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Carson Wentz and four other reasons the Eagles beat the Redskins | Paul Domowitch

The Eagles drafted running back Miles Sanders because of his run-and-catch versatility. On Sunday, he excelled in both areas and was one of the reasons the Eagles still can make the playoffs.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a pass against the Washington Redskins.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a pass against the Washington Redskins.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Carson Wentz authored just four fourth-quarter comebacks in his first 52 starts. Now he’s got two in back-to-back games. His impressive play down the stretch Sunday was one of the top five reasons that the Eagles managed to beat the Redskins.

A rundown of all five:

Clutch quarterback play

Carson Wentz had an up-and-down first half Sunday, completing just 12 of 22 passes for 125 yards and no touchdowns.

Midway through the third quarter, with his team trailing by four, Wentz had Zach Ertz open ever so slightly on a deep route against Redskins safety Landon Collins and overthrew him. It’s a memorable moment in the game because it ended up being the last pass of the day that the Eagles quarterback failed to complete.

He was a perfect 14-for-14 (another completion was negated by penalty) after that, including 8-for-8 on the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown drive, which ended with Wentz hitting wide receiver Greg Ward in the end zone for a 4-yard TD and a stay of execution for another week.

Wentz threw three touchdown passes in the Eagles’ final four drives, including one that ranks with the best throws of his career: 15-yard touchdown laser to Miles Sanders in the same drive that he overthrew Ertz.

The throw was a little shades of Montana-to-Clark. Flushed from the pocket, Wentz ran to his right and threw a strike past Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson and cornerback Fabian Moreau to Sanders in the back corner of the end zone.

Wentz completed 6 of 8 passes in the red zone, including all three of his TD tosses.

The rookie steps up

Miles Sanders had his best game as a pro Sunday, and the Eagles needed it. He had 172 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, one on the ground and another through the air. He notched his first 100-yard rushing performance, picking up 122 yards on 19 carries.

Of those 122 yards, 56 came on one run — a momentum-shifting, third-and-10 play early in the fourth quarter during the first of two fourth-quarter touchdown drives by the Eagles.

The Eagles were trailing by four at the time. Washington had just driven 75 yards on 10 plays to take the lead. Giving the Redskins the ball back at that point without countering and forcing the Eagles’ weary defense back on the field would’ve been potentially disastrous.

On the Eagles’ previous possession, Sanders caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Wentz in the back corner of the end zone on a scramble-drill play that gave the Eagles a temporary 17-14 lead. He got behind linebacker Ryan Anderson, and Wentz threw an on-the-run strike to him. He did an impressive job of not only catching the pass, but staying inbounds. And to think some NFL scouts had some questions about Sanders’ ability to catch the ball at this level.

Sanders scored the Eagles’ first touchdown early in the second quarter on a 1-yard run off a quick snap. Earlier in that drive, he picked up 18 yards on a screen pass and also had 8- and 7-yard runs in the 10-play, 75-yard drive.

From practice-squad purgatory to hero

Greg Ward’s game-winning touchdown catch from Wentz with 26 seconds left was the cherry on top of the sundae for the former practice-squad player.

He had seven catches — five for first downs — against Washington. He caught a 6-yard pass from Wentz on a third-and-3 on the Eagles’ second possession that kept alive the drive that resulted in Sanders’ 1-yard touchdown run.

In the Eagles’ game-winning drive, he had four catches. He caught a 13-yard pass early in the drive on third-and-5. A few plays later, after a screen to Sanders lost 3 yards and put the Eagles in a second-and-13 bind, he had another 13-yard reception. He found a hole in the Redskins’ zone coverage, caught the ball, quickly pivoted and picked up 7 yards after the catch to get the first down.

He also had a 10-yard reception on a second-and-9 play, again picking up more than half of it after the catch, and fighting for the final 2 yards and the first down.

On Ward’s touchdown catch, Zach Ertz was the first progression for Wentz, but he was covered. Ward cut across the field and got a step on cornerback Josh Norman, and Wentz lofted a perfect pass to him.

Tight ends to the rescue

Ward was the only Eagles wide receiver who caught a pass against the Redskins. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was targeted twice, but didn’t have a catch. The only other wideout who was even active Sunday, Rob Davis, was signed from the practice squad two days earlier and played just 16 snaps. He wasn’t targeted.

Except for Ward, Wentz relied on his tight ends and running backs. Sanders and Boston Scott had 13 catches for 89 yards, and Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert combined for 10 catches for 116 yards.

Ertz had five catches for 61 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown catch with 10 minutes left in the game that gave the Eagles a 24-21 lead at the time. Four of his five catches resulted in first downs, including three on third down.

Goedert had five catches for 55 yards, including a huge, one-handed diving grab for a 20-yard gain on the Eagles’ game-winning scoring drive.

Goedert continued to be effective on screens. He had an 17-yard gain on a screen on the Eagles’ first touchdown drive. Two other receptions of his also were screens.

Late defensive stops

This was not the Eagles defense’s finest hour. It got worked over by a rookie quarterback who had come into the game with a 61.2 passer rating and a 55.0% completion rate. It made 34-year-old running back Adrian Peterson look eight years younger.

It failed to register a sack for just the second time this season, failed to register an interception for the fifth time in the last seven games, and gave up 125-plus receiving yards to Redskins rookie Terry McLaurin for the second time this season.

But late in the game, when Jim Schwartz’s unit needed to keep Washington out of the end zone, somehow, some way, it did. It held the Redskins to two Dustin Hopkins field goals on their last three possessions, including one after a Wentz fumble gave Washington the ball at the Philadelphia 34-yard line.

Cornerback Avonte Maddox, who gave up two touchdowns in the first half and was a prime candidate to be the game’s goat, made some big plays down the stretch, being enough of a nuisance on a deep ball to Steven Sims to prevent a long completion, and then making a nice tackle on Sims on a third-and-9 pass that prevented him from picking up a first down.

Maddox also forced a Haskins fumble on a blitz on what was going to be a Hail Mary throw into the end zone on the Redskins’ final play of the game.