With Carson Wentz out, Eagles use underdog status as fuel

PHILADELPHIA -- It took some time for the shock of the Carson Wentz injury to subside, coach Doug Pederson acknowledged.

One minute the Philadelphia Eagles had a potential MVP who looked invincible as he shook off defenders and muscled through would-be tackles to make the big play. The next he was on a cart, an air cast around his left leg, being driven up the Coliseum driveway and out of sight.

"It does take a little while when you lose your starting quarterback, obviously," Pederson said Thursday.

But it's been a little over a month now, and the Eagles have gotten used to the new normal. Wentz is still a presence in the building. He's there for rehab in the morning, will sit in on the quarterback meetings and occasionally takes in a practice. According to Pederson, Wentz talks with his replacement, Nick Foles, throughout the course of the day. He is also on the sidelines pregame, zipping around on crutches. As a team captain, he still goes to midfield for the coin toss before heading for a team booth to watch the game.

"I still want Carson to be a part of the process," Pederson said. "I mean, he’s a big reason why we’re 13-3 and where we are today. So same way with the rest of the guys that are hurt, I do want them to feel a part of what we’re doing and help their positions where they can."

But there's also a need for Wentz to be at least partly in the background so Foles can command center stage. It has taken some getting used to, but Foles has re-acclimated to being back out in front, per Pederson, and just in time for Saturday's divisional-round playoff matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

"He’s definitely feeling more comfortable in the role of embracing the starting position. When you’ve got a sudden change like that, and how it happened, it can obviously be ... it’s never an easy thing to go through," Pederson said. "But each week that’s gone by, there’s more and more confidence. Just learning his voice inflection in the huddle for guys can be a big difference. And those things have been all sorted out in the last couple weeks that he’s played and been on the field.”

The offensive numbers have dipped rather dramatically under Foles, as shown in the chart at right.

The production has fallen off, as have the expectations for this team externally. They are the first top seed in NFL history to not be favored in their first game of the postseason.

Inside the building, the Eagles remain defiant. They are using the doubt as fuel, and consider the notion they were contenders only because of their quarterback an affront.

They are underdogs despite their 13-3 record and being the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It's all part of their reality post-Wentz, and one that they've chosen to embrace.

"I hate to even say it, but the game keeps going, you know? We still have to go to work the next day," Pederson said. "Nick has to get himself ready to play. I've got to coach the next day. ... Football is not going to stop. Games are not going to stop. We have to get ready for the next week.

"I don’t want to discount the injury or the player or anything like that, but ... we’ve lost a lot of guys, we lost Jason Peters and it was kind of the same mentality. Listen, the train is still kind of moving -- even though we’re sick to our stomachs that these guys aren’t with us out there on the field -- the train’s still moving. And the sooner we get over that, and get onto the next order of business, the better we’re gonna become."