I should have, affect me to where I can't play at that level. My goal every game is to go and play a perfect game.”