Carson Wentz's performance against the Giants was, in some ways, a microcosm of his first eight games in the NFL. There were highs. There were lows. There were impressive throws. There were head-scratching interceptions. And there was yet another failed late drive that could have put the Eagles ahead for good.
In other words, it was the type of outing rookie quarterbacks have been delivering for decades and with no discernible characteristic that defines the future. After eight games, it's clear that Wentz has both the physical and mental tools to succeed at this level. But his otherworldly three-game start altered expectations.
What has happened since the Eagles' 3-0 start are the usual growing pains a first-year quarterback endures. Has Wentz made mistakes that should give pause to those ready to deem him Canton-bound? Certainly. But even in Wentz's worst moments he was shown a resilience that has maintained the Eagles' buoyancy about his prospects.
"This is all part of the growth process that he's going through," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Monday, a day after the Eagles' 28-23 loss to the Giants, "and the two [interceptions] were kind of that, just the fact that [he] gets a little tunnel vision sometimes."
Pederson hasn't felt the need to coddle the 23-year old, though. Wentz is mature beyond his age. He hasn't used his inexperience as an excuse and he wasn't about to after the Eagles fell short in the Meadowlands.
"We've all got to learn from it," Wentz said, "whether we're rookies, whether were tenured vets."
Wentz is the quarterback, so he will have to shoulder additional criticism for offensive inefficiency. But some of his struggles have stemmed from having subpar skill-position personnel, particularly at outside receiver. Some of Pederson's dubious play calling hasn't placed the young quarterback in the best position to succeed, either.
But Wentz's interceptions were almost entirely his fault. The first occurred on the Eagles' second play of their first drive. Wentz dropped back and initially didn't have an open receiver. He moved to his right after center Jason Kelce tangled feet with right guard Stefen Wisniewski and fell.
"I felt like he didn't have to move," Pederson said. "He could have stayed right there in the pocket and delivered the football."
Wentz walked into pressure, but he still had receiver Nelson Agholor flashing open underneath on a crosser. He threw off his back foot and the ball sailed high and into the waiting arms of Giants safety Landon Collins.
On the second interception, a series later, Wentz stepped up in the pocket. He had a pass rusher in his face, but he appeared to have some room to step into his throw. His pass to receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was all arm, though, and sailed again - this time to Giants safety Andrew Adams.
"The pocket was clean enough to deliver the football," Pederson said, "but that quick pressure, from a quarterback standpoint, makes you throw a bit high."
Wentz said after the game that he probably would have made the same decisions on those attempts. The throws just needed to be better. When he has missed receivers - dating all the way back to the spring - the passes have tended to sail high. The Eagles altered his footwork and the way he carried the ball during the offseason, but Pederson said mechanics weren't the problem.
If there has been an overarching issue, it's that Wentz has sometimes tried to do too much. It could be said that he has stretched his limits to compensate for the rest of the offense. And it could also be alleged that he has forced plays because Pederson has asked too much of him.
Plays that give Wentz the option to run have been part of the offense since Game 1, but he has increasingly kept the ball. The results haven't been as fruitful as they were initially. Wentz ran four times on Sunday and lost a total of 4 yards.
"We ask Carson to do a lot with [run-pass option] things, with the read options, making some checks there," Pederson said. "So, I think going forward, yeah, probably should rely on [running backs] just a little bit more."
Wentz is athletic and had great success on the ground in college, but there is a health risk involved in asking him to become a running back. He's aggressive by nature, and there have been times when the numbers have suggested that he make a read other than keep the ball.
The same theory applies to extending pass plays outside of the pocket. Wentz took a 5-yard loss when he ran out of bounds rather than throw the ball away.
But he also had moments that did nothing to change the opinion that he can make all the necessary throws. Wentz tossed play-action strikes to tight ends Trey Burton (32 yards) and Zach Ertz (30 and 15 yards). He had deep-pocket passes to receivers Bryce Treggs (a 58-yard deep post) and Jordan Matthews (a 33-yard back shoulder and a 25-yard toss in a tight zone window).
Wentz checked the Eagles into successful running plays and made proper run-pass reads.
He wasn't perfect the rest of the way after the interceptions. But Green-Beckham repeatedly failed him in the red zone. Agholor dropped a pass that many receivers dive for. And maybe Pederson could have helped him more on the final drive.
But Wentz's last-gasp pass to Matthews on fourth down was one he would have liked to have back. He threw too far outside of his fading receiver.
"He makes that play in practice 99 out of 100 times," Pederson said. "Those two guys are on the same page with that particular route. We've seen it. The Cleveland game, the touchdown, it's the same route and he makes that play."
He'll have plenty more opportunities.