In 2013, Nick Foles threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions, leading the NFL with 9.1 yards per pass attempt and a ridiculous 119.2 passer rating in 10 games at the helm of the Eagles offense. That happened. Of course, so did all the stuff that came after—and we’ll get to the specifics of that in a minute—but the same Foles that took the league by storm four years back showed up again on Sunday, completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns, no picks, and a cool 141.4 passer rating to lead the Eagles to a dominant 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC championship game—a victory that sent his team to a Super Bowl LII matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots.
The Super Bowl will feature the QB who led the league in passer rating in 2013, and Tom Brady— ben (@guga31bb) January 22, 2018
It’s an old NFL playoffs cliché that anyone can run the table and win it all—all it takes is getting hot at the right time (just ask Joe Flacco and the 2012 Super Bowl champion Ravens). Forget the fact since Foles’s incredible 2013 campaign, he’s played mostly terrible sub-80 passer-rating ball, been benched a handful of times, changed teams thrice, and most recently, dink-and-dunked his way to Philly’s divisional-round win over the Falcons. Carson Wentz’s backup looked nothing like the guy whose longest downfield throw last week was a pass that sailed over the head of a receiver, doinked off of Atlanta safety Keanu Neal’s knee, and conveniently settled in the hands of Torrey Smith.
Instead, the sixth-year signal-caller rediscovered his former efficient, explosive self just in time for a Super Bowl showdown with the greatest quarterback that’s ever played the game. Foles picked apart a Vikings squad that led the NFL in points allowed (15.8), finished third in opponent passer rating (73.0), and ended the year first in weighted DVOA. If he can re-create that type of performance against a Patriots defense that’s inferior by nearly every metric, it makes the Patriots-Eagles matchup a whole lot more compelling than you’d originally believe.
Before the Eagles-Vikings game, I wrote that Foles was going to have to step up and make a few big-time throws on third down against a suffocating Minnesota defense. He did that … and a whole lot more. Late in the second quarter, in a third-and-10 situation near midfield, Foles stayed in the pocket, reset his feet, moved to his left, and let a bomb loose deep down the field, finding Alshon Jeffery wide open for the score.
Later, in the third quarter, Foles converted on third-and-4, sliding to his right before launching a pass downfield off one foot, connecting with Nelson Agholor for a 42-yard gain.
That set Philly up deep in Minnesota territory: On another third down, this time from the 5-yard line, he hit Jeffery for another score, his third touchdown pass of the game. This one put the game on ice.
Foles showed unflinching poise when it mattered most, and Philadelphia finished the game an incredible 10-of-14 on third down. Foles did more than just survive in those crucial situations—his biggest plays came when the Vikings knew he was going to have to drop back and pass downfield.
For most of the year, the Eagles were the most balanced team in the league. They had a brilliant scheme designed by Doug Pederson, a dynamic downfield passing attack, a reliable run game, a hounding defense, and a top-tier special teams unit; they could compete with anyone. Wentz’s Week 14 ACL tear threw a wrench in all of that, though, and robbed Philly of its Super Bowl potential … or so it seemed, especially with the way that Foles played to close out the season.
But the Eagles still have their dominant pass-rushing front, sideline-to-sideline speed at linebacker, and playmakers in the secondary. They still have Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, LeGarrette Blount, and a versatile ground attack. They still have Pederson calling the plays. And, as we saw on Sunday, they still have a quarterback who knows how to push the ball downfield and make plays on third down. Foles isn’t Wentz, but if he plays anywhere close to the way he played against the Vikings, the Eagles still have their championship formula.