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Eagles' Carson Wentz moves closer to franchise record for TD passes against Bears

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz continues to put up pinball-wizard type passing numbers in just his second season in the NFL.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz runs with the football during third-quarter against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz runs with the football during third-quarter against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

The numbers are getting crazy. Twenty-eight touchdown passes in 11 games, just four short of Sonny Jurgensen's 56-year-old franchise record.

Just three interceptions in his last 282 pass attempts.

A 124.1 third-down passer rating, which is the best in the NFL.

A 65.3 completion percentage in the red zone, where the Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the league with a 71.8 touchdown rate. Carson Wentz is the only quarterback in the league who hasn't been sacked or given up a turnover in the red zone.

"The difference between who we played last year [in a 29-14 Week 2 Eagles victory over Chicago] and what he was today — the [difference] is crazy,'' Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks said after his team's 31-3 loss at the Linc.

"He is just so much better than he was [as a rookie]. Kudos to him and all of the work he put in during the offseason and in-season. He is a solid quarterback in this league and he is having a great year.''

Wentz completed 23 of 36 passes for 227 yards, three TDs and no interceptions Sunday. All three of his TD passes – to tight end Zach Ertz, slot receiver Nelson Agholor, and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery — were in the red zone. Twenty of his 28 touchdown passes this season have come in the red zone, including seven to Ertz, five to Jeffery, and three to Agholor.

NFL quarterbacks have been known to make significant improvement from their first year to their second. But the improvement Wentz is making in Year 2 is off the charts.

"This is just Carson being Carson,'' head coach Doug Pederson said after the Eagles notched their ninth straight victory and ran their record to an NFL-best 10-1.

"I mean, when you [draft a guy like this] you kind of hope and sort of pray and wish that you could do some of the things we're doing. But you never know for sure.

"The things we saw in him when we were looking at him before the [2016] draft, we're starting to see now. He's such a competitor. And his will, his determination to make things right, and the way he is able to elevate the play of guys around him, has just been incredible.

"He's taking care of the football. He's not turning the ball over. And that's a positive to the success of the team, obviously.''

The Eagles finished 24th in red-zone offense last year (49.1 TD rate). They finished tied for 20th in third-down offense. Through their red-hot start, they're first in the red zone and third on third down.

Wentz, who threw just 16 touchdown passes last season, had just three on third down. So far this season, he has 11 third-down TD passes.

"We sort of struggled in the red zone earlier in the season,'' Pederson said. "Especially in what we call the 'big red zone area' [inside the 30].

"I challenged our guys offensively. We had to make a conscious effort that if we are going to get the ball down in that area, we've got to execute better. We've got to run the ball better. We've got to take care of the football better down there.

"And they really have done that since that point.''

Wentz has done a good job of spreading the ball around and keeping defenses off-balance. Seven different receivers have red-zone TD catches. Four have at least two.

Ertz, who had 10 catches for 103 yards and a TD against the Bears, has a career-high seven red-zone TD receptions.

Jeffery, who signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in March, notched his fifth red-zone TD catch Sunday against his former tam. That's just one shy of his career high of six with the Bears in 2014.

"Our offensive balance of being able to run the ball down there [in the red zone] and also throw it has been big for us,'' Wentz said. "Then it just comes down to guys making plays.

"We're just making more of them right now. The tighter you get to the red zone, the defense has to declare their coverage a little more. In the back of our heads, we have those things we can go to versus different looks. Sometimes you have to change things and sometimes you just let it roll.''

Jeffery had five catches for 52 yards, including an 8-yard second-quarter touchdown catch. Wentz completed 8 of 10 third-down attempts, including two to Jeffery, who leads the Eagles in third-down receptions with 17, including 15 for first downs.

When it was pointed out to him that the Eagles had scored four TDs or more in three straight games, Jeffery was surprised.

"I didn't even know that,'' he said. "We're just playing, not looking at the stats, not looking at the numbers. We're just going out there and playing.''