“Nick Foles, reigning Super Bowl MVP” is still a weird thing to say out loud. Try it. It still sounds like a plotline from an alternate Spider-Verse, or at least something plucked from a subreddit for Philadelphia fan fiction. Apparently those of us who still have that mental block must adjust to the paradoxical new world order: Foles once again guided the Eagles to an upset victory against a (seemingly) superior opponent led by a more celebrated head coach. This time it was a shocking 30-23 victory over the Rams on Sunday Night Football that reestablished “Nick Foles, Football Deity,” and the defending Super Bowl champions are underdog contenders once again.
Foles started in place of the injured Carson Wentz (who is sidelined with a vertebra injury) one year and six days after Wentz tore his ACL against the Rams on the same field. Many declared the Eagles’ season dead without Wentz. Vegas did too. The Eagles were 13.5-point underdogs against the Rams on Sunday Night Football and ended up winning 30-23 after entering the fourth quarter up 17.
Foles’s line wasn’t stunning. He finished with 24 completions on 31 attempts for 270 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception, a far cry from the 373 yards and three passing touchdowns Foles accrued in the Super Bowl. He played somewhere between game manager (like he did in the Eagles’ win against Atlanta in the playoffs) and hero (the Super Bowl), finding a rhythm early and leading three scoring drives as the Eagles went into halftime tied 13-13.
In the third quarter, Foles led three more scoring drives, including two that ended with rushing touchdowns by Wendell Smallwood. On one particularly memorable (and sort of bizarre) play, Foles stood in the pocket against a bearing-down Ndamukong Suh on a deep throw to Alshon Jeffery, who resembled a center fielder more than a wide receiver.
The ball was underthrown, but considering the hit Suh put on him, it’s impressive Foles got the ball out at all.
Philadelphia’s defense deserves much of the credit for the victory. The team held the Rams to just 13 points in the first three quarters, intercepting Jared Goff twice, and winning at the line of scrimmage throughout the game despite a deeply depleted secondary. Los Angeles also had plenty of self-inflicted wounds, including a fumbled punt return late in the fourth quarter and a surprisingly laissez-faire approach to clock management, as evidenced by Sean McVay’s play-calling, the offense huddling late, and players like tight end Gerald Everett and Todd Gurley staying in bounds with less than a minute left and the game on the line on the Rams’ final drive. It marked the second time in two weeks Los Angeles’s offense has been knocked around on Sunday Night Football after the Bears held them to six points and intercepted Goff four times last week. The two-game losing streak has handed the inside track for the no. 1 seed in the NFC to New Orleans, though the Rams’ final two games are against the Cardinals and 49ers, so the Rams are still a safe bet to earn a first-round bye. McVay pledged after the game that the team would get their issues fixed, but barring a shocking game from Arizona or San Francisco, the Rams won’t truly get tested again until the games are win or go home.
The Eagles may not have caught the best version of the Rams, but Philadelphia dominated for large portions of the night as nearly two-touchdown underdogs with the stakes as high as possible in Week 15. A loss would have dropped the Eagles’ playoff hopes to 3 percent, according to The New York Times playoff calculator, but the win now gives them a 24 percent shot at the postseason. If they win their final two games against Houston and Washington, those odds rise to 79 percent. An Eagles repeat campaign, led by Foles, feels almost too good to be true, but it’s suddenly in the realm of possibility.
After the game, NBC’s Michele Tafoya asked Foles about the eerie similarities between last year’s season and the Eagles’ chances this year. Foles said it wasn’t on his mind.
“I’m not trying to think about it,” Foles said. “I’m just trying to stay in the moment with this.”
Foles may not be thinking about it, but the rest of us are.