PHILADELPHIA – Nick Foles has a new nickname that’s appropriate this time of year: Saint Nick.Foles hardly resembles jolly, old Santa Claus, but he’s given fans of the Philadelphia Eagles plenty of gifts this year. They want one more Sunday.
A victory against the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) would clinch the NFC East title for the Eagles (9-6) and secure the No. 3 seed in the conference. For all of his accomplishments, Foles is constantly reminded about the first time the Eagles played the Cowboys.
Both teams were 3-3 when Dallas came to Philadelphia, shut down Kelly’s high-flying offense and knocked Foles out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter. Foles was 11-for-29 for 80 yards in the 17-3 loss, a dismal performance in his second start after replacing Michael Vick.
“I know everybody is going to dwell on last time, but this game isn’t the last game,” Foles said.
Foles returned from the concussion two weeks later and threw seven touchdown passes to tie an NFL record in a victory at Oakland. He leads the league with a passer rating of 118.8, which is third-highest in the history of the NFL. He’s thrown 25 TD passes to only two interceptions. He’s led the Eagles to a 7-2 record in nine starts and has them on the verge of going worst to first in the division.
Yet, he’s still asked about that first game against Dallas on Oct. 20. See, beating the Cowboys is an obsession in Philadelphia. It’s almost equivalent to a playoffs game every time they face the ’Boys with the stars on their helmet.
“We use that game as not necessarily fuel, but it was character-building,” Foles said. “Tough games like that, tough things in life, you face adversity and it hurts. You don’t feel good. You feel it in your heart; it’s not fun. But you learn how to get better.
“You overcome obstacles and you grow together as a team, and that’s the beauty of it. We kept rallying and we kept sticking together.”
There were critics who thought Foles folded under pressure the first time against the Cowboys. Though it was only Week 7, first place was on the line, and he was still trying to prove himself worthy of being the starter.
“I don’t think whatever the setting is, is too big for Nick,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.