Westlake High School in Austin, Texas boasts a student population of 2,600 and its high school football program is ranked among the country’s best. Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks also played there: New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and Philadlephia Eagles’ Nick Foles. Last night was the second time that two quarterbacks who graduated from the same high school opposed each other in an NFL playoff game (Terry Bradshaw and Joe Ferguson from Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, Louisiana faced off in a 1974 NFL playoff game). Clearly, last night’s meeting of Brees and Foles was an extremely rare occurrence.
At Westlake, Brees set most of the school’s passing records and is celebrated for averaging 465 passing yards per game, while leading the Roadrunners to a 16-0 record and a state championship.
Nick Foles matriculated 10 years later and moved out of Brees’ long shadow by shattering all of his passing records. Even with awe-inspiring high school passing numbers, he could not truly match Brees’ accomplishments, because he failed to bring a coveted state championship trophy to Westlake. Though his records were broken, the always-classy Brees commented that he has enjoyed following Foles’ career.
Though Saturday’s wild card playoff game was a meeting of two friendly alumni, not begrudged competitors from opposite sides of the tracks, it was dubbed the “Battle of Westlake.” In the game, Nick Foles completed 23-of-33 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 105 passer rating. He played efficiently, but the Eagles lost to the Saints 26-24. Despite losing the game, Nick Foles continued to build upon his magical breakout season.
He looked composed all night and offered further proof that he is the all-weather quarterback that the Eagles need in the playoffs. Furthermore, when the stakes were highest, Foles delivered by leading the Eagles on a 77-yard drive culminating in a touchdown strike to tight end Zach Ertz, which gave the Eagles a 24-23 lead with 4:54 left in the fourth quarter.
While 24-year-old Nick Foles demonstrated rare calmness and confidence even in the waning moments of a close game, 34-year-old, big game veteran Drew Brees often looked confused and frustrated.
Brees completed 20 of his 30 passes for 250 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 75.7 passer rating. For an NFL MVP in the prime of his career, it was one of the worst games of Brees’ career. His poor performance also furthered the narrative that he is not nearly as effective outside the antiseptic conditions of the New Orleans Superdome, as he only looked comfortable for a couple of stretches. His touchdown came on a perfectly thrown 24-yard pass to Lance Moore on the heels of hitting Robert Meachem on a deep 40-yard corner-post pattern.
Overall, Brees was outplayed by Foles. He was unable to get the ball to his best playmaker, Jimmy Graham, even though the Eagles had been exposed by high-caliber tight ends in 2013. His two interceptions equaled the most that he had thrown in a postseason game, and both were uncharacteristically ill-advised throws resulting from bad reads. His 250 passing yards were also his third-lowest total of the year.
This is how Nick Foles won the “Battle of Westlake” but lost the game.