Suddenly, winning or losing in Los Angeles became irrelevant.
The Eagles were marching down the field as they looked to come back in a shoot out with five lead changes, but no one was focused on the game.
Carson Wentz, the leading candidate for NFL MVP exited Sunday’s 43-35 win with a knee injury and did not return. But somehow the defense tightened up and Nick Foles led the offense just enough to prevail Sunday and win the NFC East.
Here are three things we saw in what may have been the game of the year in the NFL:
The big picture
First thing first — the Eagles could be in big trouble if Wentz has to miss any significant time. Their next three games, against the Giants Raiders and Cowboys, are relevant in the team’s trek toward earning a first round bye and home field advantage. Wins in the three games are imperative toward setting the Eagles up for a road to the Super Bowl.
The Birds also, even if they can win with Nick Foles in the coming weeks, can’t win a Super Bowl without their elite passer — who was 23-for-41 for 291 yards and four touchdowns before he was knocked out of the game. The news wasn’t promising after the game.
Eagles are concerned QB Carson Wentz tore his left ACL, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 11, 2017
After two remarkably quick Rams touchdowns to start the second half Sunday the Eagles first drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and found themselves in a fourth and goal inside the three yard line. With time, Wentz set a franchise record with his 33rd touchdown pass of the season, finding Alshon Jeffery in the end zone to go ahead 31-28. And then Wentz jogged into the locker room. Todd Gurley scored his second touchdown of the game as the Rams went ahead yet again, 35-31. Minutes later news broke of Wentz’ knee injury, his day would be done after three quarters. Foles led the Eagles on a drive to add a field goal, trailing by just one with just under 10 minutes to go.
Chris Long had a huge strip sack on the Rams’ ensuing drive, recovered by McLeod eventually led to an Elliot field goal and 37-35 Eagles advantage. The defense got the ball back and a clutch throw and pass on third down to Jeffery clinched the win.
Nelson Agholor’s dreadful 2016 self reared its ugly head on the third play of the game, as a bobbled pass over the middle led to a Kavyon Webster interception to set up the Rams in Eagles territory. A 30-yard Gurley scamper and goalline touchdown dive gave L.A. an early 7-0 lead.
Wentz also, while sturdy in the pocket as always, continued to miss wide open bombs down the field, twice misthrowing balls late in the first quarter. Mack Hollins also dropped a sure touchdown on the same drive but Wentz shaked it off, throwing a bullet to Trey Burton to put Philly ahead 14-7.
Three horribly missed tackles on a 64-yard pass to Cooper Kupp put the Rams back on the doorstep of points. After a near interception by Nigel Bradham, Jared Godd found paydirt with a short pass to Kupp again chipping into Philly’s advantage.
The Rams came out of the locker room ferocious and scored a touchdown, thanks to more fierce Gurley running Goff found Watkins to cut the lead to three points. A few plays later with lightning-speed, the Rams special teams unit stifled Donnie Jones, blocking his punt and prancing into the end zone to take the lead 28-24.
No Ertz, no problem
Zach Ertz’ absense, due to concussion symptons, was on paper a big hole for the Eagles. But Wentz found his “back up” tight ends three times, making it clear that the ‘next man up’ mentality is strong with these Eagles.
Running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement looked spry for the Eagles on their second possession, as a 28-yard screen pass to Clement and some tough running from Ajayi helped Wentz march the Birds to the goalline. A six-yard toss to Brent Celek equaled things in the first. His second touchdown pass came in the same quarter, a strike to Burton over the middle.
Later in the second quarter the Eagles moved to a perfect 12-for-12 on fourth and one, as Wentz hit Agholor for a 18-yard catch and run that led to Burton’s second touchdown catch and a 21-7 lead for Philly.
A 46-yard pass to Torrey Smith on third down and 11, inside two minutes deep into Los Angeles’ territory helped spark yet another important first half scoring drive, this one a Jake Elliott chip shot to preserve a 24-14 lead at the break.
Just to add to the Eagles’ confidence, Brandon Graham added a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a failed final lateral play.