Carson Wentz able to lift the Eagles when needed most in win over Giants
With the Eagles at a decisive point in the season, Carson Wentz had his best game this year in Thursday's win over the Giants.
Carson Wentz is the Eagles' franchise quarterback, a designation he takes seriously and one the Eagles offered a bounty of draft picks to procure — and will soon pay handsomely in dollars to retain. It's incumbent upon the franchise quarterback to help carry the team, especially when needed most.
Remember when Aaron Rodgers told Green Bay Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X" after a 1-2 start in 2014, and the Packers went onto finish 12-4 and reach the NFC championship game? Wentz didn't offer those words this past week with the Eagles at 2-3, but his play might have said as much. Because with the Eagles at a pivotal point in the season, Wentz had his best game.
"That's what you want, especially out of that position, out of the quarterback position, and he definitely can bring that spark at any time during the course of a game and really uplift your team," coach Doug Pederson said. "I think sometimes a franchise-type player, franchise quarterback that way, yeah, I think it's a great thing to have, especially from one of your top leaders of your team."
The Eagles didn't necessarily dominate the New York Giants on Thursday because of Wentz. It was a complete team effort, with the defense playing an enormous part and the players around Wentz helping him, and Wentz said after the game that he didn't feel the need to carry the team.
"Not at all," Wentz said. "I feel like we're such a balanced offense, we've got great guys up front, both run-blocking and that can open some lanes, and the right backs to do their jobs, so I never feel like I've got to take it on my back, so to speak, and I just spread the ball out and get these guys touches however we can and Coach does a great job of designing the game plan each week."
His play, however, offered the most convincing answer. Wentz delivered at the right time. It was apparent from the Eagles' opening drive.
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After an interception that set the Eagles up in the red zone, two unfruitful plays left them with a third-and-7 from the Giants' 13-yard line. If the Eagles failed to convert, it would have been the same problems that vexed them during their previous two games — settling for field goals when touchdowns were possible.
Wentz was pressured to his right side, buying enough time that it turned into a scramble drill for the wide receivers. With the sideline approaching, Wentz whipped a pass across his body — a move often frowned upon for quarterbacks.
"Oh, no!" Pederson said he thought at the moment.
"When we're in the red zone, sometimes you just have to improvise," Wentz said.
"You kind of see what's happening and how things are developing, and we always talk about kind of the cardinal rules of quarterback, especially out of the pocket, is you can't throw the ball late down the middle of the field because usually things get picked off or bad things happen," Pederson said.
Bad things didn't happen on this one. Wentz's pass was a strike to Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown. There was a penalty flag on the field, but the call was against the Giants. Pederson wondered whether Wentz saw that flag and was willing to take the risk. Wentz said he trusted Jeffery in that moment.
"It's not always the smartest thing to throw back across your body, but when you got a guy like Alshon in the back of the end zone, you can really trust him to make a play," Wentz said.
It was a throw that few quarterbacks in the league would dare to make. It's a throw that fewer quarterbacks in the league are able to make.
"You know what, that's who Carson is," Pederson said. "That's his aggressiveness. That's what you love about him, and just two guys making a play, and it was a pretty special play."
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It also showed how Wentz has continued to progress in his career. So much attention went to his knee during the offseason, but the Eagles have also paid attention to his arm — and Pederson believes it's stronger and more accurate than it was one year ago. Pederson said the passing ability became clear during seven-on-seven and in training camp. It's now showing up in the games.
Wentz finished 26 of 36 for 278 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers. It was the first game this season he did not commit a turnover. His 122.2 passer rating was his best in four games.
The supporting cast helped him — Nelson Agholor adjusted a route to turn a potential interception into a big gain, which Wentz called a "blessing from above." But there were also plays and decisions that Wentz made that showed why he was an MVP candidate before last season's injury.
When Wentz returned in Week 3, one sentiment in the locker room was that the Eagles could not expect him to be Superman and fix all the team's ills. But there are certain games when the Eagles need their leader to help carry the team. Thursday offered a moment for Wentz to do so, and he delivered.
The course of the season might change because of his performance in that game. That's why he's the franchise quarterback.