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Bowen: Wentz needs to do less 'gunslinging'

I get a little nervous when Doug Pederson starts referencing Brett Favre in talking about Carson Wentz, as Pederson did again last week, in a discussion of late-game moxie.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.Read more(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

I get a little nervous when Doug Pederson starts referencing Brett Favre in talking about Carson Wentz, as Pederson did again last week, in a discussion of late-game moxie.

Pederson was Favre's backup when Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI; to him, Favre comparisons are a great compliment. Me, I started covering the Eagles in 2002, later in Favre's career, and though I know he's an all-time great, Hall of Fame quarterback, subject of a new biography by acclaimed writer Jeff Pearlman titled Gunslinger, and all that, I also know this: Late-career Favre's gunslinging lost as many games for his teams as it won.

Andy Reid, Favre's former Green Bay quarterbacks coach, knew exactly how to bait Favre into crucial mistakes. I never saw Favre play a great game against the Eagles. I flashed back to that Sunday, with the way the Eagles rolled their coverage while blitzing Sam Bradford, something they knew Bradford didn't like. He turned the ball over three times.

Wentz, meanwhile, was a rookie facing the defense that had given up the fewest points in the league, and he looked like it Sunday. On the second interception Wentz threw, in the first quarter, I definitely had the feeling that Wentz tried to force a ball that he would have thrown away three or four weeks ago; I think maybe now, subtly, not even consciously, he thinks he should be able to make a play, fit the ball into a tiny window.

To this, I say, "No. No. No. No, no, no, no, no. Not when you're throwing to Nelson Agholor and there are three defenders around him. That is never, ever going to turn out well."

Wentz said afterward that it was third-and-11 "and I was just trying to do too much."

He said he saw Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham in the same area and "I should have just ate it, tried to make a play and scramble or something, but, yeah, I just tried to force it."

This was more comforting than Wentz's assertion earlier in the postgame session that, "It's football. You're going to make mistakes. Those things are going to happen."

Wentz's second interception was the last gaffe in a stretch of five successive possessions in which the Eagles and Vikings turned the ball over, back and forth. At some point - and that would have been a really good point, right there - a franchise QB walks onto the field thinking: "We have to settle this game down. The one thing we can't do here is commit yet another turnover."

The Eagles won't win a lot of games in which Wentz compiles a 52.4 passer rating, as he did against the Vikings. They don't need him to throw for 300 yards a game or a gazillion touchdowns. They do need him to take care of the ball - much better care of the ball than he did Sunday, with the two early picks and the fumble he lost handing off to Darren Sproles; do that in Dallas on Sunday and you'll be looking at 21-0, or worse.

"He missed some throws (Sunday)," Pederson conceded Monday, while alluding to the length of the season being an issue for rookies. "I've just got to make sure that we're keeping things very familiar for him, where he can just execute and play."

Asked about the repeated problems with shotgun snaps Sunday, Pederson said they were "a little bit center, a lot of it quarterback, actually."

He said Wentz "took his eyes off the ball, was looking at his read," though center Jason Kelce "wasn't perfect."

You could definitely see this on the Fox replay of Wentz's 6-yard run on fourth-and-2 from the Vikings' 44, which helped set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal just before halftime. Wentz looked away and then bobbled the snap, but because of an excellent Zach Ertz block, he still had time and room to ramble around left end for the first down.

It's natural to wonder whether Wentz is less comfortable behind his offensive line these days. Sunday's o-line effort was way better than it was in the Washington game, especially taking into account the quality of the Vikings' D, but Wentz was still ducking and dodging a lot. Pederson acknowledged he is curtailing his offense "to some extent" as Halapoulivaati Vaitai settles in at right tackle, where Lane Johnson is two games into a 10-game suspension.

Pederson said Wentz's accuracy problem Sunday, when he struggled through a 1-for-9 stretch before ending up 16-for-28 for just 138 yards, had to do with "setting his target line a little bit better . . . it's just where you set your lower body and your feet on your direct line to the receiver. It's putting your lower body in position to make the throw and being able to drive off your back hip, especially when it's a clean pocket.

"Sometimes when your feet aren't on the target line, you tend to throw high and you tend to throw inside of a receiver, which is what we saw a little bit (Sunday)."

Developing story lines

* Rodney McLeod is the Eagles player most deserving of more accolades this season than he's gotten. Seven solo tackles, an interception and a forced fumble Sunday.

* Then again, after watching the Cards and Seahawks tie 6-6 Sunday night because both kickers missed chip-shot field goals to win in OT, I feel I need to make mention of Caleb Sturgis, who has made 14 field goals in a row since missing his very first attempt of the season, in the opener. None of Sturgis' five kickoffs was returned Sunday.

* The Eagles wanted to focus on not taking penalties Sunday, after being whistled for 27 over the previous two weeks, which pushed them to the top of the league in flags per game (9.8). Their start wasn't promising, with three in the first 5 1/2 minutes, roughly a 33-penalty-per game pace, but after that they settled down nicely, taking only four the rest of the way. Their eventual total of seven for 53 yards was their lowest since Week 2 at Chicago (five for 34).

* By the way, the weekly bogus penalty was Kamu Grugier-Hill's running-into-the-kicker infraction on the Birds' first defensive series. Grugier-Hill, classified Monday by Doug Pederson as "week-to-week" with a hamstring strain suffered later in the game, was on the ground when punter Jeff Locke's foot came down from his kick and grazed Grugier-Hill's helmet. In this instance, making contact with the punter ought to be officiated like high-sticking in hockey: you don't get the penalty if he hits you on the follow-through.

* No idea what standard ref John Hussey's crew was using on pass interference. Rewatching, it was obvious each team got away with one incredibly egregious PI. Live, I thought picking up the flag on Jalen Mills was justified because the receiver was trying to come back to an underthrown ball, and the defender doesn't have to get out of the way for that, he's allowed to play the ball, as well. But upon rewatching, Mills didn't just hold his spot, he held the receiver. Even more ridiculous was when Dorial Green-Beckham was flat-out shoved down by Xavier Rhodes with the ball in the air. Would've loved to have heard an explanation of that.

* Doug Pederson acknowledged concern over Ryan Mathews' second lost fumble of the season - at least this one didn't lead to the game-winning field goal, like the one in Detroit - while adding that he is not "down on Ryan at all." Both fumbles have come late in games. Pederson said if it's a fatigue issue, maybe he needs to use Darren Sproles or Wendell Smallwood more then.

* Pederson called defensive end Brandon Graham "a tremendous player and a great team leader," and added that Graham "vowed not to be blocked" by the Vikings. Graham notched five hurries and a sack.

You don't see that every day ...

* Minnesota's Harrison Smith is one of the very best safeties in the NFL. He was recently profiled in Sports Illustrated. Smart, savvy player who pilots his own plane. But the Eagles got a two-point conversion Sunday when Smith stumbled into Caleb Sturgis after Sturgis kicked an extra point, putting the ball on the 1. On the Vikings' bench afterward, Smith and head coach Mike Zimmer did not appear to be discussing aviation.

* Speaking of Vikings safeties, I didn't realize until rewatching Monday that the ankle injury suffered by Andrew Sendejo, the starter next to Smith, happened when Carson Wentz tackled Sendejo at the Eagles' 2, following Sendejo's interception. Sendejo rode off on a cart and was to get an MRI Monday. Hey, don't mess with the Ginger Hammer.

Who knew?

That Beau Allen made the tackle on that fourth-and-1 at the Eagles' 6? Just about everybody in attendance at the Linc and watching on TV knew, along with the stat crew, but not Beau, down at the bottom of a huge pile, along with Vikings runner Matt Asiata.

"I don't think I had the tackle. I honestly don't know," Allen said after the game, when asked to describe the play. "We get fourth-and-1, they're in those 'inch splits' and we know they're going to run the ball. They're going to try a hard count to get us (to jump) offsides, it's just a mess of bodies. I don't know who got credited with the tackle, but I think our defense did a great job on that play."

Rewatching, Connor Barwin muscled inside guard Zac Kerin, helping plug the hole. Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks also dug in, but Allen, starting for injured Bennie Logan, was the guy atop the runner.

Sometimes you need a little luck . . .

* Thom Brennaman had just finished intoning how the Vikings were about to get really good field position, as Marcus Sherels, who has two punt-return touchdowns this season, settled under a Donnie Jones effort at midfield, Jones punting from his end zone. The ball bounced in front of Sherels, who decided to field it, then cut to his left, and lost the handle. Trey Burton recovered for the Eagles.

Obscure stat

Sunday's game was the Vikings' first visit to Philly since the infamous Joe Webb game in 2010, a 24-14 Eagles upset loss that was postponed from Sunday until Tuesday by a snowstorm. Webb was the rookie quarterback who beat Michael Vick and the Birds, in Webb's first career start. He subsequently has spent most of his career as a receiver.

Roster remix

Doug Pederson confirmed that slot cornerback Ron Brooks will need surgery for a ruptured quadriceps tendon, ending his season. The Eagles placed Brooks on injured reserve and claimed defensive lineman Taylor Hart, who was waived over the weekend by the 49ers. San Francisco had claimed Hart from the Eagles a week before the start of the season.

Hart, a 2014 Eagles fifth-round draft choice from Oregon, seemed to be doing a decent job this summer transitioning from the Chip Kelly 3-4 defensive end spot he came here to play, to defensive tackle in a 4-3. His reacquisition probably means that defensive tackle Bennie Logan is out for a while with the groin injury Logan suffered at Washington.

Brooks, meanwhile, had started five of six games. Pederson indicated rookie corner C.J. Smith now will be active Sunday night at Dallas, and that safety Malcolm Jenkins will play the nickel spot, with Jaylen Watkins getting more snaps at safety.

"I thought Jaylen came in and played well," after Brooks went down late in the first quarter, Pederson said. Watkins, drafted as a corner in the fourth round in 2014, played 46 of 76 defensive snaps against the Vikings.

A source close to the situation has said that Brooks probably will need until next July's training camp for full healing after surgery.

The Eagles brought back to the practice squad corner Aaron Grymes, a former Canadian Football League player who had a good training camp but suffered an AC joint injury and was waived with an injury settlement. To make room for Grymes, offensive lineman Matt Rotheram was cut from the practice squad.