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The Philadelphia Eagles desperately need a win against the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday, and will have to do it without quarterback Carson Wentz.
Wentz was diagnosed with a fractured verterbrae in his back Thursday and will be a spectator as backupNick Foles leads the Eagles (6-7) in Sunday's matchup against the NFC West champion Rams.
According to multiple media reports, Wentz will not need surgery but could miss the remainder of the season. He was downgraded to doubtful on Friday and officially ruled out Saturday.
Head coach Doug Pederson described Wentz's status on Wednesday as day-to-day, but an MRI exam on Thursday revealed the severity of the injury.
Although Wentz was listed on the injury report with back soreness during Weeks 7 and 8, Pederson on Wednesday said the 25-year-old did not add to the issue during Sunday's 29-23 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Foles, who started the first two games this year while Wentz was recovering from knee surgery, led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory last season. His chief target figures to be tight end Zach Ertz, who is third in the NFL with 98 receptions.
The Eagles have virtually no room for error as they try to win their final three games to give themselves a shot at a playoff berth.
"We're going to keep this thing together and try to do something special," said Eagles rookie running back Josh Adams.
Adams will be a key figure for the Eagles, who are 6-0 when they run the ball at least 27 times in a game and 0-7 when they don't.
Philadelphia ran the ball just 14 times in the 29-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, and Adams, with 36 rushing yards, was the only Philadelphia ball-carrier with more than 3 yards.
The ground game will be particularly important against a Rams' defense that has been susceptible to the run.
They surrender 124.2 rushing yards per game, which is 10th most in the NFL.
"Obviously studying them it was surprising to find that out given who they have up front," said Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh. "We have to put a good plan together and we have to give the backs creases to run in; we have to cover these guys up; we have to sustain our blocks; do a great job blocking on the perimeter when we call the runs. We have to stick with them."
The Chicago Bears rushed for 194 yards in the 15-6 win over the Rams on Sunday, but a bigger concern for Los Angeles was its offense.
The six points the Rams scored against Chicago was the first time this season they scored fewer than 23 points.
Rams running back Todd Gurley II came into the game as the league's leading rusher, but he had a season-low 28 yards on 11 carries against the Bears.
Quarterback Jared Goff had his worst game of the season, completing just 20 of 44 passes for 180 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. In the previous week's win over the Detroit Lions, Goff barely completed over half his passes (17 of 33) for just 207 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
The Rams (11-2) have already clinched the NFC West title, but they don't want to go into an offensive tailspin at this point.
"Yeah, there's a lot of things to work on," said Goff. "That's pretty much weekly. Win, lose or anything that would've happened on Sunday, we would've looked at it the same way and learn from it and get better and find ways to improve and look at things that we did well and build on those. That's no different with this game. But yeah, we feel good. Had a good day today and are ready to get after the (Philadelphia) Eagles.
"Looking forward to getting into a rhythm these last three weeks heading into the playoffs."
Rams head coach Sean McVay included himself as someone who needs to be better.
"Yeah, I mean I look at it as it's up to me to have a better feel for the flow of the game and not put us in positions where some of those things can occur," McVay said. "And then (Goff) has got a level of responsibility as our leader of our offense and doing some different things."
Despite their struggles against the run, the Rams' defense has stars scattered throughout the lineup.
The biggest star is defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who leads the league with 16.5 sacks, but did not have any against Chicago.
Since McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips joined the Rams in 2017, Los Angeles is 16-0 when Donald records a sack.
"It's unique to see speed and power," said Eagles center Jason Kelce. "Very rarely do you see the combination of gifts Aaron Donald possesses, so the fact that he has both of those, you can't cheat. You can't play high and get ready to work an arm over move otherwise he's going to run through you. You can't hunker down and lean on the bull rush otherwise he'll come around you. You have to maintain discipline, you have to maintain balance, and you can't cheat on a guy like that."
Updated December 15, 2018
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Published: 2015-05-28 13:51:00
Updated: 2016-07-13 10:41:59
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