LOS ANGELES — Carson Wentz left the LA Coliseum riding a golf cart, wearing a black brace on his left knee and his NFC East Champions hat.
Winning the division was the first of many goals for the Eagles this season. But on the same night Philadelphia checked that goal off their list, with a 43–35 win against the Rams, their MVP-caliber quarterback suffered a serious knee injury that casts doubt on the rest of those team goals.
Head coach Doug Pederson did not confirm a diagnosis for Wentz after the game, but ESPN first reported that Wentz is feared to have torn the ACL in his left knee. An MRI usually confirms an ACL diagnosis, but in most cases the injury can be initially diagnosed right away at the stadium through a simple physical exam, which involves an orthopedist pulling on the leg to check the stability of the knee.
Wentz left the game late in the third quarter, right after throwing an unbelievable two-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, Wentz’s 33rd passing touchdown of the season which broke the Eagles’ franchise record set by Sonny Jurgensen. That feat was made even more amazing by the fact that, if Wentz indeed is confirmed to have a torn ACL, he almost certainly threw the record-breaking score with a serious knee injury.
The Philadelphia QB was most likely injured on his touchdown run that nullified by a holding penalty on right tackle Lane Johnson, four plays before the pass to Jeffery. On that play, his knees appeared to be sandwiched between two Rams defenders—safety Mark Barron and defensive end Morgan Fox—as he crossed the goal line.
Wentz was hobbling after that play. After a failed third-down play, he appeared to be limping toward the sideline and then back onto the field when the Eagles decided to go for it on fourth down, which resulted in the Jeffery score. On the pass to Jeffery, Wentz seemed to stand still in one place as he scanned the field, rather than moving around in the pocket as he is known to do. When the offense came off the field after the score, he was taken into the sideline pop-up medical tent, and a few minutes later walked to the locker room with the team medical staff, wearing a towel partially over his head. Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Nick Foles began warming up on the sideline.
“When he didn’t go back in the game, it was definitely alarming,” said receiver Torrey Smith. “We knew he wasn’t coming back when he walked to the tunnel. When a guy like that goes in, you know how tough he is, he’d fight through anything.”
Players said the post-game locker room was celebratory, but also bittersweet as the reality of what had happened also set in. Out on the field, many players didn’t know for sure that Wentz wasn’t coming back, and they were riding the adrenaline of competition to win a game with major implications for playoff seeding. The 11–2 Eagles sit alone atop the NFC with the win, ahead of the 10–3 Vikings and the 9–4 Panthers, Saints and Rams, and in excellent position for home-field advantage. But the prospect of going into the playoffs without their best player is daunting.
There may not have been a big conversation where players talked about winning this game for Wentz, but that is what they did. Safety Rodney McLeod, who recovered the forced fumble by defensive lineman Chris Long that turned the game in the Eagles’ favor and set up their game-winning score, said he told Wentz in the locker room, “We did that for you, man.” McLeod said Wentz responded with a smile and said, “Good job.”
“That’s the leader and general of our team,” McLeod said, “so when he goes down like that, we’ve gotta step up to the plate and find a way to win.”
If Wentz’s ACL diagnosis is confirmed, the Eagles will have to find other ways to win for the rest of the season, without a quarterback that is not just their MVP but a candidate for the league MVP as well. At the top of the ramp of the Coliseum, Wentz was helped off the golf cart and slowly walked to the team buses. He boarded Bus 1, with the coaches and other players, and waited to head to the airport for the long cross-country flight home.