CHICAGO — The ball bounced off the left upright, kicked the crossbar and trickled to the bottom, altering the trajectory of two NFL franchises.

Had Cody Parkey’s 43-yard area aim try sailed via the uprights Sunday evening, the Chicago Bears can be readying this week for the divisional playoff spherical. The Philadelphia Eagles, alternatively, would have entered the offseason ready to bid farewell to backup quarterback Nick Foles, a probable free agent.

The Eagles’ 16-15 victory, nevertheless, bolstered that their looming choice is extra fraught and fewer apparent than it appears. There is no such thing as a purpose for them to hand over on starter Carson Wentz, who suffered season-ending accidents in 2017 and 2018. However in Foles they have a confirmed winner whose efficiency over the previous two seasons has reached a degree of historic proportions that can not be ignored.

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His fourth-down landing throw to receiver Golden Tate may need been forgotten — unfairly — if Parkey had transformed Sunday evening. As an alternative, it made Foles the winningest quarterback in Eagles historical past (by share, .676). He’s considered one of 5 quarterbacks within the NFL’s trendy period to win 5 consecutive video games as an underdog, in accordance to the Elias Sports activities Bureau analysis. But all of us proceed to underestimate and misunderstand Foles when he begins for the Eagles.

“He lets folks speak and do what they’re going to do,” Eagles defensive finish Brandon Graham stated. “However he does not get caught up within the hoorah. If stuff occurs, it occurs. If not, he is going to reside to one other day. I like his mentality. He by no means wavers.”

There was a time when Foles’ efficiency with the Eagles appeared an ideal, if brief-time period, storm. That stage has handed. What number of massive video games do the Eagles want to win with Foles earlier than the dialog turns into sticky?

I feel we’re getting there — if we aren’t there already. Particular issues occur when Foles places on the inexperienced and white. There has by no means been a quarterback in NFL historical past who has won a playoff sport in consecutive seasons regardless of beginning 5 or much less video games in every of these common seasons, in accordance to Elias analysis. In different phrases, backup quarterbacks by no means accomplish what Foles has.

So on the very least, the Eagles can be parting methods with a playoff-examined quarterback who has performed at an unprecedented degree when pressed into obligation for 2 consecutive seasons. Is that good group-constructing?

The goal reply is not any, however actuality would possibly go away the Eagles with an imperfect alternative. They will management Wentz’s rookie contract for 2 extra seasons. Foles, nevertheless, has a uncommon mutual possibility in his contract for 2019, that means the Eagles can maintain him if they need to pay out a $20 million wage. And even when they do, Foles can void the choice by returning $2 million of his unique signing bonus.

It is tough to think about the Eagles giving up on Wentz or wanting a $20 million backup quarterback. Nor does it appear probably that Foles would return simply to sit when he virtually actually would have a number of choices to begin elsewhere. However he already has discovered the fallacy of greener grass; he almost retired after a failed run as a starter for the St. Louis Rams in 2015. Foles could be the uncommon participant for whom a backup job in the proper place is preferable to a beginning function in a foul atmosphere.

Foles sounded a bit wistful Sunday evening, admitting he has been taking a second “to mirror” and notice how good he has it with the Eagles.

“I notice that I am blessed to have the opportunity to put on this jersey at the least another week,” he stated, “and I get to play with these guys another week.”

Foles had nothing shut to an ideal sport Sunday evening. He threw two first-half interceptions because the Eagles limped into halftime with solely three factors. However he turned on the magic after the Eagles regained possession trailing 15-10 with four:48 remaining.

He accomplished six of 9 passes for 59 of the Eagles’ 60 yards on the drive. Going through fourth down on the Bears’ 2-yard line with 56 seconds left, Foles known as timeout. On the sideline, he advised a dash out move to coach Doug Pederson, realizing the Bears had been probably to blitz. Pederson agreed, a second harking back to Foles’ nomination of “Philly Particular” through the Tremendous Bowl.

Proper sort out Lane Johnson was struck as soon as once more by how calm Foles appeared within the second, because the quarterback jogged again to the huddle.

“It wasn’t ‘The Replacements,’ the place they have a superb message there on the finish,” Johnson stated. “It wasn’t ‘Friday Night time Lights,’ [where they say], ‘Let’s go boys, let’s go fetch the state championship.’ It was, name the play and let’s go see if we are able to rating.”

Foles discovered Tate close to the pylon and fired an ideal move.

“We all the time speak about simply staying within the second,” Foles stated. “That is been what I have been specializing in, what we have been specializing in.”

It can all finish in some unspecified time in the future. Maybe will probably be subsequent week in opposition to the highest-seeded New Orleans Saints. Possibly the Eagles will maintain it going to the NFC Championship Sport. Who is aware of? Possibly Foles will deliver them again to the Tremendous Bowl.

At any time when it does finish, and regardless of the way it occurs, how snug ought to the Eagles really feel about letting Foles go away? Given Wentz’s well being historical past, should not the ability of his backup be a excessive roster precedence? And as for Foles, is leaving the proper choice?

Six weeks in the past, these questions would not have been tough to reply. Now they are. NFL groups typically enable good gamers to go away in free company. It virtually by no means occurs with quarterbacks. Foles is not only a actually good backup. He is the man who has began the entire Eagles’ largest victories up to now two seasons. The probabilities of discovering a comparable alternative are low. Ought to they let him go? It is a more durable choice than we’d have realized.

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