There is no rational reason to blame Doug Pederson for Carson Wentz's torn left ACL. That was not a designed quarterback run, the fateful play that ended with a negated Wentz touchdown, with three minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter of Sunday's 43-35 victory over the host Los Angeles Rams.
As Joe Buck and Troy Aikman pointed out on the broadcast, Wentz was trying to throw to Nelson Agholor on the left side, but Agholor wasn't open. Wentz pulled the ball down and headed to the end zone, as just about any QB would do in that situation.
Maybe you'd like to insist that Wentz would never tear an ACL if he just handed off to a running back every play near the goal line, or in retrospect, on any play that happened to end with him taking a big hit. Sure, if that makes you feel better.
Turn the game tape into the Zapruder film if you'd like. Break it down frame-by-frame: Hey! If Corey Clement had just come down off the grassy knoll and blocked Mark Barron as Wentz was about to lunge …
Yes, there have been times when Wentz has exposed himself to injury a tad recklessly. This was not one of those times. The play breaks down, the end zone is 3 yards away, you run. You run if you're Russell Wilson. You run if you're Tom Brady. The end zone was right there, no Rams in front of Wentz as he rambled to his right.
And Pederson said Monday that Wentz actually might have suffered the injury as he took that last stride before trying to dive for the touchdown – it might not have happened when Wentz was sandwiched between Barron and Morgan Fox.
"It appears watching the film again today that it was actually before the contact. So it could be a non-contact deal," Pederson said. "But that's just what it appears like on tape."
Sometimes stuff just happens. In the NFL these days, it happens an awful lot to the best, most exciting players, which is something Eagles fans tended to note in passing and nod sagely about, when the quarterback being sidelined was Aaron Rodgers or DeShaun Watson. Now the MRI is on the other foot. Or knee.
This season seemed too good to be true, and it was.
Now, the abyss yawns.
Pederson was confident and positive Monday at NovaCare, striking the right tone as a leader. He'd seemed a lonely figure Sunday night, holding forth in a little white tent the Rams pitched for him outside the inadequate, outdated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum visiting locker room.
People wanted answers after the game and Pederson wasn't giving any. The extent of Wentz's injury wasn't yet official, but Pederson's refusal to deal with the subject at hand went beyond that.
Sunday evening, Pederson wanted desperately to turn the topic to what a gutsy job Nick Foles did in relief, and what an accomplishment it was to beat the Rams and clinch a division title, and nobody was really into that.
Of course, Pederson wanted to shift the focus, because Pederson and his staff, not to mention the 52 guys who aren't Wentz, have given everything they have to get this team to 11-2, to put themselves in position for one of those rare shots teams sometimes get — a shot at winning a title. But all that work was done in support of Wentz. Without Wentz, the Eagles are an expertly prepared beef stew that lacks beef.
Now, with Wentz definitely gone, Pederson will get his wish, in terms of the focus of questioning – it will have to turn more to life with Foles. There is no point in dwelling on what might have been.
"You don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat. You just put your head down and you just go to work. You get everybody ready to play," Pederson said Monday. "It was evident [Sunday] when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory … So that right there is a great step in the right direction."
Pederson and everyone else involved will do everything they can. This still can be a stirring, courageous effort. Don't fool yourself that it's likely to end with a Super Bowl parade, though.
*If one of the other NFC contenders wins the Super Bowl now, Eagles fans will self-immolate. With Wentz, this was the best NFC team in 2017. Period.
*The next Eagles draft needs to really hit on a couple of o-linemen.
*I've never been as big a Trey Burton fan as some folks, figuring he's at his best in smaller doses. But those were two tough, big-time touchdown catches Sunday.
*There was so much going on Sunday, I didn't realize until much later that the Ram who scooped up the blocked Donnie Jones punt and ran it in for a touchdown was Blake Countess, 2016 Eagles sixth-round pick.
*The run-pass option without Wentz is not going to be nearly as effective; Frank Reich and Pederson have some late nights ahead of them, retooling to Foles' strengths. Though when asked about this Monday, Pederson seemed to say that Wentz almost never opts to run on an RPO, anyway. (Of course, the threat that he might run was what made them effective. But Pederson knows that.)
*I'm sure Brent Celek was flattered, at this point in his career, that Alec Ogletree felt he had to hold Celek on that seam route, setting up the Eagles' first touchdown.
*Forgot until I rewatched that Carson Wentz ran twice for touchdowns that were negated by Lane Johnson penalties.
*Remember when the Eagles being forced out of their normal routine last week was a big concern? Good times.
*Don't know if I'd ever seen a Mack Hollins drop, before that play on which the Rams' Kayvon Webster tore his Achilles.
That the Rams' suffering at the hands of Nick Foles hadn't ended with his release after the 2015 season?
Brandon Graham hadn't scored an NFL touchdown before he danced in with that intended lateral on the final play of Sunday's game. Graham's most recent previous TD was in 2009, playing for Michigan, when he blocked a Delaware State punt, picked it up, and scored.
Understandably, fans are focused now on how the Eagles are going to get through the rest of the 2017 season without Carson Wentz, whether they can be any kind of threat in the playoffs.
This isn't like a suspension, though. The Eagles don't get Wentz back at the end of the playoffs.
Much has been made of the offseason work Wentz did last winter and spring, fine-tuning his mechanics, laying the groundwork for the huge leap Wentz took between his first and second NFL seasons. Well, nothing like that is happening in 2018.
Wentz's offseason will be focused on rehabbing his left ACL. There was no further damage to the joint, a source close to the situation said Monday, but the projected time just for an ACL recovery is nine to 12 months. This being December and not September, that raises concerns about 2018, even if projected recovery times are like sticker prices on cars, everybody expects the real figure to be at least a little less.
Given Wentz's age and the fact that the front office intends for him to be the face of the franchise for the next decade or so, you can be pretty sure the team will rush nothing and will take no chances. If it ends up taking nine months, maybe Wentz is ready for the 2018 opener – but that likely would be off virtually no contact work in camp or in the preseason. And it's entirely possible he isn't ready in September.
Malcolm Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl in his rookie season with the Saints, noted a few weeks back that chances like the one the Eagles were looking at are rare. There are reasons why that is the case. It's a long, long way back to 11-2.