The four Eagles who played in Sunday's Pro Bowl, won 22-21 by Team Rice over Team Sanders, spoke enthusiastically about their week-long experiences, their time of bonding with players around the league, of seeing Eagles fans embrace them a world away, and with the chance to play in a much-more-competitive-than-anticipated Pro Bowl.
It was a terrific cap to an outstanding week for the Eagles in Honolulu. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson made a highlights-film catch for a touchdown. Running back LeSean McCoy had some nice gains in the running game and in the passing game. Offensive guard Evan Mathis was part of the winning team, playing a lot of reps, and earning his winner's paycheck.
But it was Foles who stands to benefit the most. He was named the Offensive MVP after completing 7 of 10 passes for 89 yards (compiling a passer rating of 130.8) and tossing a touchdown pass and then, after Team Rice took the lead, maneuvering the Team Sanders offense into at least a desperation attempt at a game-winning 67-yard field goal that was too short.
Foles didn't play until the final snap of the third quarter and then had the fourth quarter to himself, running a simple offense in a defensive-oriented game. He looked composed, confident and, ultimately, too, home top offensive honors.
"The cool thing about this week, though, is that I had a chance to spend so much time with so many great players and enjoy them," he said. "It was a great, great experience. I loved it. To be here, representing the Philadelphia Eagles, my first time here, it was awesome.
"I was surprised when they said I was the MVP. There are so many great players here. It's a blessing to be here, taking part in all of this."
What does the week do for Foles? It's not about winning individual awards for a quarterback going into his third NFL season. He has his eye on the prize. The goal is the Super Bowl, not Pro Bowl automobiles. We all know, though, how mature Foles has been in his two Eagles seasons, and how he has fought through the downs and the ups and has gotten better and better and better along the way.
In the Pro Bowl, his best moment was a sweet 39-yard completion to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown down the right sideline, a perfect throw and catch against Browns cornerback Joe Haden that moved Team Sanders into position to score the fourth-quarter touchdown that gave them a 21-14 lead.
It was more than Foles simply dropping back and heaving a throw. It was Foles working with Brown in practice, understanding what they both saw in coverage and delivering the football in a spot for Brown to catch.
"We audibled on the play. We were on the same page. I gave him a stutter route and he made a great play on the play. He's doing a lot of great things in this league," said Foles, "and he made me look good."
The touchdown pass to Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron went to the right corner of the end zone. Cameron separated from coverage and Foles threw the ball into a spot up high that Cameron could go get. Touchdown. Another important milestone for Foles in his young career: First Pro Bowl touchdown.
"He went up and got it. We've been working in the water on the beach, throwing the little football around," said Foles. "We laughed about that. Throwing the football on the beach, playing with the kids, it really paid off right there."
Ultimately, the game doesn't matter and the truck Foles wins is a nice reminder of just how far he's come in his early career. There are many more steps to go, of course. Foles is going back to Austin, TX and will get to work preparing for 2014. Next year, he doesn't want to be in the Pro Bowl in Arizona. He wants to be in the Super Bowl. He wants to win it all.
It's been a remarkable season -- actually, seasons -- for Foles. He started the regular season as a backup to Michael Vick at the position, moved into the starting role when Vick was injured and then capitalized like few have with 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions as the Eagles won seven of their final eight regular-season games to capture the NFC East title.
The future is bright, very much so, for Foles and for the Eagles. Sunday night was a nice way to say goodbye to 2013 and look forward with great relish to 2014.
"I'm very humbled and I'm very proud of everything I have and the hard work that is paying off," said Foles, heading into the Team Sanders locker room. "I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. This week has been fun. It's been a blast. I can't wait to get back to it and get ready for next season for the Philadelphia Eagles. That's what it's all about for me."