LANDOVER, Md. -- As Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith lay on the ground Sunday, his teammates knew one thing: His season was over. They saw his ankle bent at an awkward angle. They witnessed the pain on his face.
So they took a knee and prayed. They waited for him to be loaded onto a cart and then walked over -- every one of them -- to wish him well. Even most of the Houston Texans' bench walked over to the cart.
Smith, 34, broke both the fibula and tibia in his right leg on a third-quarter sack and underwent surgery at a nearby hospital. Colt McCoy replaced Smith and nearly led the Redskins to a comeback win, but a 63-yard field goal in the final seconds fell 10 yards short as Houston beat Washington 23-21.
But now the Redskins confront life without Smith. McCoy will replace him as the starter, and the Redskins will bring in several quarterbacks, including EJ Manuel, T.J. Yates, Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens and Josh Johnson, for a tryout, sources told ESPN.
Smith was injured when Houston's J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson sacked him with 7 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter. As Smith left the field on the cart, he waved to the crowd and put his hands together as if in a prayer.
The injury occurred 33 years to the day that former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann suffered a career-ending injury when he broke the same two bones in his right leg against the New York Giants. Theismann, who was in attendance at Sunday's game, said he texted his support to Smith.
"It was just an eerie moment," Theismann said. "It was surreal. You see him go down in a pile and then there's a shot that showed his leg bent and I turned away right after that. I feel so bad for him."
Theismann said he's always aware of what this date means for him. He was 35 at the time of his injury and said seeing Smith hurt brought back a rush of memories. Theismann said he needed to leave his seat and walk around for a minute in his suite.
Alex's leg is exactly like mine 33 yrs ago— Joe Theismann (@Theismann7) November 18, 2018
In Theismann's injury, he said the bone poked through the skin so the concern of an infection made any sort of comeback more difficult.
"The memory is vivid," Theismann said by phone. "It's like all of the senses, all of the people, all of the memories, everything that happened in that instance all comes back to me. ... If there is a positive aspect, it's that so much of medicine has changed."
It's uncertain how long Smith's recovery will take -- or how it will impact his game at age 34. He has used his legs often, whether to run or just to extend plays.
"I knew immediately his season was over," Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said. "Your heart drops when something like that happens. He's such a great person.
"It's devastating. After seeing the pain in his eyes, I teared up, and it hurts me."
The Redskins traded a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith in January. They signed him to a four-year extension worth up to $94 million with $71 million guaranteed.
Prayers for my guy man! You will bounce back!— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes5) November 18, 2018
Smith's numbers weren't great this season, as the Redskins' passing game has sputtered. He finished with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while throwing for 2,180 yards.
On Sunday, Smith and tight end Jordan Reed misread a play that resulted in a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown by safety Justin Reid that left the Redskins trailing 17-7. After Smith's injury, Washington eventually took a 21-20 lead after getting a touchdown pass by McCoy and a second Peterson touchdown run.
But while there is confidence in McCoy -- he's been in the system for five years -- there's also sadness for Smith.
"It's hard to watch someone like that [get hurt]," Reed said. "He's such a good person, and he's a great competitor. We all love him."
Tight end Vernon Davis was on the sideline when the injury happened.
"I was watching the entire play," he said. "I saw him go down, and the way he went down I balled my fists up because it looked brutal. Then when he took his helmet off it was, 'Aaaahhh.' One of those plays. Have to keep pushing -- keep him in our prayers and take him with us out there on the field."
The Redskins have a one-game lead in the NFC East heading into Thursday's game at Dallas. They don't have time to mourn Smith's absence. But they are thinking of him.
"When you have an injury like that, it's more heartbreaking than it is physical," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Just breaks your heart because this is what he loves to do. He loves to lead this team, he loves to be with his guys and now the season is over, and he has a long way back."