Bad sacks. Bad throws. Another red-zone interception.
Carson Wentz’s play assured that the Eagles were winless in their first three games. Carson Wentz’s play continues to be the Eagles' greatest area of concern.
The Eagles beat the abysmal Giants on Thursday night, 22-21; an empty-calorie win. A better team, which means just about every other team, would have rolled the Eagles, thanks to Wentz. Sure, the Eagles were undermanned. That’s why they needed a good performance from the highest-paid player in team history. Not great. Just good.
Carson Wentz was neither. Again.
He drilled an 18-yard dime to Boston Scott to win the game with 40 seconds to play. It was, by far, his finest moment. His inaccuracy, his poor decisions, and his end-zone interception in the second quarter kept the Giants close enough to win.
“There’s some throws and there’s some decisions he’d like to have back,” said coach Doug Pederson, typically candid and visibly relieved.
“I can be better .... We know we left a lot of plays out there,” admitted Wentz, who understands that coming back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter isn’t necessary if he makes the proper plays in the first three quarters. " Ideally, we don’t put ourselves in those situations."
It wasn’t all Wentz’s fault that the one-win Giants made it a one-point game. But enough of it was. Again. The Eagles are 2-4-1, and they are, technically, in first place in the NFC East, but they should be 4-3 at worst. They are not, largely because of their franchise quarterback.
Until Wentz realizes he isn’t Superman, he will always be the Eagles' greatest concern. Until he understands that he plays on a team with other competent players, he cannot be the best player he can be.
The defense isn’t great. The special teams aren’t special. Injuries have destroyed the offensive line and receiving corps.
All of that only amplifies the need for the quarterback to play tidily. Intelligently. To throw the ball away, to abort the play, to minimize damage to field position and to Wentz’s battered body. Wentz does not do this often enough. He can get away with it against the Giants, but this cannot be the norm. Not this season. Not any. Not now.
The Eagles traded their future to draft him No. 2 overall in 2016. They signed him to a 5-year, $128 contract extension in June of 2019, which kicked in this season. Howie Roseman, who drafted him, and Pederson, who coaches him, are yoked to Carson Wentz. If he doesn’t start playing like a five-year veteran instead of a five-game rookie, he’s going to get them both fired.
The Eagles cannot consistently win with Wentz acting Jekyll-and-Hyde. He’s not flipping polarity from one game to the next, or even from one series to the next; he’s flipping polarity from one snap to the next. You expect this from a player in his third NFL game. Not his 63rd.
Wentz was the only reason the Giants had a chance to win in the second half. Horrible passes, worse decisions, inexplicable plays: All of the progress Wentz had made in the last 13 quarters evaporated in 30 minutes of harried, frenetic, amateurish execution.
Yes, Jake Elliott missed a last-minute field goal in the first half, but that kick wouldn’t have happened if Wentz had been able to engineer a touchdown in three chances from the Giants' 11.
There is no question: Wentz, even after back and knee injuries, remains a tantalizing talent. Tough. Competitive. Big and mobile, and he runs hard and he’s got a strong arm; he found receivers for 40-yard and 59-yard bombs. As long as he’s rolling right and throwing to Greg Ward, he’s unstoppable; that’s the play that gave them their second touchdown Thursday night.
All of this gives Wentz a chance at proficiency, which gives the Eagles a chance to win. After four full seasons, and for $128 million, he needs to be much more proficient.
He needs to be smart. He needs to trust his coach to call the next play. He needs to trust his teammates to make the next play.
He needs to accept that it can’t be all about Carson James Wentz.
Often, when he’s not trying to do too much, he’s failing to make basic plays.
Late in the first quarter, deep in his own territory, Wentz, unmolested, missed Travis Fulgham on a 30-yard bomb. He then took an inexcusable, dangerous, selfish, 8-yard sack at the Eagles' 4; two plays later -- a bad punt and a 39-yard pass to former Eagles receiver Golden Tate -- and the Giants tied it at 7.
He took an intentional grounding penalty near the end of the first quarter, but that drive eventually ended in a field goal, largely thanks to Wentz.
Sometimes he’s Jekyll.
Too often, he’s Hyde.
Wentz nearly threw an interception to start the next series. Such an elementary error with potentially catastrophic results -- Fulgham was triple-covered, and an interception would almost certainly have been returned for a touchdown -- prompted Hall of Fame quarterback and Fox analyst Troy Aikman to warn young quarterbacks: “Don’t do this. You will not finish the game as the quarterback.”
They would if they were earning $128 million.
Terry Bradshaw echoed Aikman during the Fox halftime show: “For God’s sake, please, do not throw 30 yards across the field!”
That’s seven Super Bowl rings and two gold jackets, and they’re preaching truth. The Army of One should listen.
Wentz eventually willed the Eagles to the Giants' 15, where he promptly took a 5-yard sack, on which he tried a juvenile shovel pass, to a receiver who was 2 yards away and wasn’t looking. Then, he threw the end-zone interception, which turned a likely field goal into his ninth pick of the year.
At the end of the first half, with two timeouts and the ball at the Eagles' 9, Pederson didn’t trust Wentz deep in his own territory. Instead, Pederson called a running play ... then let the clock run down to 1:16. The Birds punted two plays later.
They got the ball back two plays later via fumble, at the Giants' 42, at which point Pederson gave Wentz the reins again. He hit a couple of throws but then missed Fulgham twice in the end zone. Wentz also missed the Giants, so that was progress. Hooray.
Consistency evades him.
Wentz missed Ward on a basic sideline throw, which ended the Eagles' second possession of the second half. He hit Fulgham with a 40-yard pass near the end of the third quarter, but he underthrew Fulgham by 5 yards. If that sounds like nitpicking, realize that a proper throw makes that a 49-yard touchdown pass.
Because, a few minutes later, Wentz underthrew Hakeem Butler in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. Butler might have been interfered with, but the pass was supposed to be a jump ball to a taller receiver. It came in at the hip. It wasn’t good enough.
Carson Wentz was good enough to beat one of the worst teams in the NFL.