LOS ANGELES -- The importance of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams, and the duel with quarterback Jared Goff, faded late in the third quarter for the Philadelphia Eagles when Carson Wentz left the blue medical tent and slowly walked to the locker room.
Wentz injured his knee and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Eagles are concerned it's an ACL tear. If those fears prove warranted, this season’s outlook, and this franchise’s immediate future, has taken a sudden, drastic turn for the worse. All this despite the Eagles beating the Rams, 43-35, and clinching the NFC East title.
“Everyone’s excited about what we were able to earn as a team, but definitely, you’re concerned because of him as an individual,” receiver Torrey Smith said. “It’s not necessarily about, man, we lost our guy, arguably the MVP of the league. It’s like, man, you hope he’s OK, and we’ll deal with everything else afterwards.”
Late in the third quarter, Wentz went charging into traffic in an effort to score a go-ahead touchdown. Linebacker Mark Barron hit him low, in the knee area, and defensive end Morgan Fox rolled over the top of him while he was on the ground. The play, a 2-yard touchdown run, was negated by a hold on right tackle Lane Johnson.
“He did get up a little hobbly," coach Doug Pederson said. "I knew something was up, but didn’t know the extent of it, obviously.”
Wentz got up limping but stayed in, and delivered a fourth-down touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery to put the Eagles back on top. Wentz was not himself, though, and went right for the trainers table following the play. A few beats later, he started the long walk to the locker room as backup Nick Foles took practice snaps from center Jason Kelce on the sideline.
Foles is a capable backup. He has started in this town before; he even threw 27 touchdowns to two interceptions in Chip Kelly’s first year as coach to lead the Eagles to an NFC East title in 2013. But he’s no Carson Wentz.
Wentz was in the midst of one of his best games as a pro when the injury occurred. He already had thrown four touchdown passes and was getting the better of Goff, his training partner leading up to the 2016 NFL draft, where they went No. 1 and No. 2 overall. With that last toss to Jeffery, Wentz passed Sonny Jurgensen for most passing touchdowns by an Eagles quarterback in a season, toppling a record that had stood since 1961.
Foles performed pretty well, and a Chris Long strip sack of Goff led to Jake Elliott’s go-ahead field goal with a touch under four minutes remaining. That proved enough for the Eagles to improve to an NFC-best 11-2. According to ESPN FPI, they have a 97 percent chance of securing a first-round bye. They finish the regular season with a game at the New York Giants next Sunday before returning home for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.
And who knows, with home-field advantage and a little luck, this talented roster might be able to make some noise with Wentz out of the lineup. In order to have a chance of making a Super Bowl run, though, the Eagles need Wentz at the controls.
His health is the key, and will be for as long as he’s in an Eagles uniform. Sunday might prove to be a big blow to what he and the Eagles have been building.
“I don’t know what to tell a man in that situation; I just told him I loved him as a teammate, loved him as a friend, obviously everyone is feeling for him,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “But I’ve got a feeling, if I know Carson, he’ll find a way -- and I’m not sure about his injury, either -- but if it is something that takes him off the team or out of the games, he’ll find a way to have an impact on this team in a positive way. That’s just his personality.”