By Jason Keidel
There were ample plots and subplots to the Rams-Eagles game yesterday, and yet they were all buried by the end of a fantastic contest, one that lived up to the billing, the teams, and their resumes.
At the end of the game the expected narratives seemed to be flipped on their heads. Though the Eagles won, they seemed to have lost their leader, best player, and likely NFL MVP, QB Carson Wentz. (That impression has since been confirmed.) Not only did Wentz toss one TD pass after another, he kept slinging even after he dove into the end zone, took a limb-crunching shot, and shredded his left ACL. Limping and wincing throughout, Wentz kept playing until he couldn’t, and was forced under that makeshift blue medical tent, where his day — and his season — seemed to end.
So a win felt like a loss for Philly. And perhaps the Rams felt a bit like they won. Though the scoreboard said one thing, the Rams now find a gentler playoff path that won’t include Carson Wentz. And with the Vikings losing to the Panthers yesterday, the Rams still have an outside shot to host some playoff games.
At the end, the wildly entertaining, high-scoring, pyrotechnic 43-35 score in favor of Philadelphia left us with endless scripts, twisting paths to the playoffs and, possibly, the Super Bowl.
Not that the Eagles are tossing in any towels. Nick Foles finished what Wentz started. And Philadelphians will recall that Foles once started a season for the Eagles, and finished it quite well. It was a season that ended with a playoff birth, with Foles posting PlayStation numbers. Indeed, the year was 2013, and Foles threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 10 games, stats that would even make Aaron Rodgers blush. The Eagles went 8-2 in the games Foles started, and he led the NFL in yards per attempt, yards per completion, and passer rating (119.2).
With Wentz finished — the somber word just came down from head coach Doug Pederson — Foles is, at least, the best backup in the NFL. Or at least the most accomplished, with a career record of 20-16. And Foles is familiar with the turbulent, predatory fan base of Philadelphia, perhaps the most ornery in America. If Foles fails, it will be based on his merit, not his makeup.
For the Rams, they at least walk, not limp, away with their QB Jared Goff in good health. Though they lost the game, they still posted 35 points against a top-three defense. Todd Gurley gained 136 total yards and scored two touchdowns. Goff completed 62 percent of his passes, for two touchdowns (0 INT) and a robust 110.9 passer rating.
The Rams (9-4) are two games behind the Eagles (11-2) with three games to play, so the No. 1 seed is likely doomed. The Vikings (10-3) are one game up on the Rams, and beat Los Angeles a few weeks ago. But with some luck and a winning streak, the Rams will at least win the NFC West, and perhaps bag the second or third seed in the NFC, which will get them a playoff game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. If a second-year QB can win Comeback Player of the Year, it would be Goff. And if a rookie coach could win Coach of the Year, then strong consideration should go to Rams head man Sean McVay.
Perhaps the only better candidate is the man McVay failed to beat yesterday — Mr Pederson — who is leading the Eagles to their best season since their Super Bowl run in 2005, if not their only other Super Bowl club, in 1980.
So Philadelphia has a gold-plated path to the top spot in the NFC and a frigid, Philly advantage in the playoffs. The question they didn’t want to answer but must, is can they reach the Super Bowl through their home-field edge in Pennsylvania, without the Governor of Wentzylvania under center?
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.