He played hard. He played smart; well, smart-er, anyway. He got a little lucky, too.
And so, when it was over, Carson Wentz, the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, had played well enough to keep his job. At least, he played well enough so that second-round rookie Jalen Hurts won’t be taking his job any time soon.
A report Monday said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had directed coach Doug Pederson to pull Wentz if Wentz struggled.
Another report said Hurts took more practice snaps with the first team than usual. Pederson denied that Saturday. Still another report last week claimed that Hurts would be used more than usual Monday night; Hurts got three plays, which is typical.
The Eagles lost, 23-17, and fell to 3-7-1, but it wasn’t all on Wentz. Not this Monday night.
He ran five times for 42 tough yards. He went 25-for-45, collected 215 excruciating passing yards, with two touchdowns and a blameless interception. The second touchdown was a failed Hail Mary that Travis Fulgham tipped to Richard Rodgers, but so what? Wentz had earned a little luck.
He took six sacks, but none of them was his fault for a change. He misfired plenty, but he was victimized by a handful of drops, too. He certainly was good enough to keep around another week. Properly, like a proficient doctor, he did no harm.
That has been the problem. Wentz has done so much harm.
The issue with Wentz has not been as much his inaccuracy, nor his poor mechanics, nor his indecision. The issue has been his carelessness.
Wentz entered Monday night’s game leading the NFL with 14 interceptions and 18 total turnovers. That total increased by one Monday night, but it wasn’t Wentz’s fault; tight end Dallas Goedert broke the wrong way and Wentz fired a red-zone pick into the end zone.
“I should’ve been where he threw the ball. That’s on me,” Geodert said. “I tried to do too much.”
Goedert also caught Wentz’s TD pass, and finished with seven catches for 75 yards. It’s 2020. You take the good with the bad.
Wentz’s sloppy turnovers -- his un-pressured, inexcusable giveaways -- had been the single greatest factor in the Eagles’ 3-6-1 start.
More than offensive line instability. More than specious play-calling from head coach Doug Pederson. More than Jim Schwartz’s Jekyll-and-Hyde defense. Even more than the raft of injuries that, at different times, cost Wentz his top six weapons -- tight ends Goedert and Zach Ertz, receivers Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor, and running back Miles Sanders.
This might be sad, but this is progress.
Wentz’s uncharacteristically responsible play did what it was supposed to do: It kept the Eagles in the game. It made the defense matter. That defense stoned the Seahawks on fourth down on each of their first two possessions. It bottled up Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks in rushing for the season. He finished with 12 yards on the ground.
It didn’t hurt Wentz’s case that Hurts’ first play of the season with Wentz off the field -- Wentz had always lined up as a receiver -- resulted in two blockers false-starting. Two. It was Hurts’ fault. So, yeah, Hurts probably isn’t getting the keys to the kingdom. Not on a short week, heading to Green Bay, the best team in the NFC.
In most of the Eagles’ games, Wentz made so many mistakes that the poor play surrounding him was irrelevant. For a change, Wentz should be graded on a curve of the inefficacy that surrounded him Monday night.
The Seahawks gifted the Eagles a first-and-5. Pederson coaches the worst quarterback in the NFL. Pederson started his 10th offensive line in 11 games. Pederson’s best offensive player is Sanders, and that’s not a close race. So what did Pederson do?
Pederson called three straight passes. To put it another way, Pederson called zero runs.
Wentz threw late, wide, wide. Punt.
Later, Jason Kelce fired off another bad shotgun snap. He played with 1 1/2 arms, but he was misfiring even before he hurt his left (non-snapping) elbow last week. Wentz recovered the snap and tried to throw the ball away -- it was incorrectly ruled an incomplete pass but should have been intentional grounding -- but Wentz tried to do the smart thing.
Of course, when that drive ended in a touchdown, Jake Elliott missed a point-after attempt.
In the third quarter, at the Seahawks’ 17, running back Boston Scott ran the wrong play on third down deep in Seahawks territory -- doubly wrong, as it turned out. Not only did he not run into the left flat to receive a screen pass, he vacated the left side for the right as Jamal Adams blitzed where Scott had been -- the perfect call against the blitz if the back knows the play. It could have been a touchdown. Instead, Adams sacked Wentz, and the Eagles kicked a field goal.
When the Eagles got back down to the 15, on fourth-and-4, Pederson went for it. He gave Wentz the chance to score. And he might have.
But Goedert, inexplicably, ran up the right seam and broke both into the defender and the help. Had Geodert broken away from the defense, as Wentz anticipated, he would have been open. He might have even scored. But there would have been no interception.
Pederson will consider that as he prepares for a trip to Wisconsin, with Carson Wentz as his starting quarterback.