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Carson Wentz is far from a perfect quarterback, but he remains the primary reason the Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the NFC Least with a 2-4-1 record after Thursday’s 22-21 victory over the New York Giants.
In one of the ugliest games fans will ever watch, Philadelphia’s franchise quarterback made the necessary plays to avoid a crushing defeat. A loss would have almost certainly created significant questions about the organization’s direction, especially at the game’s most important position. Yet Wentz is simply surviving what appears to be a near-insurmountable situation.
At this point, Eagles faithful must accept the good with the bad, because Wentz gives the team the best opportunity to win.
“Every play, you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told Joe Buck during Fox’s pregame telecast preparation.
Besides, Wentz isn’t viewed as poorly in league circles as he is by those on the outside. Furthermore, he delivered when the game was on the line in his latest effort.
Rumblings of a potential quarterback change started in recent weeks, but they’re simply not realistic. Philadelphia lost its previous two games, but the Eagles played two of the NFL’s best during that stretch. The Steelers are arguably the team to beat in the AFC right now, and the Ravens are not far behind them. Pederson’s squad fell short of those Super Bowl contenders by a combined 11 points.
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press
Prior to Thursday’s contest, league evaluators saw Wentz’s performance quite differently than public perception. Tyler Dunne reported that one longtime executive said the 27-year-old signal-caller “played better than any QB last weekend” considering he was under constant duress.
“[He] overcame first-quarter drops and made accurate throws while getting drilled all day,” the executive added.
In the last three weeks, Wentz has cut down on turnover-worthy plays and increased his big-time throws, as former NFL quarterback and current Pro Football Focus contributor Bruce Gradkowski noted.
He’s still going to make mistakes. There’s no denying Wentz’s tendency of trying to make too much happen when things break down. For example, the interception he threw Thursday boggled the mind. Wentz evaded pressure, rolled to his left and airmailed a YOLO ball into the end zone that Giants cornerback James Bradberry snagged.
If Wentz can limit those errors, the Eagles are good enough to survive and advance in the league’s worst division, because he showed exactly what he can do when Philadelphia needed its quarterback the most.
Wentz, who threw for 359 yards Thursday, led a pair of touchdown drives to secure the victory after the Eagles trailed 21-10 with under seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. During those crucial moments, the quarterback completed five of eight passes for 121 yards. His ball placement was simply astounding.
A 59-yard toss to John Hightower ignited the first scoring drive. Wentz displayed excellent touch on the deep pass for a completion between the trailing cornerback and the safety coming over the top in coverage.
Eye manipulation helped sell the play since Wentz worked the open side of the field before coming back to Hightower on the back side.
Another gorgeous touch pass was the game-winning score. Wentz found 5’6″ running back Boston Scott racing down the field and lofted a perfectly placed over-the-shoulder throw for an 18-yard touchdown.
Again, watch how Wentz worked wide side to back side before finding the matchup in Philadelphia’s favor. Wentz said after the game that Scott wasn’t the primary receiver, per The Athletic’s Zach Berman.
“Exciting moment but a big sigh of relief because we left a lot of plays out there,” Wentz told reporters.
More importantly, the quarterback evaded pressure, stepped up in the pocket and delivered.
The final point can’t be stressed enough considering the state of the Eagles’ offensive front. Before entering Thursday’s contest, opponents sacked Wentz 25 times and hit him on a whopping 47 occasions. Both numbers led the league. Thursday’s lineup featured Philadelphia’s sixth different offensive line combination, with Sua Opeta taking over at left guard.
New York had three sacks and hit Wentz 10 more times. So the pressure was present. Wentz is a big, physical quarterback. But he also has an extensive injury history. He can’t continue to take this type of pounding.
Despite that, he led Philly to a win with his top two tight ends injured and veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson leaving Thursday’s contest prematurely due to another injury.
“His toughness is wild,” Scott told reporters of Wentz.
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press
It’s simply ridiculous to think any quarterback could excel under these circumstances. Wentz is doing all he can to keep the Eagles in the mix. He’s thrown for five touchdowns and 214 yards with a 118.2 quarterback rating during the fourth quarter of the last two games, according to NBC Sports Philly’s John Clark.
Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is daunting, though. Even if the Eagles sweep their final four contests against division opponents—which probably won’t happen—they won’t be favored against the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints or Arizona Cardinals.
A .500 record may not attainable, but expectations are limbo-level low in the NFC Least.
All the Eagles have to do is let Wentz work. He’s not perfect. He’ll leave plays on the field. He knows he must play better. Despite his weaknesses, he’s the best remaining quarterback in the division—which is more than enough to keep Philadelphia alive in the hunt to host a postseason contest.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.