Tampa, FL --He still had his uniform on, wearing the glow of a comeback win, his first in the NFL, and all Nick Foles could do was give credit to his coaches, his teammates and the thousands of fans who made their way to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon, turning Tampa into a sea of Midnight Green.
Foles threw 51 passes in his fourth start, and the last of them was something to behold: With two seconds remaining on the clock, down to his final play, Foles rolled right and threw to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the corner of the end zone and Maclin was there, down as low as he could go, to make the catch and sneak his body in bounds for the winning points in the 23-21 thriller.
Foles threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns and also ran 10 yards for a score, part of his team-high 27 rushing yards. It was his best performance of his young career and his fourth quarter was just brilliant -- he completed 11 of 20 passes and threw two touchdown passes and executed the two-minute drive perfectly.
"The big thing is to be smart with the football, be aggressive, and you can't take sacks," said Foles when asked about success on the final drive. "I took a sack earlier in the drive and you can't do that. The line did a great job up front giving me time to throw and the receivers ran great routes. When that happens, it's a lot easier to execute. The guys did a great job. It was a great team win. We all stuck together."
Foles said he heard the fans "erupt" and that it was "pretty special" to feel the love from all of the Eagles fans in attendance for the game. Maybe all of that Eagles emotion gave Foles and his offensive mates some added energy on the final drive.
"We heard them and it was great," said Foles.
Tampa Bay went after Foles with a ferocious pass rush, but it didn't seem to faze him. He was patient early and then as the game went along the passing game stretched more vertically. At the end, Foles was a gunslinger.
Foles accounted for three touchdowns, including the "scamper," which was designed to be a screen to Dion Lewis to the left. Tampa Bay had it covered, so Foles started running right, got a great block from Maclin and reached the end zone for his first rushing touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
"This is a special game. It's a big win for us. We haven't won one in two months. The emotions are going crazy right now," said Foles. "You can't really say how you feel. It's a really exciting feeling. I just want to enjoy it with my teammates. The coaches are with us every step of the way so it's a big win for us."
To compare Foles now to the youngster who stepped in against Dallas when Michael Vick was injured is like night and day. He is much more poised and polished and confident. The game has slowed down for him, clearly. The turnovers have diminished. The offense has a spark, even with a rash of backups on the field.
"Any experience like this is always beneficial," said Foles, who compiled a career-best passer rating of 98.6. "They don't happen a whole lot, but when they do there is something very special. It's a great feeling for the team. I think the big thing is, it's a great thing for the team sticking together. We can build off of this.
"I've definitely grown. Like I've said before, every day you continue to grow. You're going to have your ups, your downs and you just have to keep fighting. I'm a different player because every day you want to progressively get a tiny bit better and this will be a great learning experience for me."