LANDOVER, Md. — As much as the NFL would rather if everyone discussed all of the yards and TDs produced in game after game, and for whatever advancements have been made in player safety over time, pro football is, at its core, a brutal sport — and what happened to Alex Smith's right leg is not very different from what happened to Joe Theismann's right leg, exactly 33 years apart.
Theismann knew it right away.
The former Washington Redskins QB — whose career ended after he was hurt on a sack by Lawrence Taylor on Nov. 18, 1985 — was at FedEx Field on Sunday and turned away so he wouldn't have to see the unnatural way in which current Redskins QB Smith's tibia and fibula twisted as they were fractured under the weight of Texans defenders J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson.
"It was horrible," Theismann said in a telephone interview. "My heart went out to him. I feel so bad for him."
Washington center Chase Rouiller had an even more up-close-and-personal view when Smith was sacked and offered a little insight into what life as an NFL player is like.
They all know, naturally, that at any moment, it could be them down on the turf, covering their face with their hands before being driven away on a cart.
"You say your prayers while it's happening," Rouiller said, "and you've got to get ready for the next play."
Said Redskins coach Jay Gruden: "These things happen in pro football, unfortunately. Just hate to see them happen with a guy like Alex."
Smith was not, of course, the only player hurt in this game, which ended with AFC South-leading Houston holding on for a 23-21 victory, their seventh win in a row after an 0-3 start.
Nor, unsurprisingly, was he the only starting quarterback hurt during a sack on this day: Marcus Mariota left the Tennessee Titans' 38-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts with an injured right elbow.
The league likes to tout all of the offensive records broken in this offense-rules age. The broken bones? Less so.
"We know we play a violent sport," said Colt McCoy, who replaced Smith and will make his first start since 2014 when Washington plays at the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. "You just never want to see that happen."
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FLOP EAGLES FLOP
Carson Wentz threw three picks and zero TDs as the Philadelphia Eagles' offense struggled yet again. The injuries kept mounting as their defense did nothing to slow Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. If Philadelphia's 48-7 loss at New Orleans didn't mark the end of the meaningful portion of the Eagles' season, it sure looked like it did. It was the most lopsided defeat ever for a reigning Super Bowl champion. The Eagles are 4-6, the Saints are 9-1, and the proceedings felt as if they were a passing of the torch in the NFC. "Definitely a frustrating one," Wentz said. "We just didn't show up, really."
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson took one last snap, kneeled to run out the clock on Baltimore's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in his first professional start, then casually flipped the football to the referee. Jackson started heading to the locker room, pumped his fist — and then realized he wanted that ball to commemorate the day, so sprinted to run down the official and grabbed his memento. Jackson ran everywhere he wanted to on this afternoon, gaining 117 yards on 27 carries.
AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT
For so long, either a leaky offensive line or some sort of injury that might be traced to that o-line limited the effectiveness of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Well, just look at the guy — and the guys who are paid to protect him — now. Luck has not been sacked even once in the Colts' past five games, four of them wins, including Sunday against the Titans. Suddenly, the Colts are 5-5 and a contender for an AFC wild-card berth. Probably not a coincidence: Indy has been using high draft picks on linemen lately, including taking guard Quenton Nelson with the No. 6 overall selection this year.