Eagles

In career day, Carson Wentz's 3rd-down mastery continues in Eagles' win over Cardinals

In career day, Carson Wentz's 3rd-down mastery continues in Eagles' win over Cardinals

Here's all you need to know about how far Carson Wentz has come:
 
He had three touchdown passes all last year on third down. And he had three Sunday against the Cards.
 
Wentz continued his 2017 third-down mastery Sunday in the Eagles' blowout win over the Cards, going 11 for 12 on third down with nine conversions and throwing for 255 yards and three TD passes.
 
Just on third down.
 
In all, it was a career day for Wentz, who completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for 303 yards with four touchdowns in the Eagles' 34-7 win over the Cardinals at the Linc (see breakdown).

"Situational football is huge, that's what separates the good teams," Wentz said. "Being effective on third down, staying on the field, it helps time of possession, it helps the defense, it's a big part of the game. They call it the money down, and to be that efficient on third down is huge."

Among his Eagles' third-down conversions were two 3rd-and-11s and a 3rd-and-19.
 
Wentz threw an 11-yard TD to Zach Ertz on a 3rd-and-6 in the first quarter, a 59-yard TD to Torrey Smith on a 3rd-and-5 in the first quarter, a 72-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor on a 3rd-and-19 in the third quarter (see Roob's 10 observations).
 
He's the first Eagles QB to throw three TDs on third down in nine years, since Donovan McNabb — who spent some time with Wentz in the locker room after the game — threw TDs to Jason Avant, Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson, also against the Cards, at the Linc on Thanksgiving Day 2008.
 
"It's just guys playing on time, playing in rhythm, and it's something we take pride in," Wentz said. "We put so much extra time into it both in practice and then in the film and meeting rooms as well. I think we're seeing it paying dividends on Sundays."
 
Wentz vowed to get better on third down.

And five games into the season, he's the best in the league.

"This is one of the things that we talk about all spring and summer with him, was the third downs and emphasizing the third downs," Doug Pederson said. "I think the personnel that we have on offense helps that. I think the offensive line protection in some of those areas helps that.
 
"Then, listen, it's a credit to the guys down the field. There were some big plays made today that we expect. We don't want to be in those 3rd-and-long situations, but we do expect to execute that way and hopefully stay on the field."
 
Ertz caught four of Wentz's third-down throws and Agholor caught three, but five different receivers caught at least one, including Marcus Johnson, who converted a 3rd-and-1 with his first career reception.
 
When you're converting clutch third downs with an undrafted free agent who spent last year on the practice squad and had played 23 career snaps on offense before Sunday, you know you have something good going (see rookie report).
 
"Carson's playing at an extremely high level on that (third) down," Ertz said. "He understands the blitzes, he understands where to attack with the ball. We've been really efficient in that regard, and we're real happy with it.
 
"We're understanding where the chains are, we're understanding the down and distances, our O-line is playing great, so we're able to have deeper routes on those plays instead of just check-downs. So we're attacking the defense on those downs and we're not taking them as a disadvantage for us."
 
Let's compare Wentz on third down last year with this year.
 
You won't believe the difference.
 
Last year, he completed 56 percent of his passes on third down with 60 conversions, three touchdowns, five interceptions and a 67.0 passer rating that ranked him 28th of 30 qualifying quarterbacks.
 
This year? Including Sunday, he's hitting on 71 percent of his passes on third down with six TDs, one interception, 30 conversions and a 137.8 passer rating.
 
He will likely be the top-ranked third-down passer in the NFL on Monday morning.
 
Overall, Wentz is now hitting on 62 percent of his passes and throwing for 272 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His passer rating is up to 97.7 (see report card).
 
"He played amazing today," Ertz said. "Obviously, there's plays everyone wants back, but four touchdowns to four different guys is a huge stepping stone.
 
"He's the face of the franchise. As he goes, we go. And the most impressive part is that he's so even keel through the highs and the lows.
 
"We love playing for him. Our offense played at an extremely high level — against a team that's had our number the past couple years and has a really good defense."
 
What about Wentz's only incomplete pass on third down?
 
It came on a 3rd-and-5 early in the third quarter. He had Ertz open but just missed him.
 
"He said he wanted to find a hole and go bury himself in it," Ertz said with a laugh. "But it happens to everybody. Nobody's perfect. I had a drop against the Giants, so we're even now."

Doug Pederson uses last season's losing streak to motivate Eagles

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AP Images

Doug Pederson uses last season's losing streak to motivate Eagles

This time last year? The Eagles actually still had a winning record and were thinking playoffs.
 
Then disaster.
 
The Eagles were 5-4 going into Week 10 a year ago and proceeded to lose their next five games, the first three in blowout fashion.
 
It was the Eagles' longest losing streak since an eight-game streak in 2012, Andy Reid's last year, and third longest since a seven-game streak spanning 1998 and 1999.
 
More importantly, it was the team's longest losing streak that began with a winning record that late in a season since the notorious 1994 collapse in Rich Kotite's final season — a 7-2 start turned into a 7-9 finish.
 
A losing streak like that can either destroy a team's character or make it even stronger.
 
And Doug Pederson knew it could go either way.
 
"I look back at that, and I just kept reminding the team that you put in the hard work and the preparation, and you believe in each other, you believe in yourself, you trust the process, and that's not cliché," he said Friday.
 
"You have to trust what I'm talking about, what the coaches are talking about, and just stick together, and there's no pointing fingers. That's what they did. They hung together."
 
That losing streak began with a home loss to Seattle. Although the final score was 26-15, it was a 26-7 game until a Dorial Green-Beckham touchdown in the final minutes. (Really.)
 
After that came a 27-13 loss to the Packers at the Linc and then the low point, an embarrassing 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati, a game the Eagles trailed 29-0 late in the third quarter.
 
"That was sort of a defining moment at that point," Pederson said. "I guess we were as low as we were going to be as a team and organization coming out of that game. The guys responded well.
 
"(The) messaging was the same. We practiced the same after that. Lot of pride, too. Lot of pride in the coaches. Lot of pride in the players and this organization. …
 
"We needed to change it. We needed to fix it. Even though we didn't win a couple games after that, you saw steady improvement (and then) we figured out a way at the end of the season to win those two games and finish on a high note."
 
The Eagles rebounded to show some fight in close losses to the Redskins and Ravens, then closed out the season with wins over the Giants and the Cowboys. Granted, the Dallas win was over a bunch of scrubs, but after a five-game losing streak, any win was welcome.
 
Pederson said Friday that pushing through that five-game losing streak and coming out and staying together as a team was instrumental in this team's 8-1 start going into Sunday night in Dallas.
 
"I think it directly affects the team this season," he said. "Things happen for a reason, and you learn from them, especially in this business. And really, in life in general. Things happen, and you learn from them. You make the necessary corrections and you move on.
 
"You don't dwell in the past, but you remember, and you reflect from time to time. So I think it's a direct correlation to where the team is today, learning how to finish games and learning how to play together and understanding that they are a good football team."
 
The Eagles are atop every NFL poll these days. They have the NFL's best record and share the longest winning streak with the Saints, and Pederson said it's not always easy for the players to ignore all the praise being lavished on them.
 
"Well, it is hard because the team, rightfully so, is being praised in a lot of areas and they're well deserved of the credit and the praise," he said.
 
"But at the same time, we understand that we can't look past this week. We can't look past this game. It's a division game on the road, national spotlight again. It's two teams that are undefeated in the NFC East. I'd like to say that every game is important, but none more important than the one we're faced with Sunday night."
 
Sunday night starts a very difficult stretch, with four of the next five games on the road and three of those road games against teams with winning records.
 
A year ago, the Eagles were 1-7 on the road, finishing with seven straight losses.
 
This year, they go into AT&T Stadium Sunday 3-1 away from Philly.
 
"Four out of the next five weeks we're traveling, it's kind of like the start of the season," Pederson said.
 
"This is sort of a tough stretch, but at the same time, it's one that we welcome. If we want to separate and become a good football team and a consistent winner in this league, these are the stretches that you have to go through and find ways to win games."

Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

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USA Today Images/AP Images

Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

As we move into Week 11, the Eagles continue to chase several notable milestones, both individually and as a team.

We take a look at Carson Wentz's ongoing streaks, record-setting run defense and Jake Elliott's scoring pace in this week's edition of Eagles Milestone Watch:

• Wentz leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes on top of the 16 he threw last year. Wentz’s 39 TD passes so far are 19th most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first two seasons but only three out of 11th place. At his current pace, he’ll have 55 career TDs by the end of the year, which would be second most in NFL history after two years behind Dan Marino’s 68.

• The Eagles Sunday night will be seeking their eighth straight game with 100 or more rushing yards gained and fewer than 100 rushing yards allowed. That would be the fourth-longest streak in NFL history and the second-longest in the last 50 years, behind only the Steelers’ 10-game streak in 2001. 

• Elliott has scored 75 points in eight games and is on pace for 140 points in just 15 games this year. The NFL rookie scoring record is 150 points, set in 2014 by Eagles kicker Cody Parkey, who's now with the Dolphins.

• The Eagles have scored 26 or more points in seven straight games. If they score 26 against the Cowboys, they would set a franchise record with eighth consecutive games with at least 26 points and share the 14th-longest streak in NFL history.

• If Wentz throws a touchdown against the Cowboys, this would be his 12th straight game with a TD pass. That would be the third-longest streak in Eagles history, behind two Randall Cunningham streaks — 18 games over the 1987 and 1988 seasons and 13 games in 1990. If Wentz throws at least one TD and one or fewer interceptions, he would have 12 straight games with at least one TD and one or no INTs, which would be the 13th-longest streak in NFL history.