For the second straight week, Carson Wentz came up small.
For the second straight week, his coach suggested that he may be putting too much pressure on himself, and for the second straight week, Wentz insisted that wasn’t the case.
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“I have to be better,’’ the struggling Eagles quarterback said after turning the ball over four times in a 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“I have to lead this team better. I have to protect the football better. We can’t put it on the ground the way we did today, and that starts with me. I have to be better and we will be.’’
This isn’t an offense that is operating on all cylinders at the moment. It was missing both its starting right tackle (Lane Johnson, concussion) and right guard (Brandon Brooks, undisclosed illness). It also didn’t have the services of its top two wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, who sat out the game with injuries.
But there’s a reason the Eagles are paying Wentz the big bucks, and it’s not to play the way he did in last week’s 17-10 loss to the Patriots, when he completed just 20 of 40 passes and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt.
And it’s not to play the way he did Sunday, when he missed open receivers and turned the ball over and managed to throw for just 100 yards in the first three quarters.
“Our issues on offense today were not about Carson Wentz,’’ head coach Doug Pederson said. “Obviously, he’s a part of it. But this is an offensive issue, so it starts with me. I’ve got to look at it. I’ve got to make my own assessment of my performance, and then we’ll coach the players this week and we’ll get better.’’
He’s right. It does start with him. And he certainly deserves a significant chunk of the blame for the offensive struggles. As his former mentor, Andy Reid, used to always say, he needs to put the players in better position to make plays, whether he’s missing two Pro Bowl offensive linemen or not.
But Wentz needs to play better. He needs to lead better. He needs to pick his struggling unit up, not drag it down with costly giveaways and inaccurate passes like he did Sunday.
You kind of had a feeling it was going to be another one of those days for Wentz when he threw behind tight end Zach Ertz on a crossing route on a third-and-7 on the Eagles’ first possession, and badly overthrew running back Miles Sanders on a simple pass in the flat on a third-and-9 on the Eagles’ second possession.
On their next possession, they had the ball at midfield when Seahawks defensive end Rasheem Green stripped the ball out of Wentz’s hands.
The possession after that, Wentz and the Eagles drove from their own 1-yard line down to the Seattle 33 only to have a pass for tight end Dallas Goedert intercepted by Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald. He would have another pass to a covered Jordan Matthews picked off in the fourth quarter.
In the third quarter, the Eagles put together another decent drive. They started at their own 14 and had it on the Seattle 38 when a third-and-3 misdirection play went horribly wrong.
Moving to his right, Wentz was supposed to hand the ball off to Sanders, who would cut left. But right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai was knocked back by Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin and bumped into Sanders as he was getting ready to take the handoff from Wentz. The ball ended up on the ground and was recovered by the Seahawks’ Quinton Jefferson.
“That one was tough,’’ Wentz said. “There’s no excuse on that, either. It’s something that we have to work on and be better at. It was kind of a new play, and Miles and I just probably didn’t communicate enough on it. I have to be better for him and give him a chance on that one.’’
Wentz hurt his hand on the fumbled handoff to Sanders. He made a quick trip to the locker room and had it X-rayed. The X-rays were negative and he returned to the game,. But when asked afterward whether there was anything to be concerned about with the hand, he said, “I don’t think so, but obviously we’ll wait and see.’’
That seemed to indicate that he’s going to have it examined more thoroughly Monday.
While Pederson said the Eagles’ offensive problems weren’t about Wentz, he did suggest for the second time in less than a week that his quarterback might be putting too much pressure on himself.
It’s hard sometimes,’’ the coach said. “Playing the position is tough anyway. We ask a lot of our quarterback and a lot of Carson, and the one thing you can’t do in that position is just put pressure on yourself to perform.
“You’ve just got to let things unfold, and sometimes you can do that. But sometimes, when the offense is struggling, you feel like you have to make a play. But you’ve got to let the game unfold, let the offense unfold. Just let everybody work for you and don’t feel like you’ve got to make every play.’’
The Eagles played a lot of 12-personnel with their two tight ends, Ertz and Goedert. But Wentz struggled to get on the same page with them. Through the first three quarters, the pair had 10 catches but for only 38 yards.
Sanders, the talented rookie, who had five 30-plus-yard catches in his first six games, had just two catches for 9 yards last week against the Patriots and had no catches through the first three quarters Sunday. He finished with three catches for just 23 yards. Both Pederson and Wentz need to find a way to get the ball to Sanders in open space.
“I just have to own those,’’ Wentz said of the early overthrow of Sanders and the off-target pass to Ertz and the others that he missed. “I missed a few and there’s no excuses. I just missed them.’’
Wentz has a 62.6 completion percentage through 11 games. That’s seven points lower than last year.