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Sunday, January 5, 2014
Foles plays QB role on field and off

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles had the floor and he delivered the message he wanted to send.

Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles had just lost a playoff game to the New Orleans Saints on a last-second field goal. A season of promise and discovery was over. Players stood at their lockers trying to explain what happened to knots of reporters with notebooks and recorders and minicams.

Nick Foles
Despite the loss in the playoffs, Nick Foles established himself as the Eagles' franchise quarterback.
Except for coach Chip Kelly, Foles was the only man who addressed the media from the podium in the interview room. He was upset. He was disappointed. But he was, as ever, thinking like a quarterback: What does the team need to hear from its leader right now?

“That was tough,” Foles said, “but I felt like we kept fighting throughout the game. I was proud of the team and all the guys in that locker room. They continued to fight ... on all sides of the ball. That’s what this team is about. We’re going to fight until the end.”

It was the kind of message a franchise quarterback takes care to deliver. And if anything became clear during the Eagles’ 2013 season, it is that Foles is the franchise quarterback now.

“I don’t want to comment on any player,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said, “but how can you not be impressed with Nick, with everything he has accomplished including tonight? He had no turnovers and led us back from 20-7 [down]. He is incredibly impressive.”

Foles hardly played a perfect game. Neither did the Saints’ Drew Brees, whose two first-half interceptions could have (and probably should have) buried his team. Foles didn’t make any killer mistakes, but he took a sack that pushed kicker Alex Henery to the limit of his range, leading to a missed 48-yard attempt.

“It was a bad decision by me,” Foles said. “I definitely should have thrown it away in that situation. I’m going to make mistakes. I made mistakes tonight, but I’m going to keep playing and keep fighting. You can’t let a mistake like that -- taking a sack or an intentional grounding -- defeat you on the next one.”

Foles did throw two touchdown passes, including a 3-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz that gave the Eagles a 24-23 lead with just under five minutes to play. As postseason debuts go, it obviously would have been better to pull off the victory. But there was plenty to like and to build upon.

The same can be said for Foles’ entire season. He took the starting job after Michael Vick pulled a hamstring and never relinquished it. He threw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. The Eagles were 8-2 in the 10 games he started. That kind of winning percentage will produce a lot more playoff appearances for Foles and the Eagles in the future.

Like every quarterback, playoff wins will ultimately define Foles. At 24, he has plenty of time to define himself. In a very real sense, he started doing that with his postgame message.

This is his team and this is how the quarterback responds to a tough loss.

“My guys are depending on me to go out there and make plays,” Foles said. “They’re going to look at me in those situations. I’m going to keep moving forward. That’s what the guys can count on from me. They know I’m going to keep fighting for them.”