As the year 2013 comes to a close, many people will reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the next calendar year.
When Nick Foles looks back at 2013, he'll have a lot to be thankful for. Three hundred and sixty six days ago, Foles, who was still the team's backup at the time, suffered a fracture in his right hand and missed the Eagles' regular season finale against the New York Giants. One year later, Foles has not only taken over as the Eagles starting quarterback, but he's also put up one of the most memorable seasons in Eagles history. On Sunday night, the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in the regular season finale for the NFC East championship. Foles is not ready for this magical storybook season to draw to a close.
"This is why you play the game," Foles said. "You play for meaningful games at the end of the season. In the NFL, it's for the playoffs. In high school, it's to get to the state championship. In college, you want to go to a big bowl game. This is what you play for all season, and it's a special time."
For the second consecutive week, the Eagles will be playing on the Sunday night stage in front of a national audience, but this time with a trip to the playoffs on the line against the Cowboys. There's no need to explain the implications that this game has to the Eagles quarterback. Foles knows what is on the line, but the most important thing for him to do focus solely on the task at hand.
"It's going to be a big game," Foles explained. "Dallas is going to be ready to go, and there's going to be a lot of people there. I know that stadium. I played there as a rookie, and it's a pretty big thing there. I think the most important thing that you do in weeks like this is that you block everything out. You break it down to the fact that it is a game. It's a big game of high magnitude with a lot on the line, but you can't worry about that because worrying about that is not going to help you play any better. You have to simplify the game."
According to Foles, the only way for the Eagles to be the best team on Sunday night is to also be the best team during every day of the week, a message that head coach Chip Kelly has preached since day one.
"We're all excited to play in the game, but there's also a lot of preparation that goes into playing these games," he explained. "We don't just go out there and play. We're excited but we also know that to win games you have to have a great week of preparation, and that goes with film study, and with doing it on the practice field and in the weight room, and recovering. We have a week before the game, so we have a lot of preparation to do for this Dallas team."
Eagles fans remember Foles' last meeting with Dallas all too well. After winning two games in a row to lift their record to 3-3, the Eagles came out flat against the Cowboys at home in a big early-season contest. Foles struggled through three quarters (11-of-29 for 80 yards) and was then knocked out of the game with a concussion. Time and time again, the question of "What went wrong?" has been asked, but the Eagles quarterback believes that sometimes you just have to chalk it up to one of those days.
"There are just some things in life where if you try to figure it out, it will drive you crazy," Foles said. "It's easy just to say that it was a bad day. If I look into every little thing that I did and try to break it down, I'll drive myself crazy as well. I feel like we've been asked that question several times and everyone wants an answer, but I think the answer is that we had a bad day. We did not play well, but from that game we've grown together as a team.
"We use that game as not necessarily fuel, but it was character-building. 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. The guys responded well. We didn't play well the next week, but then we kept rallying and we kept sticking together. This game is a process. Life isn't going to be great every day but you're thankful for the things that are great, and you move forward."
A native of Austin, Tx., Foles has a chance to win an NFC East crown for the Eagles in front of a number of friends and family members. How many Foles fans will be in attendance? Good question.
"I couldn't even tell you. I can't even count that high," Foles said. "I just know that I have my mom, my dad, my two sisters and I know a lot of friends will be there, but I also have to block that out. I know my family will be there but I have to block that out, just because when you're on the football field you're only worrying about that 100 yards right there. I try not to worry about that. After the game, I'll see who all is there, and it will be a surprise."