In all three of the Eagles' losses this season, Carson Wentz led the offense onto the field late in the fourth quarter with a chance to either win or tie the game.
Against Detroit, Wentz threw an interception with the Eagles down one point and 1 minute, 28 seconds on the clock. Wentz mustered two first downs while down seven points in Washington, but could not get the Eagles past the Redskins' 42-yard line. And last week at Dallas, Wentz helmed two three-and-outs in the final three minutes of a tied game before watching fellow rookie quarterback Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys on a game-winning drive in overtime.
Those are signature moments for quarterbacks - the ball in the fourth quarter and a chance to change the outcome of the game. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who will face the Eagles on Sunday, might have earned a spot in the Hall of Fame because of two game-winning drives in the Super Bowl. The five quarterbacks with the most game-winning drives in NFL history are Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, John Elway, and Brett Favre - all in the pantheon of the NFL's elite quarterbacks.
It's only seven games into Wentz's first season, and he will have weeks - and years - to lead the Eagles on those drives and create his moments. Working in his favor is previous evidence of how Wentz responds in pressure-packed situations.
"You guys can check out the history on those," Wentz said.
In his redshirt junior season at North Dakota State, Wentz led the Bison on a six-play, 78-yard scoring drive to win the national championship over Illinois State. He rushed for an 5-yard touchdown to erase a four-point deficit.
North Dakota State advanced in the postseason that year because Wentz led an eight-play, 76-yard drive that was capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds remaining to give North Dakota State a three-point victory over South Dakota State.
He also engineered a 10-play, 79-yard game-winning drive to beat Northern Iowa last season. Wentz threw an 18-yard touchdown with 35 seconds remaining for the win.
The history is favorable for Wentz. But the Eagles are waiting for it to happen in Philadelphia, and it hasn't come in his three opportunities this season.
"They've all been great learning experiences for a young rookie quarterback," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Carson has learned from each one. Then it's just a matter of execution. Understanding, again, what exactly do we need? Do we need a touchdown, a field goal, how many timeouts do we have? All of that. And then still stay - obviously you've got to stay in attack mode. Ball's got to come out of your hand. You've got to know the style of defense. They usually play a little softer depending on where you are on the field. Knowing that you might have to use your backs and tight ends. So all of that collectively can help him and help us be better in those situations."
Wentz could find himself in that situation again this weekend. In five NFC East games this season, the average margin of victory has been four points. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich noted how most games in the league are close, and an abnormality of the Eagles season has been the 19-point average margin in victories.
The emphasis at the NovaCare Complex last week was on finishing. The coaches talked about it, Wentz discussed it, and the defense noted it. The Eagles are outscoring opponents by 58 points in third quarters this season, but they're being outscored in fourth quarters. Reich said the responsibility falls on more than the quarterback, but the signal-caller is the one who is judged.
"Experience tells me - been in hundreds and hundreds of close games - that, 80 or 90 percent of it is just execution, staying on the field long enough, making enough good plays so that somebody can make a great play to win the game," Reich said. "Eighty percent of it, make a play; make another first down. Boom. And then somebody on your team - 10 percent of it or 20 percent of it is somebody making a play that they shouldn't make - breaking a tackle, making a catch, making a throw that you shouldn't be able to make. And that's what ends up winning those games a lot of times."
You don't need to tell that to Manning. Think of those two game-winning drives in the Super Bowl, and the plays that stand out are memorable catches by David Tyree and Mario Manningham. Manning joked that he doesn't "want to give any information to help out Carson" before noting how experience and teammates help in those situations.
"It's not the quarterback - it's everybody stepping up and making tough plays in critical moments," Manning said.
In those four late-game drives this season when Wentz had the chance to win or tie, he is 4 for 8 with 31 yards, one interception, and four sacks. But it didn't help that Dorial Green-Beckham was flagged for offensive pass interference last week to nullify a 25-yard gain on the first play of a drive that could have generated momentum.
So it's not all on Wentz, but Philadelphia is still waiting to see the late-game heroics he displayed at North Dakota State. He could have an opportunity on Sunday.
"It is frustrating as an offense to have chances, whether you're down or tied, whatever it may be, to win at the end and to not come through," Wentz said. "We're looking forward to bouncing back."