In the NFL, one play can define a season.
The Philadelphia Eagles were offered a brutal reminder of that reality last Sunday as quarterback Carson Wentz, the primary architect of their stunning 11-2 season, suffered a season-ending knee injury in their 43-35 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
That victory clinched the NFC East for Philadelphia, however, it was perhaps the most the pyrrhic triumph of recent memory, with the Eagles' prospects for the postseason looking bleak after it was confirmed on Monday that Wentz had torn his ACL.
Selected second in the 2016 draft after the Eagles traded away a plethora of draft picks to move up and get him, Wentz came into the NFL with plenty of questions surrounding his ability to adapt to the pros after a productive career at North Dakota State, a powerhouse in college football's second tier, the FCS.
Those questions were largely unanswered in a rookie year where he threw just 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions as an Eagles team low of weapons on offense limped to a 7-9 record.
But this season the Eagles have surrounded him with talent, adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to the receiving core while also signing running back LeGarrette Blount and pulling off a mid-season trade with the Miami Dolphins to bring Jay Ajayi into the backfield.
The results have been spectacular, with the Eagles' offense ranked third in the league in yards per game and Wentz flourishing with 33 passing touchdowns despite injuries to the offensive line, showing an extremely impressive ability to consistently shake off hits from defenders and make accurate throws off-balance and on the run.
33 - Prior to his injury, Carson Wentz set the Eagles franchise record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 33. Pyrrhic? pic.twitter.com/vX6xVP29Zs— OptaJerry (@OptaJerry) December 11, 2017
Wentz's excellent season has been brilliantly complemented by an outstanding defense that boasts superb depth on the front seven and stepped up to secure victory against the surprise package Rams after his injury, Chris Long's sack of Jared Goff forcing a fumble that proved the key play in an absorbing encounter.
Yet Wentz's style of play and tendency for taking hits always had a chance of leading to a season-changing injury and, with him on the shelf, it is the defense and the talent-laden backfield that will have to carry the load if the Eagles are to have a shot in the playoffs.
Nick Foles comes in as Wentz's replacement and the expectations will be low. Foles was once seen as the future in Philadelphia after a 2013 season in which he led the NFL in touchdown percentage, but his struggles in the subsequent campaign and in his stint with the then St. Louis Rams led to him returning the Eagles from the Kansas City Chiefs as a backup.
There has been nothing outside of his 2013 performance to suggest Foles can succeed on a regular basis, and his inability to make plays outside of the pocket as Wentz does means he is quite a significant downgrade.
Solace for the Eagles comes in the fact that they are at least assured of postseason play and have a decent route to potential home-field advantage with a road game against the 2-11 New York Giants and home contests with the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys to come.
To seal home field throughout the playoffs and have a chance at a Super Bowl berth, the Eagles will need to replicate the formula of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are on the brink of the postseason with a below-average quarterback in Blake Bortles, who has been supported by a proficient running game helmed by rookie Leonard Fournette and a defense leading the league in turnovers with 30.
That combination has taken the pressure off Bortles, as Fournette and the defense have won games for the Jaguars on numerous occasions.
Philadelphia's secondary is not of the same calibre as Jacksonville's but they still have 24 turnovers on the season and, as was proven in Los Angeles, the Eagles' defense can be deciding factor in games.
For the Wentz-less Eagles to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the defense may require more game-winning performances, while Ajayi, Blount and backfield mates Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner will need to become the focal point in what should now be a ball control attack with Foles asked to do as little as possible.
And at their raucous Lincoln Financial Field home in January, it is formula that can be successful.
Not since 1996-99 - when they went to two AFC Championship games in four successive years - has taking inspiration from the Jaguars been considered a good idea. But in a season considered one of the strangest in modern NFL history, it is fitting that the Eagles may have to do so to not have their campaign defined by one hit.
|Kristaps Porzingis takes subtle jab at fans, media for All-Star starter snub|
|Tom Brady addresses media, reveals no details of hand injury|
|Celtics lose without Irving as Cavaliers end skid|
|Now an All-Star, Joel Embiid ´might have to pass´ on Rihanna|
|LeBron, Curry named captains for NBA All-Star game|
|Magic´s Afflalo handed two-game ban for fighting|
|Celtics guard Irving misses 76ers game with shoulder injury|
|LeBron James determined to work through ´very challenging´ Cavaliers season|
|Texans DE J.J. Watt showing positive signs with rehab|
|CC Sabathia likes the Yankees being a ´hated team´ again|
|Harden to return for the Rockets against the Timberwolves|
|Wizards get in scuffle in blowout loss to Hornets|
|Rockets´ Ariza, Green suspended|
|Brady limited in practice due to hand injury|
|Banvit beat Bayreuth to stay top as Gaziantep end losing streak|
|Kawhi Leonard´s rehab shut down as quad problem lingers|
|Steelers will not retain offensive coordinator Todd Haley|
|Brady named writers´ NFL MVP|
|IOC to consider joint Korean ice hockey team|
|Five fun facts as LeBron James chases 30K career points|
|Thomas turns down Celtics´ video tribute|
|Celtics great White dead at 71|
|Trust the Process – 76ers only behind Warriors and Cavs in merchandise sales|
|Monaco stay perfect, Murcia overcome Oldenburg|
|Jags RB Leonard Fournette uninjured in three-car accident|
|Durant continues dominance over Cavs as Warriors win|
|Westbrook ejected against Kings after arguing call|
|Pirates send McCutchen to Giants|
|Saints, Steelers coaching staffs to lead Pro Bowl teams|
|LeBron says we cannot let racism ´conquer us as people´|
|Super Bowl hopeful Belichick cautiously preparing for Jaguars|
|Cardinals veteran Yadier Molina: Three more years before retirement|
|The best finishes in NFL playoff history - Where does Keenum & Diggs´ Minneapolis miracle rank?|
|Titans part ways with Mularkey|
|Davis leads Pelicans past Knicks with 48 points|
|Lakers rookie Ball´s MRI clean, questionable for Monday|
|Vikings react to ´unbelievable´ win over Saints|
|Steelers QB Roethlisberger plans to return next season|
|WATCH: Diggs´ walk-off TD sends Vikings through to NFC championship|
|Vikings edge Saints in stunning fashion|
|Titans OT Conklin tears ACL during loss to Patriots|
|Vikings safety Sendejo concussed after blind-side hit|
|Jaguars upset Steelers in NFL playoffs|
|Mariota ´embarrassed´ by Titans loss to Patriots|
|Mask-wearing Eagles revel in underdog status|
|Warriors top Raptors despite blowing 27-point lead|
|Patriots reach seventh successive AFC championship game|
|Eagles stifle Falcons to reach NFC championship game|
|MLB champions Astros land Cole in trade with Pirates|
|Patriots RBs Burkhead, Gillislee out against Titans|
|Vikings activate Sam Bradford off injured reserve|
|Warriors welcome back Curry ahead of Raptors clash|
|Horford: Young Celtics must keep building|
|Patriots again aim to thrive amid familiar talk of demise|
|Cavaliers blow 22-point lead in third straight loss|
|Raptors president Ujiri proud of his ´s***hole´ country|
|Blue Jays, Donaldson avoid arbitration|
|Red Sox avoid arbitration with Bogaerts, eight others|
|Steelers expect Brown to play against Jaguars despite illness|
|Warriors again without Curry versus Bucks|
|2018 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Three things to watch in Jaguars-Steelers|
|NFL Divisional Playoffs: Picks & predictions|
|2018 NFC Divisional Playoffs: Three things to watch in Saints-Vikings|
|Julio´s historic average & New Orleans´ road woes - NFL Divisional Playoffs in Opta facts|
|NFL Playoffs Power Rankings: Top seeds get their first tests|
|Unified Korean ice hockey team proposed for Winter Olympics|
|Brady legacy secure without sixth Super Bowl - Umenyiora|
|LeBron James rips own team as Raptors thrash Cavs|
|Lightning All-Star Hedman suffers lower-body injury|
|Hornets boss Clifford cleared to resume coaching|