Ontario fans applaud as ex-Duck QB leads Eagles past Seattle
SEATTLE Ñ Ontario High's boosters had an uncomfortable Saturday in Portland, watching the Tigers lose to Scappoose for the Class 3A state football championship.
The scene was happier Sunday at Seahawks Stadium, where favorite son A.J. Feeley quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles past Seattle 27-20. Feeley's 10 game tickets went to immediate family, but his cheering section was much larger than that.
'I didn't talk to a lot of people this week Ñ I was kind of in my own little bubble, getting ready for the game Ñ but there were a lot of people from Ontario here,' said Feeley, an Ontario native who went on to play at the University of Oregon.
'It was really special. Regardless if we were to win or lose, it was going to be good for them to watch me play. It makes it extra sweet for them that we won.'
Feeley is one of the big stories in one of America's big sports cities this fall. With injuries to starter Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer, Feeley was pressed into action and has led the Eagles (10-3) to victories over St. Louis and Seattle.
'I feel good about A.J.,' Philadelphia running back Duce Staley said. 'He stepped right in, and now he's rolling.'
Feeley, 25, is a second-year man who played only one game last season Ñ the regular-season finale Ñ after the Eagles had clinched a playoff berth. That's only part of the story, though.
Feeley has been a starter only one season since his high school days. That was as a junior at Oregon, when he started eight games before an elbow injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. As a senior, he served as caddy for an emerging quarterback Joey Harrington and appeared in only two games.
But Feeley, a fifth-round draft pick, made the Eagles last year. And he has come through when they needed him this season. He completed 14 of 30 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in a 10-3 win over St. Louis, then was 21 of 35 for 190 yards and two TDs against Seattle.
With the inexperienced Feeley at the helm, Philadelphia coaches trimmed the playbook and kept it simple.
'They are being smart in what they are asking him to do,' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. 'The types of throws they were using Ñ mostly three-step drops and quick things Ñ minimized the opportunity for mistakes. It's hard to blitz that because most of the time you aren't going to get to the quarterback, and you're vulnerable on the edges.
'A.J. seemed pretty poised out there. And as a young quarterback coming into the league, it's nice to have that defense on your side.'
Though a third-string QB has almost no practice role during the regular season, Feeley did what he could to be prepared in case an opportunity arose.
'When Donovan was taking snaps in practice, I was going through mental reps and watching everything,' Feeley said. 'Plus, our coaches do a good job of preparing all of us every week, getting us involved.'
Feeley has been the guy the last two weeks, 'and it's nice when you get a lot of reps in practice,' he said. 'It seems to make everything open up. You see things a lot better.'
There was only one bad moment Sunday Ñwhen Feeley threw into double coverage just before halftime, and the throw was intercepted. Everything else was fine. He stayed within himself and allowed his teammates to show their talents.
'That's what we are, a team,' Feeley said. 'People have to step up to the plate because of injuries. It goes to show this is not a one-man team. A lot of credit to everybody.'
Feeley hit James Thrash for Philadelphia's first score, a six-yard TD pass in which the receiver beat pressing safety Marcus Robertson after a Feeley pump fake.
'We had called a run, but we have a read where if the safety is in the box, we can throw something,' Feeley said. 'I should have gotten the ball up quicker (to Thrash), but I held onto it. He gave a little nod, the safety bit on it, and I just stuck it out there.'
Feeley's second TD pass was a nicely laid-in 20-yard strike to Todd Pinkston on a fade route.
'Todd broke it inside, and I was a little leery of the safety,' Feeley said. 'I worked him a little bit with my eyes so he wasn't going to be a factor. Then I threw it up and let Todd make a play.'
McNabb has a broken ankle and probably won't return until the final regular-season game. He might sit out until the playoffs. Detmer has a dislocated elbow and is 50-50 for Sunday's game against Washington. If Detmer is back, there's no controversy about who starts, Feeley said.
'I know my role,' he said. 'I am the third-team quarterback. If Koy can come back and play, I'm all for him. It just so happens I am playing now, and we are winning games.'