How an Inquirer photographer captured the split second that changed the Eagles season’s end

Every Monday, we present a gallery of recent pictures taken by our staff photojournalists and tell the story behind one of them. This week staff photographer Yong Kim talks about getting the picture on the play that sent Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz into the blue injury tent.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is forced out of his first playoff game with a head injury, courtesy of Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter. Wentz gave way to Josh McCown.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is forced out of his first playoff game with a head injury, courtesy of Seattle’s Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter. Wentz gave way to Josh McCown.

In the playoffs, a split second can change the trajectory of a team’s season. And Seahawks Jadeveon Clowney’s helmet-to-helmet hit of Carson Wentz — not six minutes into the Eagles quarterback’s first playoff game — was one of those moments.

But no one, including Inquirer staff photographer Yong Kim, knew it at the time.

“Nobody knew he was hurt because he came back to play the next possession,” said Kim, who has documented the team’s ups and downs since 1998.

Kim was kneeling along the Eagles’ sideline with his 400mm lens, following through the viewfinder as Wentz scrambled, when he saw the Seahawks defensive end coming up from behind. He captured the sequence as Clowney made contact and then bounced off Wentz’s contorted body.

When any play can make or break a game, Kim knows to rely on his experience and instinct. “You just focus and push down on the shutter,” he said.

But it wasn’t until after Wentz returned to the locker room that he realized the quarterback might have suffered a concussion.

“Even the cheerleaders were starting to say, ‘Where’s Wentz?’” Kim said.

He ran back to the photographers’ work room just off the field and handed his memory card to Danese Kenon, The Inquirer’s director of photography and video. Kenon attends all home games to help transmit images to the newspaper’s website as quickly as possible.

Covering the NFL is always a team effort, but especially so during the postseason. In addition to Kim, staff photographers David Maialetti and Michael Bryant were positioned on the opposite side of the field, Elizabeth Robertson was photographing from the stands, and digital photo editor Rachel Molenda was running memory cards back to the work room.

In the end, the Eagles lost — and their playoff hopes, like Wentz under Clowney, lay crumpled.

>>SEE MORE: Last week’s staff photo gallery and the staff photography page

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