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MINNEAPOLIS — Nick Foles never flinched.
Facing his first real adversity of Super Bowl LII, the much-maligned, often-criticized Philadelphia quarterback never blinked. He never doubted himself or his teammates. Instead, he stared down a patchwork Patriots defense and pulverized it.
New England had just taken its first lead — at 33-32 – in the fourth quarter and Foles needed to answer. In a situation where countless QBs have melted in the moment, Foles was flawless.
Taking over at his 25-yard line, the man who took over for an MVP candidate late in the season proceeded to cement his own Super Bowl MVP award.
Foles completed 8 of 10 passes on the methodical march, capping it with an 11-yard touchdown toss to Zach Ertz.
With top deep threat Alshon Jeffery being muted by Stephon Gilmore, Foles went the West Coast route. He was precise, hitting short pass after short pass and expertly leading his receivers so they could pick up extra yards after the catch.
It was the kind of drive befitting of another Super Bowl MVP — a four-time winner, in fact. Foles showed the poised and patience of Tom Brady. He never panicked and he used every available weapon.
“I felt calm. I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman,’’ said Foles, who instead settled for being a superhero for the night. “I have amazing teammates and amazing coaches around me, and all I have to do is go play as hard as I could play for one another, play for those guys and not look at the scoreboard, not look at the time. Just go out there and play. Don’t worry about it, and we came away with a victory.’’
Foles’s nonplussed performance on that critical drive — which chewed seven minutes off the clock — shouldn’t have come as a big surprise, considering his play throughout the game and throughout the postseason.
The sixth-year journeyman, in his second stint with the Eagles, started the season as an understudy before being thrust into the leading role when Carson Wentz tore his ACL in December.
The Eagles struggled some with the transition and many predicted a nightmare end to what had been a dream season for a franchise in search of its first Super Bowl win.
Foles absorbed the punches and delivered a few of his own, keeping the Eagles on track down the stretch and into the postseason.
“A lot of people doubted Nick when we had a couple of bad games,’’ said defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “We knew the type of guy Nick was and we knew he was going to come out and be Nick, be the best Nick he can be, and he showed the world that today.’’
Foles, who led the Eagles to points on his first two drives, setting the tone and sending a message that he was ready to go, completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. His only glaring mistake was a deflected goal-line interception the Patriots turned into a touchdown, but that is just a footnote now.
“I felt good,’’ he said of his relaxed start. “You never really know what it’s going to be like when you’re going into the Super Bowl. I’ve never been here before, so there are normal nerves. You’ve got butterflies. It’s a big game. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, but I felt good.’’
As well as he fared chucking the ball all over U.S. Bank Stadium, perhaps Foles’s signature play was a bit of a role reversal.
On a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with just 38 seconds left in the first half, Foles lined up at QB before shifting out to the H-back spot. Corey Clement took the direct snap and flipped it to tight end Trey Burton. Foles sold it perfectly. As a trio of Patriots pursued Burton, he lofted a pass to a wide-open Foles for a 22-12 lead.
It was the kind of gutsy call and excellent execution needed to beat the Patriots.
Foles revealed that the Eagles have been working on the play — dubbed the “Philly Special” by coach Doug Pederson — for about month. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Foles caught the ball every time they ran it in practice.
“Doug and I were talking and I was like, ‘Let’s just run it,’ ’’ said Foles. “It was a good time . . . and it worked. Trey made an amazing throw, right on the money. I just looked it in. We’ve been repping it for a while, so I was excited to get it run in the Super Bowl.’’
On Monday morning, as Foles accepted his MVP hardware, he said he received a pregame text from Drew Brees, the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, that went a long way in helping him eliminate any big-game jitters.
“He just reminded me that it’s just football,’’ said Foles. “There’s a lot of things going on, pregame, a longer pregame, a big halftime show, but at the end of the day, when you’re out there, the game will settle down, and it’ll just be football.’’
Foles settled down all right, and at the end of the day he still wasn’t Superman. Just a Super Bowl MVP.
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