It wasn’t until Friday morning that Nick Foles knew for sure he’d make his first start in 405 days.
By then, Foles — not rookie quarterback Justin Fields, who had an injured ankle, or veteran Andy Dalton, who’d hurt his groin — had spent most of the week taking snaps with the Bears’ first team. It was a new feeling; Foles had been practicing all season with backups and practice-squadders.
Two days after getting word, Foles beat the Seahawks and posted a 98.5 passer rating — the best mark for any Bears quarterback who played a full game this season.
“He’s like the microwave,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said Tuesday. “You put him in, and he’s gonna heat something up.”
Why can’t Fields? When he struggled after being forced into the starting lineup in Week 3, players and coaches alike said his lack of reps with the first team in training camp was one reason the offense felt disjointed.
Foles could say the same, yet the offense with him under center was efficient Sunday. The difference is experience — and the fact Foles might be the most accomplished backup quarterback in NFL history.
Foles has started at least one game in 10 different seasons, giving him a mental Rolodex of opposing defenses. Fields has started 10 games total.
In his seven starts in 2020, Foles played alongside running back David Montgomery, receiver Darnell Mooney and tight ends Cole Kmet and Jimmy Graham — his four leading receivers Sunday.
“He has had some 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 7-on-7 in a park somewhere. He’s gonna find some completions, and he’s gonna be able to find a way to get stuff done.”
The question shouldn’t be why Fields couldn’t do what Foles did; it should be how Foles can help Fields get to that point as soon as possible.
“I can help Andy. I can help Justin,” Foles said. “I can do those things.”
There’s no shortcut for experience. But sitting in a quarterbacks room with Foles and Dalton, who have 202 combined starts, should help Fields whenever he returns.
“[Foles] is not a guy that’s sulking around the building,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “He’s not a guy that’s trying to stab the guys that are in front of him on the depth chart in the back. He’s trying to help those guys out. So I think just when you approach that day, every single day, like you are the starter, I think obviously that falls to good play.”
When coach Matt Nagy took offensive suggestions from players after the Browns debacle in Week 3, Fields didn’t speak up — but Foles did. Asked Sunday why the offense has struggled this season, Foles was curt — “It’s not my place to say,” he said — before adding it’s a work in progress.
Foles can help it get better, either behind the scenes or under center if Fields isn’t healthy enough to face the Giants.
Shortly after throwing the game-winning touchdown — and two-point conversion — with 61 seconds left Sunday, Foles talked about the titles bestowed on him during his career: Pro Bowl player, Super Bowl MVP, near-washout and, this season, third-stringer. He said those labels didn’t define him, but he seemed to enjoy referring to himself as the last one.
“I was a third-string quarterback tonight,” he said. “I was just third-string. That’s my label. But at the end of the day, that’s not who I am. I am just Nick Foles. I go out there and I play. I lean on my teammates. I go to work.”