Reflecting on #FolesvsBrees

With 2:58 remaining during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Eagles-Saints game, I felt something as a Saints fan that fans of other teams have felt too. I was deathly afraid of Nick Foles.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and Saints quarterback Drew Brees are Westlake legends for a reason. Both were savants at their position during their time at Westlake, with the former breaking the latter’s career passing yards and passing touchdowns records in 2006 until current Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger broke them again ten years later. Brees’ claim to fame at Westlake was even more impressive, as he led the team to its only State championship in 1996. In the National Football League (NFL), Brees (who won a Super Bowl in 2009) has enjoyed far more success than Foles, until last season.

After Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down near the end of the 2017 NFL regular season, Foles stepped in as the starter. While the Eagles had the top seed in the National Football Conference (NFC), most fans and experts wrote off the Eagles once the team entered the playoffs. But Foles was able to win three consecutive games for the Eagles over the Falcons and Vikings and a particularly memorable Super Bowl in which Foles caught a touchdown on the famous “Philly Special” play. Foles was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LIII, which was the first Super Bowl win in the history of the Eagles.

This season, Wentz was back as the starter during the regular season, until he got injured in Week 14 against the Cowboys. Once again, the starting job was given to Foles, who rallied the team to three straight wins to push the Eagles back into the playoffs. In the WildCard round, despite throwing two interceptions, Foles and the Eagles beat an excellent Bears team when Bears kicker Cody Parkey hit the upright and the crossbar on his potential game-winning field goal. This was just another example of the magic that seems to come over the Eagles, who are a much scarier team with Foles at the helm rather than Wentz. After the Bears game, the Eagles had to travel to New Orleans to play the Saints, who now have the NFC’s top seed like the Eagles did at this time last year.

When I got tickets to this game for Christmas, I didn’t know who the Saints would be playing yet because the NFL reseeds the playoff bracket after each round and the WildCard round had yet to be played. After I watched Foles and the Eagles pull out yet another improbable victory over the Bears, the Saints were guaranteed to play the Eagles and all of us were gifted #FolesvsBrees part two (part one was a 2014 playoff game, which Brees and the Saints win). The Eagles had the lowest seed in the NFC this year, but we all saw what happened to the team last year under Foles’ leadership, so I was extra nervous about this game. But as the game got closer and closer, the excitement about the game from the city of New Orleans gave me confidence in a Saints win. As my mom and I made our way to our seats in the Superdome, my excitement was boiling over and I felt great. That changed quickly.

On the first play from scrimmage, Eagles cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc intercepted Brees’ errant deep throw. The Superdome was eerily silent for a moment, but I and the other 73,026 fans quickly came to our senses and got back to being as loud as we could while Foles took the field to start the drive for the Eagles. The Saints’ defense must have been in shock at first like we were because the Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind two touchdowns from Foles, one rushing and one passing. I believe in the Saints more than any other team I follow, but I was already envisioning the next day’s headlines from my stadium seat. But the Saints fought back in the second quarter behind an interception of a Foles pass by cornerback Marshon Lattimore, leaving the score at 14-10 Eagles at halftime. By now, the momentum had shifted towards the Saints, and I had faith in my team even before Brees led an 18-play, nearly-12-minute drive in the third quarter that ended with a touchdown to receiver Michael Thomas. After that, Foles was still unable to solve the Saints defense, and Brees drove down the field again to push the lead to six, with the score being 20-14. Foles then led another drive but had to punt again, giving the Saints the ball back with about nine minutes left in the fourth. The Saints were able to cross midfield and were looking to score, but kicker Will Lutz missed a 52-yard field goal that would have basically sealed the game for the Saints. This gave Foles the ball back with 2:58 remaining, and gave me a sinking feeling.

I didn’t tell my mom this at the moment, but I was thinking what other Saints fans surely were. Is Foles really going to win another game in dramatic fashion? Are the Eagles really magical? Is the Saints’ season over. I was thinking all of this, but the only thing I could do was be as loud as I could, doing anything in my power to disrupt the mojo of Foles and the Eagles offense. But after Foles delivered a strike to tight end Zach Ertz for a first down and gained an extra 15 yards because of a roughing the passer penalty. Foles only needed 27 more yards to get into the endzone and break my heart. It seemed inevitable. But then everything changed. Foles threw a pass to receiver Alshon Jeffery, but the ball slipped through Jeffery’s hands and into Lattimore’s, finally sealing the game for the Saints. The crowd reaction when that play happened is the loudest I’ve ever been a part of, and it was one of relief. This time, we knew Foles couldn’t hurt us. The Saints ran out the clock, and Foles and Brees met at midfield after it was over. Two Westlake quarterbacks, two legends. I was ecstatic about the Saints win, but I also saw the bigger picture.

This isn’t one of those stories that’s ‘bigger than football.’ It is football. But this is Westlake, and this is the NFL playoffs. We should all be extremely proud of Foles, Brees, and all of the other greats that have passed through our school. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. The careers of Brees and Foles won’t last forever, so we should enjoy them while they do.