The Nick Foles Legend Is Born: Philly QB Stares Down the GOAT and Wins

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 5, 2018

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game against the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. The Eagles won 41-33. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — As Super Bowl week dragged on and Eagles players were inundated with press conferences and ticket requests from friends and doubts they could take down an empire, the teammates of Nick Foles began to notice something.

Foles hadn't changed at all. There was no nervousness. No trepidation. No doubt. Just calm.

"He was Nick," said tight end Zach Ertz.         

"There was no fear," said defensive back Malcolm Jenkins.

Foles was studious. Foles was accurate in practice. He laughed. He cracked jokes. In other words, he was the same Foles the Eagles had seen in the latter part of the season. The fact he was about to play in Super Bowl LII against the greatest football empire of all time didn't seem to matter to him. The fact he was playing against Tom Brady didn't seem to matter. Nothing did.

Once the game began, Foles' icy blood stayed chilled. In one of the most entertaining Super Bowls of all time, Foles stood cleat to cleat with the best quarterback of all time, even as Brady threw for more than 500 yards. A needle and thread were impressed with Foles. The calm, goofy, nerdy journeyman quarterback beat dragons and, in the process, put on one of the best Super Bowl performances of our lifetime.

In fact, this might have been the gutsiest Super Bowl performance we've ever seen. Because no one thought he could do it. Most had already crowned Brady.

There's a long history of players beating the odds in the Super Bowl—whether it's Terrell Owens playing with a still-broken leg or Kurt Warner going from bagging groceries to MVP—but Foles beating Brady at his best puts him ahead of everyone. What he did in the Eagles' 41-33 win Sunday made him a legend.

Luke beat Vader. David kicked Goliath's ass. The tortoise beat the hare. Foles beat Brady.

"I felt good," Foles said. "I felt calm. The big thing for me was that I didn't need to be Superman."

Then he added the key phrase: "I was just playing."

No matter what happens to Foles now, his place in history is assured. Only one other player has beaten Brady on this stage, and that was the Giants' Eli Manning (twice). Now Foles has done it. He went 28-of-43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 106.1.

After the game, he was still cool. He picked up his infant daughter, kissed her on the forehead and smiled. As the Lombardi Trophy was marched through a gauntlet of Eagles players, each one taking a turn kissing and touching it, Foles, yes, smiled some more.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates with his daughter Lily Foles after his 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Th
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coming into Sunday, only two other players in history, the NFL says, didn't start Week 1 and went on to be named Super Bowl MVP. One was Brady, and the other was Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl.

Like Brady and Williams, the Foles story has become one of those staggering NFL fairy tales. It still seems an impossible dream. He was seen as a backup by almost every team in football. Then he had to replace Carson Wentz, who was on track to win the MVP award before getting hurt. And then he had to beat the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs, and the Minnesota Vikings, and Brady.

"People disrespected Nick all year," said defensive lineman Chris Long. "Now look where he is."

"Our mentality all year was, 'Next man up, next man up,'" said defensive end Brandon Graham.

The magnitude of what Foles overcame can't be understated. In a wild, frenetic game, Brady and the New England offense set a number of Super Bowl records, including most total yards in a game (613), most passing yards (505 for Brady) and most passes attempted without an interception (48, again by Brady).

All Foles did was make play after play the entire game. You kept waiting for him to turn back into a pumpkin, but it never happened. Instead, he delivered moments that will be remembered forever.

Like on a gutsy trick-play call from coach Doug Pederson, when Foles caught a touchdown pass (the play is called "Philly special"), becoming the first player in history to throw and catch a touchdown in the same Super Bowl. Foles said it was a play they'd been working on for a month. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said the Eagles got the play from the Bears, who successfully ran it last year against the Vikings. Reich added that Philadelphia considered running it against Minnesota in the NFC title game but decided to save it. "I looked the ball in," Foles joked.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after a 1-yard touchdown reception against the New England Patriots during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnes
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Or like on the game-winning drive he engineered: 75 yards on 14 plays to give Philadelphia a 38-33 lead it would never relinquish.

When Foles met the media after the game, he wore his Super Bowl-champion T-shirt (over his shoulder pads), an Eagles hat and the wristband that has all of his plays, still locked on his arm. He's scheduled to be in Disney World on Monday with his family.

"I was thinking of hanging up the cleats," he said, reminding that in 2016 he was considering retiring after negotiating a release from the Rams. "People struggle...

"I'm glad I made the decision to come back to play."

Soon after that, he walked off. His night was over.

But his legacy has just begun.

       

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

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