Under strange and difficult circumstances, Foles proved to be the calming hand that Kansas City needed at quarterback last weekend. He filled in admirably for Smith after he twice had his head bounce off the turf in Indianapolis, the second one knocking the starter from the game, and led the Chiefs to a 30-16 victory that was crucial to their hopes of catching Oakland and Denver in the AFC West.
"The only thing I was thinking about was hoping he was all right," Foles said. "You play this game and you see something like that — you never want to see it. He’s a guy that I’m with every day, he’s a guy that has been a really good friend of mine and that’s really all I was thinking."
Until he got on the field and his competitive nature took over.
Things figure to be a little easier in that respect on Sunday, when Kansas City welcomes Jacksonville to Arrowhead Stadium. Foles was named the starter Wednesday when the Chiefs decided to sit Smith this week, even though he has passed every concussion test he’s taken.
That means a full week of practice. Normal pregame warmups.
No wondering whether he’ll get in the game.
"I’ve been going through a lot of mental reps. I get the mental reps every practice," Foles said before his first workout this week. "This will be the first physical reps. It’s good to be practicing, out there with the guys, running the game plan and seeing the different looks."
Foles is hardly another backup quarterback thrust into a starting role.
He was drafted in the third round by Chiefs coach Andy Reid when he was still in Philadelphia, and even started six games as a rookie. He then went 14-4 as a starter for Chip Kelly the next two years, including one season in which he threw for nearly 3,000 yards with 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
Things didn’t work out last year with the Rams, and the Chiefs were quick to snatch him up as a free agent in training camp in the event that Smith would get hurt this season. Their durable starter wound up going down against the Colts.
So, Foles entered the game, first for about a quarter as Smith passed his initial concussion tests. Then for the rest of the game when Smith, cleared to return, had to go through another round of concussion tests.
Foles wound up going 16 of 22 for 223 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Most importantly, the Chiefs kept rolling to a victory.
"We didn’t have to change anything when he went in," Reid said. "He was fine doing the offense. I wasn’t looking at the sheet going, `What can I and can’t I call?’ That’s not how I felt with him."
Foles also presents an element of uncertainty for the Jaguars, who have faced Smith a few times and knew what to expect. Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley was scouring tape this week of Foles in Philadelphia, hoping to glean a few bits of information to help piece together a game plan.
"He’s very accurate and he makes good decisions. The one year he threw very few interceptions compared to touchdowns in Philly," Bradley said. "He makes good decisions. You look at timing, accuracy, decision making and he has those traits. We have high respect for him."
The job could be a short-lived fill-in role. Smith expects to be back next week at Carolina. But it’s also a crucial one. Kansas City has won three straight and is squarely in playoff contention.
"They’re a good team with some real talented players. This is a big prep week, especially for me. This is my first playing time in a little while," Foles said. "We have to go out, have a great week of practice and get ready for them."
NOTES: WR Jeremy Maclin did not practice Thursday with a groin injury. It’s unclear whether he will be available Sunday. Also missing practice were DL Jaye Howard (knee) and RB Spencer Ware (concussion). … LB Derrick Johnson (hamstring) and CB D.J. White (hand) were limited in practice.