BY ROB MAADDI
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Foles is stepping into a pressure situation with a team that has enormous expectations in a city desperate for its first Super Bowl title.
He’s no ordinary backup quarterback.
Foles had tremendous success as a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and he experienced failure as the No. 1 quarterback for the St. Louis Rams in 2015. He’s won an offensive MVP award at a Pro Bowl, been traded, released and contemplated retirement.
Now, he’s the man leading the NFC East champions.
Foles is no Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP-caliber season before he tore his left ACL. But, he’s a capable quarterback who won’t be overwhelmed by the spotlight.
“He’s matured as a quarterback, his leadership ability, his understanding of our offense, of defenses,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “We always knew he was a smart intellectual quarterback.”
Pederson was here was an assistant when former coach Andy Reid selected Foles in the third round of the 2012 draft. Foles started six games that season for a 4-12 team.
He began 2013 as the backup to Michael Vick in Chip Kelly’s first season in Philly. Foles replaced Vick after he was injured in October, had a sensational season and led the Eagles to their most recent playoff appearance — a home loss to New Orleans.
Foles threw 27 TDs and only two picks in 10 starts and posted a passer rating of 119.2, third-highest in league history. He tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013.
Foles wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2014, but the Eagles were 6-2 in his eight starts. He tossed 13 TDs, 10 interceptions and missed the final eight games after breaking his collarbone.
Kelly traded him to St. Louis for Sam Bradford in March 2015 and Foles went 4-7 on a 7-9 team. He was released by the Rams and reunited with Reid in Kansas City as Alex Smith’s backup. Foles filled in nicely when Smith was injured last season and led the Chiefs to a victory in his only start.
He returned to Philadelphia to back up Wentz on an $11 million, two-year contract.
“I think with experience and age, you gain knowledge and wisdom,” Foles said .
“Obviously life changes and you just sort of see the game a little more clearly. Even stepping into the game like the other night, you’re in the fourth quarter, you’re on the road, it’s a big game.
“And you really just go back to your training, you go back to your experiences in life. You know how to sort of live in that moment to execute the plays to help your team win.”
Foles rallied the Eagles to a 43-35 win against the Los Angeles Rams by guiding the offense to field goals on consecutive drives after Wentz went down.
He’ll get his first start at the New York Giants (2-11) on Sunday against an aggressive defense led by interim coach Steve Spagnuolo.
The Eagles can secure a first-round bye with a win. They’ll lock up the NFC’s No. 1 seed with two wins in their final three games or one win and one loss by the Vikings (10-3).
“It starts with that chemistry,” Foles said. “The teams that I have been on that have been really good have had that, and this is one of them.”
While Foles doesn’t possess Wentz’s scrambling ability and elusiveness, the Eagles don’t plan to change their offense. But coaches wouldn’t say otherwise. It would make sense to rely more on a strong running game led by Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement.
“Certainly it starts at quarterback, but it’s really built around all the talent that we have on offense,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.
“And good for us that all our quarterbacks are talented. Now Carson has some unique, physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it’s nothing that Nick can’t handle. So we’re full-steam ahead.”
Wentz had surgery to repair his ACL on Wednesday. Players typically need between nine and 12 months to return to the field.
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