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Impressive Foles Earns Respect

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With Michael Vick sidelined by a rib injury after six plays and Mike Kafka out with a fractured left hand, Nick Foles got his chance to run the first-team offense against the New England Patriots Monday night. After three quarters worth of action, the results for Foles were decidedly positive.  

On the night, Foles finished 18-of-28 for 217 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 96.9 quarterback rating. And all of that came after getting thrown into the action with little time to prepare.

"He was good," head coach Andy Reid said of Foles. "He was pretty cool about that. You got to see him take a big hit tonight and he bounced up from that. That was a big hit. He got himself off the ground and continued to play well."

"He earned my confidence in Training Camp," said left guard Evan Mathis." I've seen what he can do. He knows the offense well. He's a smart kid, incredible athlete, and he's a good quarterback. I hated to see Mike go down … but seeing Nick come in, we don't lose any confidence. We know that he can step up and do the job."

Foles was so impressive that Reid was fielding questions about the possibility of the rookie taking over as the No. 2 quarterback behind Vick.

"We'll see," Reid said. "You've got to go back. Those decisions, like the left tackle, you've got to go back and study the tape and see what you think. I would tell you that I think he did a decent job. We'll go back and look at it and we'll see, just kind of evaluate it and we don't need to make a decision right now on it. I credit the kid. He's a young guy and you could see him progress as the game went on, he got better every opportunity he had."

So what happened after Vick's injury that led to the Foles-centric post-game conversation? Let's revisit the rookie's performance.

On his first series after stepping in for Vick, Foles converted on a 3rd-and-7 with a 15-yard connection to DeSean Jackson before the drive stalled. After Foles and the Eagles were forced to punt on his second series, the special teams, specifically Brandon Boykin, got the Eagles the ball back on the Patriots' 24-yard-line. Three handoffs later and the Eagles were in the end zone.

After that semi-slow start, Foles heated up. Once again gifted with tremendous field position following a forced fumble by Phillip Hunt, Foles hit DeSean Jackson on a pretty 11-yard throw the split the defense, giving the team a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. On the next play, Foles sold play action, then rolled right and threw a strike in the corner of the end zone to Clay Harbor with a defender in his face, giving the Eagles a 14-11 lead.

To hear the first-team offense tell it, Foles commanded the huddle in impressive fashion from the moment he took the field.

"As soon as the coaches put him in," Todd Herremans said. "They wouldn't put him in a situation he can't handle. He came out there and he's very professional, very poised. It was very comforting to see how he handled the huddle and just carried himself while he's out there."

Following a three-and-out, Foles and the offense then got the ball at their own 20-yard-line with 47 seconds remaining in the first half. Foles ran a smooth two-minute drill, picking up 50 yards in 31 seconds thanks in large part to a 22-yard completion to Jason Avant and a 24-yard scramble that put the team in field-goal position with 17 seconds remaining. On the next play, however, Foles threw a pass near the left front corner of the end zone to Jeremy Maclin, who had a step beyond the defender. It was the right read, but Foles underthrew the ball, allowing Nate Ebner to intercept the pass, ending the drive.

"That was a poor throw by me," Foles said, "but it'll be something I learn from. I just need to throw it into the end zone right there, but it felt good to come out and just execute, put that behind me and score.

The rookie would then bounce back in impressive fashion to open the second half. Working with most of the first-team offense for the last time on the night, Foles led a beautiful 80-yard touchdown drive, during which he went five-of-six for 87 yards and four first-downs. The highlight of the drive came on a 3rd-and-5 conversion in which Foles hung tight in the pocket then lofted a deep ball downfield for Jackson, who was in single coverage. Jackson made a nice adjustment on the ball for a 40-yard gain, and Foles would cap the drive with a score three plays later on another touchdown connection with Harbor.

Foles then completed the third quarter with the second-team offensive line protecting him, and still impressed, lofting an impressive first-down pass to Damaris Johnson (also noteworthy in that Foles went back to Johnson after the rookie receiver dropped a would-be first down on the previous drive). It was an impressive to be sure, and with Vick unlikely to play much, if at all, on Friday night against the Cleveland Browns, Foles is likely to have a chance to continue making his case for the backup quarterback job. All he'll have to do is keep it up.

"I was just ready to play," Foles said. "It was as simple as that. It's football and I love playing this game. The line did a great job and the guys did a great job getting open ... It was exciting to get a win in a preseason game, but there's a lot of stuff to work on."

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