THE MATCHUP was as advertised, balls sailing through cool autumn air in both directions, running backs used merely as diversions, barely given heed. After 10 games matched up against guys either only a little or not at all like him, Carson Wentz finally ran up against his prototype, a big, tall, mobile and incredibly accurate quarterback with a brain to boot.
Wentz vs. Aaron Rodgers, inflated by the desperate state of their respective teams and a collection of cornerbacks on both sides who can make instant stars of even marginal receivers, as the emergence of Dorial Green-Beckham underlined in Monday night's 27-13 Eagles loss to the Green Bay Packers, their first at home this season after building their playoff hopes in four previous successes here.
First one to flinch - punt - loses.
First team to not convert a third down . . .
That's how it felt, anyway, over the first half, a half of almost 400 yards of total offense, split evenly between two offenses that are separated by an abyss of talent.
In the end, the statistical discrepancy between the prototype and the prospect was not nearly as one-sided as the final score, or the game. Wentz completed 24 of 36 passes for 254 yards and might have closed on that final margin had the first drive of the second half not ended with that ill-thought, ill-thrown pick.
Rodgers completed 30 of 39 for 313 yards, threw a couple of touchdowns against a defense that was supposed to be a lot better than his own. And didn't turn it over once.
It wasn't a fair fight of course. The first series for each quarterback - and every ensuing one after that - underlined that. Rodgers chose from a menu that included Jody Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams - his Monday chef's special. Using quick passes that neutralized the Eagles' front four, mixing in a couple of option runs, the savvy veteran moved Green Bay briskly down the field 75 yards, Adams scoring in front of Leodis McKelvin on a quick strike from 12 yards out.
Wentz's immediate response was arguably more impressive. Using Jordan Matthews and a menu loaded with rookies, castoffs and taxi-squad players, he concocted an 11-play, 81 yard drive that finished with his own bit of running, diving under would-be tacklers to score from the 1-yard line.
Rodgers ran the ball mostly as part of a big plan. Wentz ran to survive a plan built on the backs of an offensive severely compromised by drug suspensions, injury and Monday night, the sudden illness of starting right guard Brandon Brooks. An 8-yard second-quarter scramble in which he eluded two would-be sackers ended with him just ducking an airborne tackle. Another one, for 17 yards, featured a juke that left Damarious Randall, just back from a season-threatening groin injury, crumpled on top of himself.
Even later, in the fourth quarter, Wentz ducked under would-be sackers, yanked away from a facemask and converted a third-and-10 to keep his team's faint hopes alive. "He gets facemasked, comes out of there and still gets 8 yards," Rodgers said afterward, smiling. "That's a big weapon as a quarterback."
And when Matthews injured his ankle, missing a chunk of the second quarter and all but the first series of the second half, the unfair fight entered the realm of the absurd.
It's what makes issuing any long-range projection about Wentz so difficult during this uneven season. Sure he now has a tendency to sail balls as he did to derail the Eagles promising first-drive of the second half, overthrowing Zach Ertz into the waiting arms of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. But he is hardly operating behind a fortress, and the uncertainty of that has at times affected footwork and timing, as well as threatened to create long-term bad habits.
Think Nick Foles before he developed happy feet.
Wentz, of course, is far more mobile than the Eagles quarterback who once famously passed for seven touchdowns in a game. And more accurate, even with all that he has been up against. But against a defense that has allowed opposing passers to compile a 105.5 quarterback rating and allowed seven touchdown passes over its previous two games, even with the dearth of talent around him, 13 points is going to feed more doubt about his long-range prospects, not less.
Relax Philly, said the prototype. "His athleticism stands out, just seeing him in person tonight," Rodgers said. "He extends plays with his feet. And then to see him standing there making some great throws from the pocket. I think his ceiling is extremely high. He should be very proud of the way he's played this season. And Eagles fans should be excited about the future with Carson."
They'd be more excited when and if the the kind of talent that has accompanied Rodgers since 2008 arrives. And when your secondary isn't the primary reason their opponents converted 10 of their first 13 third-down attempts. And when your head coach shakes off the rookie head-bangers, like using a final challenge on a two-yard completion in the third quarter.
It's a lot of whens. And potentially, a lot of time.
In the meantime, the Eagles coaching staff says they can grow Carson Wentz.
Without wrecking him in the process.