- Phil Sheridan, ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter
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It was Oct. 20 at Lincoln Financial Field. Foles had made his first start of the season in relief of Michael Vick the week before, at Tampa Bay. He had looked poised and in control, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-20 victory.
Then the Cowboys came to Philadelphia, and Foles was everything he wasn’t in Tampa and hasn’t been since: inaccurate, indecisive and ultimately injured. He left the game after taking a bad sack that left him with a concussion.
Foles’ performance seemed out of character then. It seems like an out-of-body experience after his performance since: 6-1 record, 67-percent completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, two interceptions, 126.6 passer rating.
So what happened?
“There’s just some things in life that if you try to figure it out, it will drive you crazy,” Foles said. “And it’s easy just to say it was a bad day. If I look into every meaning, every little thing, everything I did and try to break it down, I’ll drive myself crazy.”
Instead, Foles drove himself in a different direction. He missed the Eagles’ 15-7 loss to the New York Giants because of the concussion. The next week, he was back in the starting lineup for the Eagles’ game at Oakland.
Foles completed 22 of 28 passes for 406 yards and an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns. If there were questions about his ability to rebound from a bad game, that performance was a pretty clear answer.
“We grew from that (Dallas) game,” Foles said. “We used that game as fuel. It was character-building. Tough games like that, tough things in life, you face adversity -- it hurts. You don’t feel good. You feel it in your heart. It’s not fun. But you learn how to get better. You grow together as a team. That’s the beauty of it.”
Two months and nine days later, Foles will face the Cowboys again. This time, he is the NFL’s top rated passer, leading the NFC East’s first-place team. The winner goes to the playoffs. The loser is finished for the season. It is the very definition of a big game, and it is an opportunity for Foles to bury that last game against the Cowboys forever.
“It is a big game of high magnitude, with a lot on the line,” Foles said. “But you can’t worry about that. Worrying about that is not going to make you play any better. You’ve got to simplify the game, make it easy, focus on that one play. When you start thinking about that other stuff, it causes a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of pressure on you to succeed.”
There was a lot more pressure on the Cowboys, with quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett desperately needing to prove they can win a big game together. With Romo reportedly out because of a back injury, that pressure shifts to the Eagles.
It isn’t a make-or-break situation for Foles and head coach Chip Kelly, not in their first season together. But it is an opportunity for them to avoid the burden that builds from perennial disappointment. Win that first big game together and future, bigger games become less daunting.
Just being in this position is something for Foles to feel good about.
“This is what you play for all season,” Foles said. “It is crazy. After the Dallas game, and all the emotions you feel trying to get healthy, and just for our team to stay together throughout that entire time -- we grew together as a team. That’s why it’s so special right now. The playoffs start this week for us.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The more time that goes by, the more games he plays, the less sense Nick Foles' nightmare performance against the Dallas Cowboys makes sense.