Sports

The Nick Foles Eagles Are Dead. Long Live the Nick Foles Eagles.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 13:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts after his teams loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Eagles 20-14. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
He almost did that thing again.
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles finally ran out of miracles. Their quest to complete the most unlikely Super Bowl repeat in history came to an end on Sunday in New Orleans. The Eagles were agonizingly close—miracle-adjacent, really—but a late interception of a Foles pass sealed the Saints’ 20-14 win.

Down 6 points and with the clock approaching the 2-minute warning, the Eagles managed to trek inside the Saints’ 30-yard line for one last go. More than a calendar year’s worth of Folesian heroics had conditioned viewers for a seemingly inevitable sequence of events. The quarterback was going to calmly fend off pressure, find an open receiver, and give Philadelphia the lead. He did it last week in Chicago against the Bears and, sure enough, he was right on schedule yet again. Foles hit Alshon Jeffery right in his gloves, but the ball slipped through the receiver’s typically dependable grasp and into the waiting arms of defensive back Marshon Lattimore.

It was the first time Jeffery had ever dropped a pass in the playoffs, and Philadelphia wouldn’t get a mulligan. The Saints ran out the clock and secured a place in next weekend’s NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams. It was the first time in five straight must-win games that Foles and the Eagles came up short. It felt like watching Goliath tumble in the Valley of Elah, except Goliath was a backup quarterback and David had the NFL’s best record.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Foles both consoled Jeffery after the drop. It was a departure from the scenes that had become common during the past two postseasons, when Philadelphia’s sidelines were reserved for celebrations and the plotting of trick plays like the Philly Special.

What made this year’s Eagles run so amazing were all the similarities to last year’s unlikely story. Foles was once again thrust into action after Carson Wentz suffered an injury late in the regular season. But, unlike last year, the Eagles appeared to be out of the playoff picture when Wentz went out. The team was 6-7 heading into Week 15, and Foles had to beat the Rams in Los Angeles to keep their postseason dreams alive. He did, and Foles repeated his superhero act two more times, sneaking into the playoffs through the back door.

After last week’s dramatic victory against the Bears, you’d be forgiven for thinking Foles could be headed for another historic Super Bowl run. When the Eagles jumped out to an early 14-0 lead over the Saints, it seemed preordained, and New Orleans’ secondary appeared to be big believers themselves.

But the Saints were healthier and more talented, and they wrested control from the defending champs as the game wore on, scoring 20 straight points. A late 53-yard field goal would have put the contest out of reach, but New Orleans’ Wil Lutz became the second opposing kicker in the past 7 days to come to the Eagles’ rescue. His miss gave Philadelphia great field position and allowed Foles a chance to work his magic. The miracle march got all the way to the 27-yard line, but Jeffery’s whiff killed the dream in its tracks. The Eagles turned back into a pumpkin, nobody shot J.R., and Foles woke up next to Suzanne Pleshette.

Foles’ tenure in Philadelphia probably ended with that interception. The quarterback restructured his contract after last year’s Super Bowl, and the Eagles would have to pay $20 million to keep him on the roster next season. According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Philadelphia will likely trade Foles to another team. Miracle workers are in rather high demand, even if they come up short from time to time.