PHILADELPHIA — Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will be trying to earn his 51st career NFL victory at the same stadium he got his first one.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson announced Wednesday that Foles will be the starter Sunday against Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium. The iconic arena, which features a giant pirate ship in one end zone, was the site of Foles’ first win, a thrilling, 23-21 victory on Dec. 9, 2012.
“I remember us celebrating like we had just won the Super Bowl,” said Foles, who was a rookie that season. “It was a special moment.”
It was a big win for the Eagles, who snapped an eight-game losing streak during what turned out to be coach Andy Reid’s last season with the team.
Foles, a third-round draft pick from the Univesity of Arizona in 2012, spent most of the season as a backup to Michael Vick. He had lost his first four starts when the Eagles took on the Buccaneers.
He snapped the losing streak in dramatic fashion, throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was sliding in the end zone on his knees, with no time remaining. Foles completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards — a rookie franchise record — and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.
“I was sitting at my locker after the game and thinking, ‘Dang, it’s really hard to get a win in the NFL,’” Foles said. “That was a big catch by Maclin.”
Foles is getting another opportunity to beat the Bucs while Wentz continues rehabbing his left knee. He has not played in a regular-season, playoff or preseason game since tearing the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his knee at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against the Rams on Dec. 10, 2017.
Pederson agreed with an ESPN report from last Sunday that suggested Wentz’s GPS test results were showing improvement. He has been participating in 11-on-11 drills during practices.
“Have you heard Carson’s been cleared yet?” Pederson asked Wednesday. “No? There you go. His lower body and upper-body strength has been trending in the right direction. That’s something we’ve been seen since he started with 11 on 11’s.”
Foles had an inconsistent performance in the Eagles’ 18-12 victory over Atlanta last Thursday. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 117 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also had a 15-yard reception as part of trick play called “Philly-Philly.”
“I thought Nick had a good week of practice (last week), but you’ve have to give Atlanta credit,” Pederson said. “That’s a very good defense.”
Foles’ troubles could partially be attributed to troubles with his supporting cast. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder surgery) did not play against the Falcons and will likely also miss the Buccaneers. Tight end Zach Ertz had five catches for 48 yards and dropped several passes. Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert has one reception for 4 yards and had a pass bounce off his hands that resulted in an interception.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace was shut out. None of the other wide receivers had a reception for longer than 10 yards.
The Eagles added some depth at that position Wednesday by re-signing Kamar Aiken and releasing Markus Wheaton.
“Nick gets better each week,” Pederson said. “I do feel like he gets a little more comfortable with the offense and the guys he’s working with.”
Besides earning his first win at Tampa, Foles has an interesting connection with that team.
When he was released by the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 2017 season, there were two teams interested in signing him: the Buccaneers and the Eagles.
He seriously considered the Bucs before signing with the Eagles and leading them to a 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII.
When the team celebrated as if they had won the Super Bowl that time, it was because they did.
“I was close to signing with Tampa,” Foles said. “I had committed to Arizona State my junior year of high school, so I have a lot of respect for (former ASU coach and current Bucs coach) Dirk Koetter.
“My wife (Tori) was pregnant at the time. We talked it over and thought Philadelphia would be the best place to bring our daughter (Lily) into the world. I’d say I made the right choice.”