The Philadelphia Eagles were dealt a hard blow when starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The Eagles were riding an 10-2 record, a potential Super Bowl contender with Wentz playing at an MVP level he was injured diving for a touchdown.
By any measure, it has to be a crushing blow to team morale, even if they went on to win the game with backup Nick Foles.
How could a team with Super Bowl aspirations possibly withstand losing its franchise quarterback? Not even Bill Belichick was able to pull that off when Tom Brady was lost in 2008 — granted that had more to do with the Miami Dolphins taking the league by surprise with the Wildcat offense.
Well, if the Eagles are looking for inspiration, they don’t have far to look. They’re playing a team this weekend that survived the loss of their franchise QB and went on to win the Super Bowl.
That is, of course, the New York Giants and Jeff Hostetler in 1990.
Coming off a playoff appearance in 1989, the Giants were expected to be Super Bowl contenders, and got off on a tear, going 11-2 by the time they faced the Buffalo Bills in that fateful game. The offense played well, averaging 24.5 points in their wins, and their ravenous defense only once giving up more than 20 points — and allowing a touchdown or less in six games, including a shutout.
But in Week 15, against their eventual Super Bowl foes, the Giants lost quarterback Phil Simms for the remainder of the season (and playoffs) with a broken foot. Though the Giants lost the Super Bowl winning franchise quarterback, was reason for hope when Hostetler came into the game. Earlier that year he had to come in for Simms, and lead the team to a 20-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
He wasn’t able to produce the same results against the Bills, but the following weeks, Hostetler and the Giants’ running game did enough to allow their defense (led, of course by Lawrence Taylor), to close out games.
It was a formula that worked throughout the playoffs, with Hostetler completing just 57 percent of his passes for a total of 288 yards against the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers.
He raised the Super Bowl rematch against the Bills, completing 62 percent of his passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, doing enough — along with a 39-carry, 172-yard rushing attack — to dominate the time of possession, while an innovative defense concocted by Belichick frustrated the Jim Kelly and the K-Gun offense.
The moral of all this? Even if the Giants were healthy and playing up to expectations, they can not take the Wentz-less Eagles for granted this Sunday. They still have a good team with good pieces around Foles, and that can be enough. All they have to do is look to their own history books to see an example of the backup getting it done.