Former Arizona Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles was 1 yard and two seconds away from earning his first victory as an NFL quarterback.
He had rallied the Philadelphia Eagles on their final drive against Tampa Bay on Sunday, converting two fourth-down plays. The latter came on fourth-and-5 pass over the middle to Jason Avant for 22 yards to the 1.
Foles ran to the line and spiked the ball with two seconds remaining. The Buccaneers called timeout.
When Foles went to the sideline to talk to head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the rookie selected the play he wanted. Sounded good to the veteran coaches.
“He called it, he wanted it and he executed it,” Reid said in his postgame press conference. “He did a great job with it. That’s the one he liked the best. He was feeling it, and that’s a great thing when your quarterback is in tune like that.”
Foles wanted to move the pocket, so he chose a play that called for a rollout to the right, with Jeremy Maclin in single coverage to that side. Foles hit Maclin in the front corner of the end zone.
“It just really isolates the DB on Maclin, and I expect Jeremy to win every single time, which he did,” Foles said in his press conference.
With that play, the Eagles ended an eight-game losing streak and Foles won for the first time in his four starts.
He did it in style, too, completing 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 350 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The others are Billy Joe Tolliver and Andrew Luck, who accomplished the feat a week earlier.
Last week Reid named Foles the starter for the rest of the season, no matter the health of Michael Vick, who is recovering from a concussion.
“You guys are seeing Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes,” Maclin told reporters after the game. “For him to step in and play as well as he played, and being able to understand the defense and call that play, it speaks highly of his character and his sense of the game.
“I think he can be special. His intangibles are off the charts.”
Perhaps even more amazing: Foles led Philadelphia in rushing. He ran three times for 27 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown on a scramble. He had backpedaled to the 24 before embarking on one of the slowest scoring runs you’ll ever see, pump-faking along the way to keep the defense back.
“I knew it would take me about 10 seconds to go 20 yards,” Foles said.
Foles will have three more starts this season for the 4-9 Eagles, who play Thursday night at home against Cincinnati. Things have been so bad for Philadelphia this season that the satirical website The Onion wrote a short this week with the headline: “Eagles Concerned By Nick Foles Asking About Best Ways To Tear ACL.”
Foles has made steady progress in his starts, getting more comfortable with the offense and speed of the game, while the coaches are learning to tailor the game plan around his strengths. Sunday’s game was a huge step forward for Foles, whose development — or lack of it — in the final few weeks are likely to influence the franchise’s offseason moves.
“It’s very special,” Foles said of his first victory. “Very humbling.”