Teammates are lighting candles inside the locker stall of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, after defensive end Chris Long constructed a shrine of sorts, complete with candles, a copy of the book Foles wrote in the offseason, “Believe It,” a framed picture of his days with the St. Louis Rams, and some incense.
Hey, whatever works, because the Eagles will need all the support they can get when the Houston Texans visit on Sunday at 1 p.m. With only one game remaining after Sunday, the Eagles can ill-afford to stumble now if they want to make the playoffs.
The last time Foles started a game against the Texans it didn’t go so well. It was Nov. 2, 2014, in Houston. He was halfway through a 6-2 season and coming off the previous year when he threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions to lead the Eagles into the playoffs. Prior to the first half, though, Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus sacked Foles and broke the quarterback’s clavicle.
That was Foles last start for the Eagles until Dec. 17, 2017; Mercilus’ merciless hit changed the arc of the quarterback’s career.
The rest of the story is well known, but here’s a quick refresher:
Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford, he was released after one season there, did some soul-searching as to whether or not he wanted to play anymore, signed with Andy Reid’s Chiefs as a free agent, then returned to Philadelphia, which had drafted him in the first place, in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Foles, it would seem, is the Eagles’ good luck charm.
He won the franchise’s biggest game – Super Bowl LII in February – and last week won the team’s biggest game of the season, beating the Rams 30-23, and has become a hero in the backup role. So much so that his success has opened a big, fat can of worms among the team’s fan base that spent the week debating which quarterback should be the one to lead his team into the future – Foles or Carson Wentz.
“I’m perfectly content with whatever (his role is),” said Foles. “I’ve said it before, you name me a starter, you name me the backup, you name me the third string, if I’m playing this game, it’s not going to affect who I am as a person or my mentality when I step out on the field.”
That’s not to say that having an undefined role, bouncing between starting and backing up Wentz until he gets hurt, is easy.
“It's probably one of the toughest things from a backup role player, particularly the quarterback, to do each week” said head coach Doug Pederson, who spent pretty much his entire 12-year NFL career as a backup quarterback. “It's a credit to Nick. He's in there with the quarterbacks, with Carson. They are studying the game plan. They are dialoguing. They are bouncing ideas off each other.
“You see him at practice getting the mental rep, even though he's not getting the actual rep with the offense. He's prepared. He's prepared every single week. There's too much pride in Nick to -- obviously he doesn't want to let anybody down, so when he gets an opportunity to play, he wants to make sure that he's prepared and that's what he's done. It shows in the game.”
Foles said that communication between himself and the coaching staff is critical so that all are on the same page with what he does well, and that in turn allows him to play freer and looser.
“I felt comfortable with everything and we just went out there and played ball,” said Foles, who completed 24 of 31 passes against the Rams for 270 yards, one interception and an 89.4 passer rating in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t have to think too much, just had to play. Obviously there’s a lot of thinking, but it was simple in my mind because I’ve seen so much throughout my life. I just went out there, read, react, played and trusted my teammates.”
And his teammates thoroughly trust him.
“He's been there to bail us out when we've had injuries before,” Long told reporters when asked about the shrine. “And this weekend, no different. I know he's going to show up big."