Philadelphia didn't intend to put Nick Foles in the immediate position of needing to lift the team to victory in a shootout. But given the result of Sunday's 34-29 comeback win over the Giants, the Eagles can have much more confidence in their quarterback after his first start in the wake of Carson Wentz's season-ending knee injury.
When Philadelphia came to terms with the Wentz news earlier in the week, the air of positivity was led by coach Doug Pederson and his talk that Foles would be the latest "next man up" to come through in a magical season.
For Pederson and the Eagles, the only mystery going into Sunday's game with Foles was how they would get the job done — not whether the QB would get the job done.
"Nick had the hot hand early and maintained it throughout the game," Pederson told reporters after the game. "Really, this was just a great win not only for the team, but for Nick too."
After finishing off the Rams in Week 14, Foles followed up by igniting the Eagles (11-2) in Week 15 before it was too late. The Giants (2-11) tried to play spoiler against their NFC East-winning rivals — from scoring the opening touchdown to taking a 20-7 lead to having multiple chances to steal in the game late in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning and New York brought whatever they had left.
The Eagles had plenty of coverage lapses against Manning's receivers. Their front seven didn't help with little pressure and a lot of shoddy tackling, and the Eagles couldn't get the rushing attack going for most of the day against a weak Giants run defense.
So much for Foles playing the role of game manager in an expected rout. The Eagles required every bit of his efficient play (24-of-38, 237 yards, 4 TDs, 115.8 passer rating) to lock down a first-round bye in the playoffs and stay ahead of Vikings in the race for the No. 1 seed.
Did Foles show the Houdini act of escaping the pass rush a la Wentz? No. Did he take off and run for big plays? No. Did he bring the same jaw-dropping razzle-dazzle? No.
But the Eagles should be thrilled Foles didn't try to play too much like Wentz. He did things like himself, taking advantage of the depth and versatility of his backs, tight ends and wideouts. He got the ball out quickly and hung in the pocket fearlessly through the end of drives, with all four scores coming in the red zone. He spread the ball around, didn't force plays downfield and moved the ball well with few bad throws. That's how a QB needs to play in the Meadowlands on the brink of winter.
"He played well, really well," Pederson said. "I’m sure there are some things he would like to do over, obviously, (but) each game is going to be that way. He handled himself extremely well. A lot of poise back there. Took some shots but bounced up."
Granted, this was against this season's Giants, who and at some point Sunday reverted to looking more like this season's Giants. But Foles, despite limited support on the road, kept the Eagles focused on their task. He proved he can rally a team that was used to playing with big leads. That's a critical post-Wentz development, as the degree of difficulty for the Eagles will increase against every opponent in January.
Now the Eagles might not need to play away from Philadelphia until, they hope, Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. Their next two are at home against Raiders and the Cowboys before they host divisional playoff game.
As for Foles, he will never be Wentz. But he's capable of getting the Eagles where they want to be.