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MINNEAPOLIS — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles thought his football career might be over less than a year ago. He surely didn’t see it getting a second wind due to a legendary playoff run.
Foles was amazing in the first half of the Super Bowl, and he capped it in the most unexpected way possible. On fourth-and-goal in the final minute of the half the Eagles went for it and dialed up a trick play. Foles faked like he was going to the line to call an audible, there was a direct snap to running back Corey Clement, he pitched to tight end Trey Burton and then there was (wait for it) a touchdown catch by Foles. It was Foles’ first career reception. Some people though the Eagles might try to hide Foles in their Super Bowl game plan. Instead, he was throwing and catching touchdown passes.
University of Texas quarterback Sam Ehliger pointed out the familiarity of the play, dating back to their alma mater, Austin Westlake High School.
Foles threw for 215 yards in the first half of Super Bowl LII, helping the Eagles to a surprising 22-12 halftime lead. If you were allowed to see Foles’ halftime line before the game — 13-of-22, 215 yards and a touchdown — you’d have figured those were his stats for the full game.
The Eagles quarterback was overshadowed in the lead-up to Super Bowl LII, but that’s what happens when you face Tom Brady. If you didn’t know the backstory, that Foles was playing only because Carson Wentz injured his knee late in the regular season, you wouldn’t have known Foles was never supposed to be in this position. Foles didn’t look like the stage was too big for him during a great start to Super Bowl LII.
Through the week, plenty of analysts figured the Eagles would use a run-heavy attack. Foles threw it 11 times in the first quarter. They passed the ball on six of their first seven plays to start the game. Eagles coach Doug Pederson clearly thought Foles was a key to beating the Patriots in a Super Bowl. That’s a brave game plan.
The Eagles have shown faith in Foles, even after he was criticized following poor performances in Weeks 16 and 17. He surprised the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game by passing often and throwing it deep. The Eagles weren’t scared to let him throw the ball, and Foles wasn’t scared to throw it.
The only mistake Foles made in the first half against the Patriots — and it was more bad luck than a mistake — was his interception to Duron Harmon deep downfield late in the second quarter. Foles threw one up to Alshon Jeffery, which worked for a fantastic touchdown in the first quarter, but Jeffery was covered well by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the ball popped up in the air and Harmon grabbed it. The Patriots scored on a long drive after that interception, but Foles came right back. He led the Eagles on a long drive that included a 55-yard pass to Clement and was capped by Foles’ fourth-down touchdown catch.
Foles has put himself in an interesting position during this postseason run. Last offseason, he thought about retiring and becoming a pastor. He put off that plan to sign with the Eagles, but it still looked like he was settling into a career as a backup. Foles, who had an amazing Pro Bowl season in 2013, has played well enough that if the Eagles wanted to trade him in the offseason, they might find a suitor. There are a lot of NFL teams that need a quarterback, and Foles has played very well in the playoffs. The only thing that might keep the Eagles from pursuing a trade is that Foles has shown his value as a backup, especially with Wentz coming off a torn ACL. No matter what happens next year, Foles just turned 29 in January and he still has time to get another shot as a starter, no matter how unlikely that seemed a few months ago.
There were a lot more Foles jerseys in the crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium than you’d assume, considering he reclaimed the starting job less than two months ago. But it doesn’t look like a terrible investment for Eagles fans.
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