They’ll take the field without their dynamic All-Pro wideout for the first time this season when they host the St. Louis Rams, who are desperate for a win in their pursuit of an NFC playoff spot.
Owens was acquired this past offseason to help the Eagles get over the hump after three straight losses in the NFC title game, including crushing home defeats in each of the last two seasons. He more than lived up to his end of the bargain through 15 weeks, accumulating teams bests of 77 catches, 1,200 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
But Owens’ season, and the Eagles hopes of an elusive Super Bowl title hit a snag in the road last Sunday against Dallas. Owens had two ankle ligaments torn, including one damaged all the way up to a fracture a few inches below his knee, after being taken down by Dallas safety Roy Williams during Philadelphia’s 12-7 win over the Cowboys.
Owens had surgery to insert two screws in the ankle Wednesday, and has not ruled out a return to the field in six weeks, which would coincide with the Super Bowl in Jacksonville.
“While it is not unreasonable to hope that he returns to play in six weeks, it is not something we would expect,” Dr. Mark Myerson said.
Owens, who was named to his fifth Pro Bowl this week, will be missed by an Eagles’ offense that lacks starpower beyond that of veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb. But Philadelphia insists that the loss of its top weapon won’t stop it from pursuing its ultimate goal.
“Yes, it’s tough losing a guy like T.O., but the season’s not over,” said McNabb, who was also named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday.
Philadelphia has already wrapped up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and is just looking to remain healthy and stay sharp for a long postseason run.
The Eagles do have a healthy Brian Westbrook, who missed last year’s postseason with an injury and has emerged as one of the more dangerous running backs in the league. Tight ends L.J. Smith and Chad Lewis are also reliable options.
“We have the full confidence in the rest of the guys stepping up and making the big plays when we need it,” McNabb said.
The sputtering Rams have lost four of their last five, but are just one game behind Seattle for first place in the mediocre NFC West and locked in a four-way tie for the final wild-card berth in the conference.
The Rams had a chance to take control of the division race Sunday, but suffered an embarrassing 31-7 loss in Arizona.
“We didn’t see this coming,” Rams wide receiver Torry Holt admitted. “If there was any game on the schedule that we felt confident about coming in and winning, it would be Arizona.”
With starting quarterback Marc Bulger out with a shoulder injury, 39-year-old Chris Chandler lasted just one quarter for the Rams before he was replaced by Jamie Martin, who saw his first regular-season action in two years.
Martin was signed by the Rams earlier this month when Bulger was injured. St. Louis coach Mike Martz put much of the blame on Chandler, saying the veteran quarterback threw the ball on a run play on the first series and made other elementary mistakes.
“It’s tragic for this football team, for that position to hold this whole football team hostage,” Martz said, “but that’s where we are.”
Martin completed 16 of 31 passes for 188 yards without an interception after Chandler went 1-for-6 with one pick.
Bulger, who is out with a bone bruise in his throwing shoulder, insists he will return to the field Monday night to help the Rams restart their playoff charge. He was upgraded to probable on Wednesday.
“I’m 100 percent,” Bulger said somewhat unconvincingly Thursday. “It doesn’t matter. If I play bad it doesn’t matter, and if I play good it doesn’t matter.”