Nick Foles had just thrown the best pass from a Jaguars quarterback in five years. Down 10-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the first quarter, Foles and the Jaguars offense faced a third-and-8 at Kansas City’s 35-yard line. Gaining a few yards would make a 52-yard field goal slightly easier. Losing a few yards with a sack would take them out of field goal range. It was the exact type of situation that previously would have ended with Blake Bortles being sacked. The Jaguars brought Foles to Jacksonville for four years and $88 million in March for moments just like these. And Foles came through, throwing a 38-yard touchdown pass with his signature teardrop arc that fell right into the hands of receiver D.J. Chark.
The play signaled a new era in Jacksonville, until that era was put on pause. Foles was sandwiched by two Kansas City edge rushers on the play and left the game with an injury that was ultimately ruled a broken left clavicle. Foles, who finished with five completions on eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown before being ruled out for the remainder of the game, was replaced by sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew.
Foles will reportedly undergo surgery on Monday. He could miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season, which would be devastating to a Jaguars team that has been a competent quarterback away from serious Super Bowl contention. Jacksonville got to the doorstep of the Super Bowl two years ago with an elite defense but an inept quarterback. Bortles was consistently incapable of turning third-and-longs into first downs, displaying situational awareness, or throwing spirals. Bortles certainly did not have the ice-in-his-veins aura that Foles has after winning Super Bowl LII. Jacksonville brought in Foles’s quarterbacks coach from that run, John DeFilippo, to run the offense, and the move looks to be paying off. Perhaps DeFilippo is simply great with backup quarterbacks: Minshew completed his first seven passes for 117 yards after entering the game and, amazingly, became the first quarterback from the 2019 draft class to play in an NFL game.
Foles’s injury was nearly a sidebar in the game. Patrick Mahomes came up wincing after a hit near the Jacksonville goal line in the second quarter, but a scuffle that led to the ejection of Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack gave Mahomes enough time to reenter the game rather than be replaced by Chad Henne. Mahomes had 313 passing yards and two touchdowns at halftime despite the injury. Receiver Tyreek Hill was also injured in the game and ruled out for the day with a shoulder injury.
Kansas City’s early offensive destruction of the Jaguars highlighted how precarious it is to build a team around an elite defense in an offense-first era. The Jaguars defense has always been better at protecting leads than preventing scoring in neutral or losing situations, and they’ll need a QB who can give them leads. In less than one quarter, Foles looked like the most competent passer the Jaguars have had this decade, which has been plagued by Bortles, Blaine Gabbert, and, ironically, Henne. Before Foles was the hero who delivered Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl, he considered retiring from football. He credits the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent one year as a backup, for reigniting his love for the game.
”I wouldn’t still be playing football without that season with the Chiefs,” Foles told ESPN’s Adam Teicher this week. “Going there and being with people that actually cared about me as a person more so than as a football player ... it provided me the love and the joy of the game again.”
Foles bounced back after the Chiefs cut him. Hopefully he’ll bounce back after getting hurt against them, too.
This piece was updated at 1:35 p.m. PT on September 8 with additional information after publication.