December 10, 2012, 7:00 am
TAMPA, Fla. – They were dazzled. Just like we were dazzled.
It’s just that they weren’t surprised. Nothing Nick Foles does surprises them.
Foles threw two touchdown passes in the final four minutes and rallied the Eagles from an 11-point deficit to a 23-21 win over the Buccaneers Sunday, their first win in two months (see Instant Replay).
In his fourth career start, Foles became only the third rookie in NFL history to throw for 380 or more yards with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions. Marc Bulger of the Rams did it in 2002 and Andrew Luck of the Colts earlier this year.
Foles, just 23, threw an 11-yard TD to Clay Harbor with 3:55 left and a one-yarder to Jeremy Maclin with no time on the clock. It's first game the Eagles have won with no time on the clock since at least 1970.
“You see his progression every week, and he just continues to get better and better,” veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “For his fourth start, to be able to go out and make a game-winning drive the way he did, even though he was getting hit a little bit the way he did? But he stuck in there and made the tough plays, made the tough throws to help us win this game.
“It’s special to see a rookie come in and play the way he’s been playing. Nick has a great upside. You see Nick with the decision-making that he has, he’s going to continue to get better as he has over the past four weeks. With him continuing to get the reps and continuing to get the looks, understanding how defenses are trying to attack him, he’ll continue to do well and he’ll be a tough quarterback in this league as he continues to grow and study more.”
Foles completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
He shattered the franchise rookie passing record of 338 yards, set by replacement quarterback Scott Tinsley against the Cowboys in one of the 1987 strike games. The legit rookie passing record? Foles’ 251 against Dallas last week. Before that it was John Reaves’ 241 yards vs. the Giants in 1972.
Foles is the first Eagle quarterback with a 60 percent completion percentage, 250 or more yards, at least one touchdown and no interceptions in consecutive games since Donovan McNabb against the Giants and Saints in 2003.
“He’s a stud,” said Harbor, who had a career day with six catches for 52 yards after Brent Celek was lost to a concussion on the game’s first play (see story).
“He has the poise of a veteran, for sure. He’s very composed, very poised. Really special player. We believed we were going to come down the field and score every time. We never thought it was over. We got the ball down the field, got the ball in the end zone, and we knew if the defense got a stop, we’d come down and score again. They did, and we did.”
Foles is now responsible for two of the five-highest passer ratings in franchise history by a rookie, and he’s done it in an eight-day span.
In his last two games – both on the road – he’s 54-for-85 for 632 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Eagles’ offense has averaged 24 points per game in Foles’ last three starts after averaging 16 points the first 10 weeks of the season. The win ended an eight-game losing streak that backed back to late September.
Foles’ performance Sunday is even more remarkable considering he was sacked six times.
His 381 yards are the most ever by an Eagle QB who was sacked six or more times. Ron Jaworski threw for 371 yards against the Redskins in 1982 when he was sacked six times.
“Nick took great command of the huddle, he exhibited a ton of confidence,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “We knew if we gave him time he’d make the throws, the receivers would make the catches, and it was a very exciting drive there at the end.
“He’s made a tremendous amount of progress over time. Every single week, every single game. He’ll continue to do that and become a great quarterback.”
Head coach Andy Reid announced last week Foles would start the rest of the season, even when – or if – Michael Vick is cleared following a concussion last month.
The last couple weeks, it was pretty clear why. Vick won just 10 of his last 24 starts dating back to late 2010 and turns 33 this summer.
The Eagles need a quarterback of the future.
Maybe they found him.
“You guys (beat writers) have seen Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes,” Maclin said. “I think the sky’s the limit for him.
“Calm. Collected. Cool. He’s being a leader and not just because he has to but because he wants to. Guys are listening to him, guys are responding to what he’s saying. I just think we’re watching him grow up in front of our eyes.”
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com