It wasn’t until Friday morning that Nick Foles knew for sure he would be making his first start in 405 days.
By this time, Foles – not rookie Justin Fields, who had an injured ankle, or veteran Andy Dalton, who had a groin injury – had spent most of the week taking pictures with the first team of the Bears. It was a new feeling: Foles had spent the whole season training with reinforcements and training squadrons.
Two days after being tipped off, Foles beat the Seahawks and posted a 98.5 passer rating – the best rating for a Bears quarterback to play a full game this season.
“It’s like the microwave,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said Tuesday. “You put it in and it’ll heat something up.” “
Why can’t Fields? When the rookie struggled after being forced into starting lineup in Week 3, players and coaches said his lack of reps with the first team at training camp was the one of the reasons the attack felt disjointed.
Foles could say the same – but the attack with him under the cross was effective on Sunday. The difference is the experience – and the fact that Foles is the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history.
Foles has started at least one game in 10 different seasons, giving him a mental rolodex of opposing defenses; Fields have started 10 games in total. In his seven starts last year, Foles played alongside running back David Montgomery, wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham – his four main receivers on Sunday.
“He’s had reps with guys like that in the past…” Robinson said. “He’s one of those guys that’s ready if it’s the Seattle Seahawks in the snow, or if it’s 7v7 in a park somewhere, he’s going to find some finishing touches and he’s going to be able to find a way to get things done. “
The question shouldn’t be why Fields couldn’t do what Foles did; this is how Foles can help Fields reach this point as quickly as possible.
“I can help Andy, I can help Justin,” Foles said. “I can do these things.”
There is no shortcut to the experience. But sitting in a quarterback with Foles and Dalton, who have 202 combined starts, should help Fields any time he returns from his ankle injury.
“[Foles] isn’t a guy who sulks around the building, ”quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “He’s not a guy trying to stab the guys in front of him on the deep back board. He’s trying to help these guys. So I think just as you get closer to that day, every day like you’re the starter, obviously I think that’s a good game. ”
When head coach Matt Magy accepted the players’ offensive suggestions after the Browns debacle, Fields did not speak. Foles did it. When asked why the Bears offense has struggled this season, Foles was brief – “That’s not for me to say,” he said on Sunday – before adding that ‘this was a work in progress.
The Foles can help him improve behind the scenes – or under center, if Fields isn’t healthy enough to face the Giants.
Shortly after throwing the winning touchdown – and the two-point conversion – with 61 seconds remaining, Foles opened up about the titles he has been awarded in his career: Pro Bowl player, Super Bowl MVP, quasi- elimination – and, this season, third string. Foles said those labels don’t define him, but seemed to like to refer to himself as the latter.
“I was a third string quarterback tonight,” he said. “I was just the third string. This is my label. But at the end of the day, that’s not who I am. I’m just Nick Foles. I go there and I play. I rely on my teammates. I’m going to work.”