ABOUT AN HOUR after Sunday's game, three players remained in the Eagles' locker room. One of them was Carson Wentz.
The giant media flood had trickled away. A few equipment guys were packing stuff into bags. Wentz walked around, drained a blue Gatorade, paced some more, grabbed a water bottle out of the cooler, then ambled over to where the offensive linemen dress, near the showers and the restroom, and leaned against a doorframe.
Didn't the Eagles' rookie quarterback have anywhere to go, after authoring a 29-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns in his first NFL start, and sending half the Delaware Valley out to the mall to look for No. 11 jerseys?
"Have to take a piss test," Wentz said.
Oh. So, what are the rules on that? You can do it whenever you feel like you can, ah . . .
"Exactly," Wentz said, before gulping water. "Believe me, I have places to go."
Wentz said every member of his family except his stepbrother, Luke Domres, made the journey from North Dakota; Luke is in ninth grade and couldn't miss school Monday. They were all waiting there under Lincoln Financial Field, waiting as nearly every other player made his way into the corridor. But the temperature at kickoff had been 85 degrees, linemen's jerseys sweat-stained black by the end of the first quarter, and now, well, Wentz was going to be late.
In keeping Wentz from getting to where he wanted to be Sunday, the NFL's random drug-testing program accomplished what the Browns could not. The final numbers were 22-for-37 for 278 yards, two perfectly thrown touchdowns, no turnovers and a 101.0 passer rating. It was the most passing yards by an Eagles rookie QB in his first career start since at least 1960, the team said.
"This is who he is," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of Wentz, after a head-coaching debut that was as impressive as that of his QB. "This is his DNA . . . He prepared like a five-, six-year veteran, and obviously, he played that way."
"He enjoyed himself from Day 1, when he got here. He knew what was in front of him, and he just continued to get better," said Nelson Agholor, who caught Wentz's longest completion, a 35-yard third-quarter touchdown dropped softly into the right corner of the end zone. "You're going to see a guy who's going to prepare every day to be special. The results? I don't know what they'll be; you can't tell the future, but I know what the process is. It's one of somebody that wants to be special."
"I wasn't really nervous. I really don't get nervous. I like to listen to worship music before the game, kind of calm my nerves, and just go and have fun," said Wentz, who completed four of five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown to Jordan Matthews on the game's opening drive. "That (drive) was huge. It gave me a lot of confidence - going down, moving the ball, getting that (19)-yard touchdown right off the bat, it was huge for my confidence, huge for this team's confidence. I know the people here were rockin'. So it was a lot of fun, and a great start to the year."
It was a solid day, made remarkable by the fact that Wentz became the starter only eight days earlier, when the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota. Last week was his first week of practice with the first offensive unit.
"From the veterans on the team, obviously, you change your starting quarterback a week before your season opener, it's a little bit of a concern. But I think everybody had a lot of confidence in Carson, knowing the talent he does have," safety Malcolm Jenkins said.
"We ran the ball decent - not as well as what we wanted, but we tried to take the pressure off Carson as much as we could. He had a big day, so I'm proud of him," said right tackle Lane Johnson, who remained unsuspended. "He was confident. I think the first drive really helped us, going down there and scoring. Any time you can do that, it kind of sets the demeanor. All throughout the game, nothing rattled him, even though he got hit a few times."
Yeah, the Browns looked pretty bad. Yeah, the game plan was heavy on running and on shorter throws, especially early. Yeah, Eagles fans have been burned before, Nick Foles once threw seven touchdown passes in a game, etc., and so forth.
But if you were looking for signs that Cleveland made the correct assessment in trading the second overall pick in the draft to the Eagles, instead of drafting Wentz, you didn't find any Sunday.
The same can be said for management's decision to make under-the-radar candidate Doug Pederson the Eagles' head coach. It was just one game, against a team that looked pretty hapless, but as openers go, you could not say the Eagles looked sloppy or ill-prepared. Time of possession has been retrieved from the trash bin and reinstated as a relevant stat; the Eagles had the ball for 39 minutes and 20 seconds Sunday, which made a strong effort from Jim Schwartz's defense downright dominant.
"When you're on the field that long, you're able to impose your will as an offense, and I think that's what we were able to do today," tight end Zach Ertz said.
Pederson took one pretty big gamble, on converting a fourth-and-4, and Wentz justified his confidence, then threw the 35-yard TD pass that swung momentum for good on the very next play.
"I thought he called a great game," Wentz said of Pederson. "I was pretty excited that he had the faith in me to call the fourth-and-4 play."
The Eagles led 15-10 in the third, the Browns forced to kick them the ball after rookie center Cameron Erving snapped the ball over Robert Griffin III's head and out of the end zone for a safety. Wentz moved the Birds from their 27 to the Browns' 40, where he threw a pass to Jordan Matthews that Matthews dropped. (Matthews, who sat out the preseason with a knee injury, had done the same thing on Wentz's very first NFL pass.)
Fourth-and-4 from the 40, Pederson didn't go for the long field goal or the punt to the goal line.
"I wasn't really surprised. I know he's got kind of an aggressive nature about him," Wentz said of Pederson. "They heated us up - they brought an all-out blitz, and Ertz made a great play."
"It was cover zero, so Carson knew he had to get the ball out very quickly," Ertz said. "I just ran a slant over the middle. The guy (free safety Jordan Poyer, an Eagles seventh-round draft choice in 2013) kind of had inside leverage, but I just had to cross his face, and Carson put the ball right on me."
Browns rookie defensive lineman Carl Nassib, from Malvern Prep and Penn State, said during the week that Wentz had a bit of a slow release, and that Cleveland wanted to take advantage. It was quick enough when the blitz came.
"Sure was," Wentz agreed, when a questioner brought that up. "Some of those comments, they just are what they are. You just block 'em out."
Ertz gained 5 yards on the slant. First down from Cleveland's 35. And then, quickly, the Eagles were ahead 22-10.
"We took a shot right away. When coach called it, I was pretty excited," Wentz said.
Pederson noted the strong release from Agholor, the team's much-debated 2015 first-round pick, against Joe Haden, Cleveland's two-time Pro Bowl corner. Wentz also said this was key to the play.
"Nelson, right off the ball, if you guys go back and watch that, he killed his guy, had a great release," Wentz said.
"Carson gave me a great opportunity with a great ball," Agholor said.
"My touchdown pass and Nelson's - I mean, you can't throw those any better," Matthews said, after leading both teams with seven catches for 114 yards, on a whopping 14 targets.
After his touchdown catch, Matthews ran to the center of the end zone and fired the ball against the front of the stands. It looked for a moment like he was tossing Wentz's first TD ball into the crowd.
"I was about to get mad at him," Wentz said. "He threw it off the padding. I don't know where it is, but I'm sure we'll find it."
Might be worth something someday.