If Nick Foles Is Good Enough to Beat the Vikes, He's Good Enough to Beat Brady

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 22, 2018

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles celebrates after the NFL football NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 38-7 to advance to Super Bowl LII. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Nick Foles can beat Tom Brady.      

Read that sentence again. And again. Over and over. Go ahead and mock it. Laugh your ass off. Snicker and guffaw and chuckle.

But it can happen.

"We totally believe in him," said running back LeGarrette Blount. "We can't help it if other people don't. That's on them. They're making a mistake."

In the locker room, as the celebrations started and the smiles beamed and hopes grew that this Eagles team could defeat a dynasty, much of the talk was about Foles.

"He's fearless," said tight end Zach Ertz. "He's as tough as they come."

"He gets disrespected all the time," said Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, "and he just keeps winning."

Granted, if there's one thing we've learned about the Eagles this season, it's that this team is so good, it can win with Carson Wentz or Carson Palmer or Johnny Carson. It can win with Nick Foles or Nick Cannon or St. Nick. If you don't understand that, you don't know football.

The Vikings certainly understand it. The Eagles obliterated them and their top defense, 38-7, at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to make Super Bowl LII against the Patriots. The 31-point margin is the largest in Eagles playoff history.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a first quarter touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It was a rollicking, dominating performance spurred by a dog-mask-wearing, frenzied crowd.

Now, for two weeks, we will hear about how Foles can't beat Brady.

And of course, Brady is the best to ever do it. The Eagles will be underdogs because they are facing the most formidable team in NFL history.

But that brings us back to Foles. Because Nick Foles can beat Tom Brady.

Yeah, I said it again. Mock, laugh, snicker, guffaw and chuckle away.

Why can Foles beat Brady and upend the greatest football dynasty we've ever seen? There are two main reasons.

First, many of us have underestimated Foles (guilty as charged), and many still are. What he did against the Vikings was staggering. That defense is as fast and dangerous as there is in football, and Foles shredded it. Watching him play, it was hard to believe we were seeing real life.

Foles finished 26-of-33 for 352 yards and three touchdown passes. He had a 141.4 passer rating. He was electric, accurate and dominating. Those are generally not words associated with Nick Foles.

The Eagles offense converted 10 of 14 third-down attempts. The Vikings, according to the NFL, allowed a total of eight third-down conversions in their prior four games. That is remarkable. That was Foles. He has shown almost exponential improvement. It's not that he's getting better. It's how rapidly he's getting better. This version of Foles is dramatically different from the one a few years, a year, a month or even a week ago.

Of course, it's possible that he gets on the huge Super Bowl stage, a place where Brady is as comfortable as a virgin at a church social, and crumbles. Many before him have.

Foles, though, doesn't seem to get shaken. It would be surprising at this point if he did.

So the first point is that it's not just the Eagles—Foles himself has been better and improved more than we give him credit for.

The second point is that he's also a product of an Eagles team that's bigger than him. And that's not contradictory; it's maybe the biggest point of all.

The defense is quick and athletic. It will need to be against Brady, but the Eagles defense isn't so different in skill level or speed from Jacksonville's, and for a time at least the Jaguars gave Brady fits.

The Eagles are also loaded on offense. Foles lit up the Vikings, but Minnesota also had no idea who to focus on stopping. The dirty secret of the Eagles is they have formidable offensive weapons that many in the league don't consider formidable.

Before the game, one Vikings defensive player told me that while he respects the Eagles offense (and he emphasized this several times), he didn't feel like it had weapons that scared them. This is a view shared by other teams. I've heard it. Ertz is seen as a star, but Blount, Jay Ajayi, Smith, receiver Nelson Agholor or even Alshon Jeffery aren't seen as top-flight weapons. They don't make defenses nervous the way Antonio Brown or Julio Jones do.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: Zach Ertz #86 and Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrate the 53 yard touchdown reception by Alshon Jeffery (not pictured) during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game at Li
Rob Carr/Getty Images

That perception needs to change and likely will. The Eagles pass-catchers will give New England massive trouble, because they give every defense massive trouble. Instead of one superstar receiver like Brown, they have a number of very good offensive players.

They'll be able to score on the Patriots, and they'll be able to score a lot. The 38 points, the 456 yards and 346 net passing yards were all highs given up by the Vikings this season. And, again, the Vikings defense is far better than New England's.

The same thing could be stated about Philadelphia's defense. It's as varied and deep as the offense. One of the most underrated players in the sport is Chris Long. He put pressure on the Vikings all day. The defense will pressure Brady. It's a lock.

There's one last thing that needs to be addressed, and that's Philadelphia's mental toughness. The team lost Wentz. It lost other key players to injury. It also participated in the anthem protests and was criticized for them.

"The adversity we've had to deal with, to me," said owner Jeff Lurie, "is almost unprecedented."

But those protests weren't a distraction. None of it was. The team kept winning because the Eagles are just as tough mentally as they are physically.

Wentz goes down and Foles steps in. What happens? They keep winning. Foles picks up his game, and the team picks it up around him.

Already after Sunday's game, they were showing the swagger they've earned. Offensive lineman Lane Johnson said the Eagles were ready to "dethrone" the Patriots. That’s the word he used. "Dethrone."

This is Brady's eighth Super Bowl since 2001. He's lost two. Brady and the Patriots will be favored. Few will think they will lose, because they rarely do.

Yet let's make this clear.

Nick Foles can beat Tom Brady. 

Read that sentence again. And again. Over and over. Go ahead and mock it. Laugh your ass off. Snicker and guffaw and chuckle.

But it can happen.

      

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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