PHILADELPHIA — A quirky schedule meant the Philadelphia Eagles had little time to celebrate a rare win.
Less than 24 hours after Nick Foles led a remarkable 23-21 comeback victory at Tampa Bay, the Eagles (4-9) were back on the practice field for a walkthrough Monday afternoon. With a game against the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) coming up Thursday night, the Eagles couldn’t bask in the glow of their first win in more than two months.
“They don’t happen a whole lot, but when they do there is something very special,” Foles said of winning. “It’s a great feeling for the team. I think the big thing is, it’s a great thing for the team sticking together. We can build off of this.”
While the Eagles went back to work, at least their frustrated fans had a chance to reflect on some positives for change. The Eagles had lost eight straight games since beating the New York Giants on Sept. 30.
Foles, making his fourth start since Michael Vick sustained a concussion, made sure the losing streak didn’t stretch to nine, which would’ve been the longest in franchise history since 1940. Foles was 32 of 51 for 381 yards with two touchdown passes and one rushing. He set the franchise’s single-game rookie passing records for completions and yards.
More impressive than the statistics was the poise Foles showed in leading the team back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. His last two throws were the type of plays expected from a veteran QB.
On fourth-and-5 from the Buccaneers 23, Foles fired a perfect strike to Jason Avant in traffic over the middle. Avant was tackled at the 1, but the Eagles had no timeouts remaining and the clock was ticking. Foles quickly hurried the offense to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball with 2 seconds left.
Foles then walked over to coach Andy Reid during the stoppage and told him the play he wanted to run. Reid agreed. Foles took the snap, rolled out to the right and tossed a 1-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin for the win.
“He was feeling it, and it’s a great thing when your quarterback is in tune like that. I’m proud of the kid,” Reid said. “He made some big throws. It looked like he rallied the crew in there, made good decisions and made some big plays. To do that, I thought he showed great intestinal fortitude and desire and all those intangible things you look for.”
It was a huge step toward showing all of Philadelphia that he can be the quarterback of the future. Vick is close to returning to practice, but Reid already said Foles will start the rest of the way.
No matter who coaches the Eagles next year — Reid is clearly on the hot seat — Foles is auditioning for the starting job. Maclin, for one, is already convinced the lanky kid can handle the job.
“He has the potential to be a special quarterback in this league,” Maclin said. “And he’s growing up right in front of our eyes.”
After two so-so games, Foles stepped up his game. He played well in a loss at Dallas last week and followed up with a sensational performance against the Buccaneers. Overall, Foles has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,174 yards, with four scores and three interceptions. His passer rating is up to 80.3, slightly higher than Vick’s 79.2.
Cautious fans aren’t ready to anoint Foles the long-term answer. Before Donovan McNabb held down the position for a decade, Ty Detmer, Koy Detmer and Bobby Hoying each had their chances. Each showed a glimmer of potential, but none panned out. Hoying was the biggest disappointment.
Hoying, a third-round pick like Foles, had everyone buzzing after his third career start on Nov. 30, 1997. Hoying passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 44-42 last-second win over Cincinnati.
After that game, Hoying’s No. 7 jersey became the must-buy for Eagles fans for the holidays. He went just 1-9 as a starter the rest of his career and was out of the NFL three years later.
Foles appears to be on a different track.
“I’ve definitely grown,” he said. “You’re going to have your ups, your downs and you just have to keep fighting. I’m a different player because every day you want to progressively get a tiny bit better and this will be a great learning experience for me.”