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December 24, 2018

Angelo Cataldi: Saint Nick proved he's real in Eagles win for the ages

Opinion Eagles
1224_Saint_Nick_USAT James Lang/USA Today Sports, Photoshop

Saint Nicks saves the day again.

It is no coincidence that Saint Nick Foles is the big story today in Philadelphia sports, the backup quarterback who refuses to lose, the Super Bowl hero who gave the city the best Christmas gift any of us will get this year. That’s why we call him Saint Nick.

The Eagles are not dead this season because Foles refused to let them die yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field. Even when he was roadkill in the end zone after absorbing a brutal hit by Jadeveon Clowney, at least 50 yards from the game-winning field goal with less than two minutes left, he found a way.

His performance was astounding on the final stat sheet — 35 for 49 for 471 yards and four touchdowns against an elite defense — but those numbers barely reflect how great he was with an entire season at stake. Foles also overcame a horrific fumble by Josh Adams, his own damaging turnover, two bad drives by the defense in the fourth quarter and some brutal, one-sided officiating.

It is too easy today, even for a talk-show host like me, to raise the issue of Foles’ standing on the team beyond the season he just saved — whether it’s time to consider that he may be a better option long-term that the oft-injured franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz. We’ll leave that for the long off-season ahead.

Right now, today, on Christmas Eve, it’s time to consider what Foles has given Philadelphia in the past 13 months. Above all, of course, he led the team to the Super Bowl, replacing the league MVP (Wentz) with no hint of controversy, and then rallied the Eagles to the biggest win in franchise history against the New England Patriots.

In that Super Bowl, many fans have forgotten that Foles faced a fourth down, behind 33-32, with six minutes left, and he calmly zipped a throw to Zach Ertz to keep the dream alive. Was that moment, was the entire run to a Lombardi Trophy, a fluke? We know the answer to that question now, after yesterday’s 32-30 win over Houston.

After the defense blew a 13-point lead, on a third-and-11 play with 1:50 left from his own 11, Foles threaded a pass down the middle of the field for 19 yards to Alshon Jeffrey, then looped a 20-yard pass to Ertz on another key third-down conversion that lined up Josh Elliott for the winning field goal.

On that first throw, Foles knew he was going to get demolished by the rampaging Clowney, and still he made the sacrifice. Somehow, he missed only one play after the trainers had scraped him off the Linc turf.

Saint Nick, indeed.

After his latest miracle, Foles grew emotional when he talked about his two tours of duty as an Eagle, saying how much he loved the city and his teammates and especially the honor of winning a championship here. If that was his last game at the Linc, he will be remembered for his unique story, and for the courage to perform at his best when it mattered most.

Chris Long, a Super Bowl hero himself, spoke for an entire city when asked yesterday if he believed Foles would find a way to win the game.

“It’s Christmas,” Long said, “It’s Saint Nick.”

Yes, it is.

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