When Cody Parker’s field goal deflected off first the left upright and then the crossbar Sunday, thus preserving the Philadelphia Eagles’ 16-15 victory over the Chicago Bears, many Saints fans cheered.
Philadelphia’s victory means that the Saints will play the Eagles in New Orleans Sunday afternoon. Had Parker’s kick sailed through the uprights, the Saints would have played the Dallas Cowboys instead.
Perhaps playing the Eagles instead of the Cowboys is a good thing for the Saints. I am not so sure. This may well be a case where Who Dats should have been more careful what they wished for. They wanted the Eagles. They got them. We’ll see.
Yes, the Saints thrashed the Eagles 48-7 on November 18 – New Orleans’ most decisive victory of their 13 this season. Yes, and 11 days later, the Cowboys handed the Saints one of their three defeats, 13-10, on a Monday night in Dallas.
But things can change drastically over seven weeks in the NFL. The Eagles have changed drastically – for the better. When the Eagles were drummed by the Saints on November 18, the defeat dropped Philly to a woeful 4-6 on the season. Since then, the Eagles have won six of seven, losing only to the Cowboys, at Dallas, in overtime.
In short, the Eagles are playing much more like the team that won last year’s Super Bowl than the team blasted out of the Superdome to fall to 4-6. Primarily, two things have happened. One, an injury-plagued secondary has found the right ingredients to become effective. Two, Nick Foles is back.
Ah, Foles, remember him? Remember how he took over for injured Carson Wentz in mid-December of the 2017 season? How he guided the Eagles through the playoffs and to a Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots? Foles went from backup quarterback wearing a baseball cap and carrying a clipboard to Super Bowl MVP. In the Super Bowl, he not only threw two touchdowns, he caught one.
Well, he’s trying to do it all again. So far, so good.
In December of 2017, Wentz went down with a torn ACL. This time, Wentz went down with a bad back. The results are the same. Foles has come on and the Eagles haven’t lost.
Wentz has the bigger arm, throws the tighter spiral. Foles just wins. Sometimes, it seems, Foles’ passes take forever to reach the receiver’s hands. But his passes usually do. He finds a way. Sunday, his way was a beat the clock, two-minute drill that ended in a two-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
Foles, you should know, has a Mississippi connection. His father, Larry Foles, grew up in Petal, and if you think Nick Foles is a rags-to-riches story, his daddy’s is even better. Larry Foles, an outstanding young athlete, came from a broken home and never graduated from high school. He went to work as a dishwasher at Shoney’s in Hattiesburg and learned the restaurant business from the bottom up. He eventually moved to Jackson where he operated restaurants, and then to Baton Rouge, Dallas and Austin, where he opened his own restaurants. He is a self-made millionaire, several times over.
Larry Foles’ son is a winner. Nick Foles took over as a starter for Wentz on December 16 with the Eagles playing at the 11-2 Los Angeles Rams. The Eagles had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. And win, they did, 30-23. Since then, they have beaten Houston, Washington and Chicago.
And now they go to New Orleans.
Nick Foles will be quarterbacking against Drew Brees less than a two-hour drive from where Foles’ daddy grew up. The Saints are favored by 8.5 points but to advance New Orleans must do something nobody has done in two Januarys. And that is beat Nick Foles in the post-season.
Rick Cleveland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.