CINCINNATI - Carson Wentz's first pass Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium was rejected at the line of scrimmage. His second pass, one play later, slipped through the hands of linebacker Vincent Rey, a rare drop that actually benefited the Eagles, but also a clear sign of what was about to unfold for a quarterback and team that have helplessly watched a once promising season spiral in the wrong direction.

By the time the Eagles had checked out of the Cincinnati Bengals' rather bland home field, Wentz had thrown the football 60 times with an assortment of results, most of them bad. He completed 36 throws, but 21 of those came after the Eagles had fallen behind by 29-0 in a game they eventually lost, 32-14.

Wentz threw a career-high three interceptions and that number would have doubled if not for the bumbling hands of several Cincinnati defenders. The Bengals also batted down six Wentz passes, one of which resulted in an interception and another that Wentz caught and turned into a 7-yard gain. The quarterback was sacked once and hit 10 other times, a recipe for disaster and a poor reflection of the work done up front by the Eagles' patchwork offensive line.

Ever the optimist, Doug Pederson still showered Wentz with some praise even after the worst game of the rookie quarterback's career.

"The fact that he stood in there and still led the football team - he took some shots and still stood in there - it just shows the kind of character and toughness he has," the coach said after the Eagles lost for the seventh time in nine games to slip to 5-7.

The more pertinent fact is that this was a step backward for Wentz, who has thrown twice as many interceptions (10) as touchdowns (5) in his last seven games.

"Hard to say," Wentz said when asked if he thought his play regressed in Sunday's loss. "As a team we obviously didn't play well. They came out and beat us. We got down early and didn't help our own cause out early in the game. We dug ourselves a hole and it was hard to come out of."

That's fine and even true. This was the darkest shade of bad we've seen from the Eagles this season and it should not all fall at the feet of the rookie quarterback. The offensive line was awful, top receiver Jordan Matthews sat out with an ankle injury and the running game was marked absent.

Wentz, however, was more part of the problem than part of the solution.

In addition to the interceptions and the batted passes, he also sailed some throws out of the reach of open receivers. Pederson said his rookie quarterback is having some mechanical problems and throwing off his back foot at times. Wentz insisted his mechanics were fine.

"You throw the ball 60 times you're going to miss some," he said. "That kind of happens."

Pederson agreed that throwing the football 60 times is never the game plan. Only three other quarterbacks in franchise history have thrown the football that many times in a single game and the result in each of those games was the same as it was Sunday for the Eagles.

"There were opportunities, obviously," Pederson said. "Again, he's a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning these things up."

Wentz is a young quarterback and he did miss most of the preseason. But then he came out of the starting gate with strokes of brilliance that gave hope to a city desperate for a franchise quarterback they can believe in. The green-and-white No. 11 jerseys flew off the shelves as the Eagles soared to a 3-0 start.

It defied logic and raised expectations.

Now a grim reality has set in and you have to wonder how it is mentally impacting Wentz. Pederson mentioned how Wentz has not lost this many games in his life, let alone in one season. Wentz indicated he'll be fine.

"You just can't get down," he said. "You've got to stay optimistic. Obviously the results are tough of late. We're kind of on a skid. We've just got to lock in and we've got to be more disciplined."

Better is what the Eagles have to be and that starts with the rookie quarterback who has come crashing back to earth.

@brookob