TAMPA, Fla. - The Eagles may have found their franchise quarterback.
Rookie Nick Foles delivered a fantastic performance on Sunday in leading the team to a thrilling, 23-21 victory over Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium.
Foles, a third-round draft pick out of the University of Arizona, was the primary reason the Eagles were able to break their eight-game losing streak. He completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards - an Eagles' record for most passing yards by a rookie - with two touchdown passes and also rushed for a TD.
But most importantly, he displayed the leadership skills required of a quarterback. He showed unbelievable poise under pressure while directing the Eagles' game-winning drive, which he ended with a 1-yard TD pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin with no time remaining.
"You guys are seeing Nick Foles grow into a phenomenal quarterback right in front of your eyes," Maclin said. "Nick has a chance to be special. I think the sky is the limit for him."
Foles has yet to put together a string of great games but has made steady progress since taking over for Michael Vick last month.
He hit a new high against the Buccaneers by guiding the Eagles' downfield during a 64-yard drive with no timeouts.
Foles picked apart the league's worst-ranked pass defense with a number of big plays down the stretch. He completed a 23-yard pass to Maclin on a third-and-14 play from the Eagles' 32-yard line, scrambled for 3 yards on fourth-and-one from the Bucs' 31, then fired a 22-yard strike to wide receiver Jason Avant on fourth-and-five from the 23-yard line that set up his winning toss to Maclin.
"The big thing in those situations is to be smart with the football," Foles said. "You can't take sacks and you have to be aggressive. In the two-minute drill, you have to make sure you play fast.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to the offensive line for doing a great job up front and really giving me time to throw. And our receivers ran great routes. When that happens, it's a lot easier to execute."
Before the final play, Tampa Bay called timeout.
Foles jogged over to the Eagles' sideline and suggested the play that produced the winning points.
"When he came off, he goes, 'Hey, I'm feeling this right here,'" Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "You saw (offensive coordinator) Marty (Mornhinweg) give him a high-five and that's what that was all about. It's a great thing when your quarterback is in tune like that. He did a great job of executing it, so hats off to him."
Foles did a great job of executing throughout the game.
Tampa Bay's defense applied constant pressure. The Buccaneers sacked him six times and delivered at least a half dozen other hits that left Foles on the turf.
"We didn't play well as a line," Eagles guard Jake Scott said. "It was one of those games where our quarterback had to bail us out and he did."
Foles supplied the Eagles' first touchdown in the second quarter with his legs instead of his arm. When the Bucs' secondary smothered the Eagles' receivers in the end zone, Foles lumbered 10 yards for his first career rushing TD. He wound up leading the Eagles in rushing with 27 yards on three carries since the Bucs' top-rated run defense stymied rookie running back Bryce Brown.
Brown, who had rushed for a combined 347 yards in his first two starts in place of injured LeSean McCoy (concussion), managed just 6 yards on 12 carries.
"(The rushing TD) 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."
He will get three more opportunities to make plays this season.
Reid announced last week that Foles will be the starting quarterback the rest of the season, even if Vick is medically cleared to play again after suffering a concussion on Nov. 11.
The Eagles finish the season against Cincinnati on Thursday, followed by games against Washington on Dec. 23 and at the New York Giants on Dec. 30.
Foles will be hard-pressed to top his performance against the Bucs.
"This was a step forward for him," Reid said. "It wasn't a smooth event. We had our ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and he hung with it. It looked like he made people around him better and he got better."