By Dave Spadaro
How far can the Eagles go without quarterback Carson Wentz? The second-year quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win at the Los Angeles Rams, thrusting veteran Nick Foles into the spotlight and in the pilot’s chair down the stretch of what has been a wonderful Philadelphia Eagles season.
Wentz, who had thrown his franchise-record 33rd touchdown pass to give the Eagles a lead in the third quarter on Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum, then walked off the field with a towel draped over his head. He had been hit on the knee on a scramble play three snaps before the touchdown pass, and now he was hurt.
And the Eagles rallied around Foles, who completed 6-of-10 passes in the fourth quarter of the 43–35 victory that raised their record to 11–2.
“The whole season has been about ‘next man up’ for us,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We’re a team. You win as a team.”
But you also need strong play at the quarterback position, which is why the Eagles have been so unexpectedly good this season. Wentz has 33 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. He’s been incredible. But so has the entire Eagles offense, and the rest of the cast of characters is going to have to pick up the slack in a big way down the stretch and in the postseason.
So what if the Eagles change the offensive approach to lead with the running game down the stretch? Is that such a bad thing? The Eagles have a powerful ground game, with a strong offensive line and a three-man-approach in the backfield. They can grind out wins if they have to, right?
Or maybe the Eagles go with matchups and say to defenses, “Cover us if you can” with a varied tight end group, a deep cast at wide receiver and some running backs who are suddenly making the screen game go.
They also will need to ride the defense, regardless. The Eagles gave up too many big plays in the passing game against Los Angeles, mostly due to some missed tackles and some shoddy down-the-field coverage. The Eagles need to be better on defense, but there isn’t another offense in the NFC playoff landscape as good as Los Angeles, and if the Rams have to come through Philadelphia in the postseason, well, it’s fair to like the Eagles’ chances.
Seeing Wentz walk off the field and then to digest the severity of the injury was hard to take. Sickening. It’s been so set up perfectly for the Eagles with 11 wins in 13 games. This is a complete football team that has overcome the loss of so many key players already.
Well, moving forward, the Eagles are going to have to win as a team. They’re going to have to win at X’s and O’s. They’re going to have to win with the defense and special teams. And the offense, no matter how it is designed, has to find a way to score points. There are plenty of playmakers here to do the job.
But that kinda, sorta sick feeling you’ve had since Sunday? It’s understandable. The Eagles have a huge hurdle to get over here, with high expectations that remain, and the biggest piece of the puzzle is missing.