The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback left their 17-9 wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter with a head injury. After initially considering Wentz questionable to return, Philadelphia ruled the QB out for the remainder of the game to start the second half.
Josh McCown filled in at QB for Philly. The 40-year-old signal-caller was also making his playoff debut and kept Philadelphia in the game.
Wentz suffered the injury on the first play of Philly's second drive. While falling to the ground for a one-yard sack, Wentz was hit by Seahawks edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and knocked into the Lincoln Financial Field turf. The QB was soon taken to the locker room and did not return to the sideline.
Though Clowney's late hit on Wentz drew the ire of Eagles fans, no penalty was called on the play and game referee Shawn Smith explained why in a pool report following the game.
"He was a runner and he did not give himself up," Smith said. "We saw incidental helmet contact, and in our judgement, we didn't rule that to be a foul."
Philly's franchise signal-caller left the game 1-of-4 for three passing yards and a 39.6 passer rating.
"I feel bad for him," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Wentz after the loss. "Obviously, I'll let him speak for it. I'm disappointed for him. I wanted this for him obviously. I think a lot of his teammates did too and the team, the organization did, too."
In the middle of an MVP-level 2017 season, Wentz tore ligaments in his knee, ending his season right before backup QB Nick Foles led Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl title. The next year, Wentz was sidelined by a back injury, again ceding the offense to Foles who rallied the Eagles into the postseason and a Divisional Round appearance.
This year, Foles was in Jacksonville, and McCown, a member of the 2002 draft class, was called upon to step up in Wentz's place when the franchise QB went down yet again.
"It's tough. Carson Wentz has put a ton into this season and to get to this moment and especially with the things that he's gone through, it's tough," McCown said. "It's a tough call. He's sitting there, not feeling right. He knew he needed to get checked. ... You go through that, you turn the page and as bummed as I am for him, you've got to go do your job and go try to move the team."
Pederson said Philly eliminated most of the motion plays and "got back to the core plays" with McCown under center. The journeyman led seven Eagles drives, three of which ended in field goals, and finished 18-of-24 for 174 passing yards. McCown, gutsy but often immobile, was sacked six times by Seattle's front seven, including twice on the Eagles' final drive, when, down eight points, Philly was set up with a first-and-10 from Seattle's 13-yard line but couldn't reach pay dirt.
Gone were DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks and Jordan Howard, all sidelined by injuries incurred during the NFC East chase. They were replaced by the likes of Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor and Boston Scott, who filled in dutifully for the fallen starters. Ertz and starting back Miles Sanders each dealt with their own ailments as well heading into Sunday and battled through them to reach the finish line.
"These guys, I mean, they're tough guys," Pederson said of his roster. "They do everything they can to get themselves back on the football field. They want to play. They want to help their teammates win, and it just shows the character of each individual, the type of people, the type of men that we have in that locker room and on this team."
McCown added, "There's a lot that goes into this. Everybody that sets foot in that building over there ... puts a lot into getting this thing done. When you come into that game and you put everything you can into trying to win the game and it doesn't get done, it's just painful. It hurts. It just sucks.
"From my standpoint, it feels like, as a quarterback, you want to do more and you feel like you can do more and you start replaying these plays in your mind of where you maybe could've been better. I always have that perspective of 'I could've been better' and you feel like you let that group down, you let those people down that come in that building. That's a sick feeling. That's a hurt feeling, and you don't want to have that. It's just a reflection of that."
Those feelings and that reflection will persist throughout the offseason, as the Eagles literally limp into winter and the Seahawks continue their march toward the Super Bowl in Green Bay next weekend.
On the back and arm of Wentz, Philadelphia won four straight games to reach the postseason, losing bodies all the way. On Sunday afternoon, the Eagles lost one player too many and finally, at long last, relented. Postseason glory for Wentz and company will have to wait.