Foles is evolving faster than anyone thought

TAMPA, Fla.

Nick Foles' improvisational skills are approaching Coltrane-quality, blending instinct within a sound structure that's starting to make some interesting music.

The Philadelphia Eagles' rookie quarterback struck back-to-back winning notes to end Sunday's thriller at Tampa Bay, first calling an audible on a 22-yard pass to Jason Avant that exploited a hole in the Buccaneers' Cover 2 scheme, then making a strong case to his coaches during the ensuing timeout for the 1-yard sprintout pass to Jeremy Maclin that won it, 23-21, with no time left on the clock.

"We were on the same page," Foles said. "[Head coach Andy Reid] trusts me. That's big, when you have your coach that trusts you in that situation. I told him I was comfortable with the play, and he said, `Lets do it.' "

Foles, 23, was making just his fourth start, surrounded by an injury-depleted offense that began the day without its three best offensive linemen, top wide receiver and top running back and ended it without its top tight end. He took six sacks and had no run support.

He won anyway, over a desperate opponent, making a lot of it up as he went, which is a big part of becoming a champion in the NFL.

Really, it's not much different from basketball, in which called plays often break down, leaving success totally in the hands of the players and the way they play off each other and sense when to do the right things.

Such was the case when Foles scrambled 10 yards for the Eagles' first touchdown.

"It was just one of those plays where it turns into backyard football," Foles said. "I felt a little pressure, stepped up and got out of the pocket. Sometimes you've got to move around and make a play."

Not sometimes. Often.

Foles seems equipped for that, despite his limited straight-ahead speed, which is always nice to have but not an absolute requirement. Just ask Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Foles is plenty fast where it counts for his position: between the ears. He is processing information at a mind-boggling rate, evolving faster than anyone could have reasonably projected.

Perhaps this is out of necessity. After all, most people don't know what they're fully capable of until being faced with crises. This season certainly qualifies.

Sunday, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg raved about how Foles dealt with the latest one, in which the entire game basically was placed on his shoulders.

"We did come into this game thinking we'd be able to run the ball better than we did," Mornhinweg said. "However, there came a time when we lost [tight end] Brent [Celek, to a concussion] early in the ballgame. We lost [fullback] Stanley [Havili] for a period of time.

"And it was just very simple: We'll open it up and most of it is going to be on Nick."

A game plan that broke down early, leaky protection and a shortage of receivers and tight ends weren't enough to keep Foles from keeping his team in it.

And then breaking through with his first career win.

"Nick, throughout the game, in several cases, if he wants a play, he's got it," Mornhinweg said. "So he's very good that way. He just has done an outstanding job with his audibles and, hey, if he wants a play, he takes ownership of it."

Foles adjusted to his latest crisis. He aimed at Maclin (nine catches, 104 yards) and Avant (seven catches, 133 yards) more. He trusted lone backup tight end Clay Harbor, who cooperated by catching all six passes thrown his way. He even scrambled three times for 27 yards.

Only 13 of the Eagles' 73 plays from scrimmage were called runs. Foles handled that imbalance with great poise.

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