From the first moments after Carson Wentz entered the tunnel at the Los Angeles Coliseum with a torn ACL, Eagles fans, observers and analysts considered the Eagles’ season essentially finished.
This was entirely because Nick Foles was Wentz’s replacement. This remained true after Foles finished the win against the Rams, then beat the Giants on the road, then beat the Raiders at home to secure the No. 1 seed.
This nearly universal pessimism, fueled by Foles’ sketchy outing against the Raiders and his poor quarter of play in the meaningless Game 16, crystallized when oddsmakers made the Eagles the first No. 1 seed underdog in the wild-card era. They picked the Falcons, seeded sixth, by a field goal. Foles led the Eagles to a 15-10 win Saturday, Jan. 13. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 246 yards, with a 100.1 passer rating.
Letter of apology: This is a letter of apology to Nick Foles. Not everyone doubted him (not I, at least), but if you did, feel free to print it out and mail it to 1 NovaCare Way.
He hasn’t gotten much fan mail lately.
We’re sorry. We were wrong.
We thought the Eagles needed to ride the Wentz Wagon to the NFC Championship Game and beyond, but, clearly, you are not the hindrance we figured you would be.
No, you weren’t perfect. Yes, you got a little lucky: two pass-interference calls went your way and erased incompletions; the second was bogus, and Alshon Jeffery got away with offensive pass interference on a 21-yard completion in the third quarter. Your longest first-half completion, for 20 yards, might have been intercepted and should have been incomplete, but it ricocheted off the knee of Falcons safety Keanu Neal and landed in the unlikely hands of Torrey Smith, which led to a field goal, and, so, was the difference in the game, since the Falcons wound up needing a touchdown to win.
That’s OK. You’ve had your share of bad luck. You were the reigning Pro Bowl MVP when you broke your collarbone in 2014, and you had a chance to start in St. Louis the next season, but for one reason or another you never really got your mojo back. Well, it’s back now.
You won game: We know the truth: You won the game. You didn’t manage it. You won it.
You went 11 for 15 for 137 yards on the Eagles’ field-goal drives in the third and fourth quarters, and those field goals were the difference. It was below 30 degrees by the start of the second half, and there was a 20-mph wind. You drove the team into the wind, then with it. You’ve come away with bigger numbers — seven TDs at Oakland in 2013 — but this was your finest hour.
Then, to your credit, you stood as tall after the game as you did during it. You endured criticism, back- and front-handed, for the better part of a month. You were diminished on a daily basis, on a national stage.
And then, Sunday night, you had the chance to rub our faces in it. Instead, you said, “It doesn’t even matter,” and you walked off to put 7-month-old Lily to sleep.
Other apologies: We hope you accept our apology, but you’re not the only one who deserves one.
Please tell Doug Pederson, your head coach, Frank Reich, your offensive coordinator, and John DeFilippo, your quarterbacks coach, we apologize to them, too. They turned Wentz from an FCS (I-AA) quarterback into a Pro Bowl starter in less than two seasons, but we figured they couldn’t coach you to a playoff win in your 40th NFL start.
Also, let the defense know we regret our lack of faith. They gave up just 10 points to Matt Ryan, the reigning MVP, and held him to 22-for-36 passing and 210 yards. They sacked him three times. They held at the goal line in the last minute, from the 2. They were as dominant as they seemed to be most of the season.
Your running backs had to play great, too, and they did: 33 touches, 153 yards from scrimmage. Relay our kudos to them.
More than anyone, though, please let your offensive line know how deeply we regret underestimating their talents. Yes, we know Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are Pro Bowl players, and that Johnson and center Jason Kelce are All-Pros. But things got so ugly against Oakland and Dallas … well, we just lost our heads. And our heart. And our faith.
You’ve restored that.
Vegas regrets: Vegas sends its regrets, too; but you have to wonder how sincere they are out there in the desert.
They’re probably going to pick you to lose again next week, too.
Pretty Much Everybody Except Tony Dungy