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."

Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

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Mike Trout predicts Super Bowl pain for Tom Brady

Mike Trout hasn't decided if he will travel to Minneapolis to watch his beloved Eagles play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Trout said he enjoys staying at home and watching the game on television with his family. (There's something cool about that.) He also digs the commercials.

Wherever baseball's best — and highest paid — player decides to watch the game, he will have one important accessory with him: his dog mask. The same one he wore at Lincoln Financial Field during the Eagles' trouncing of the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's NFC Championship Game.

"I will definitely be wearing that dog mask," Trout said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Gotta ride with it."

Eagles tackle Lane Johnson gave Trout the dog mask that has come to symbolize the Eagles' place as an underdog in the playoffs and again in the Super Bowl. The Eagles have come to relish that status.

"A lot of people doubted them," Trout said. "They lost the majority of their captains and starters (to injury), but they're still fighting. Next-man-up mentality."

Even some of Trout's teammates with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doubted the Eagles. But no more.

"They give me grief all the time," Trout said. "Now they're all rooting for them. Throughout the season, there were a lot of ups and downs. But now we're going to the Super Bowl."

Trout, of course, was raised and still lives in Millville, New Jersey, less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia. He grew up a fan of all the Philly teams and, in fact, was in the parking lot outside of Citizens Bank Park celebrating with friends the night the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

Trout, 26, is a season-ticket holder with the Eagles and a close friend and hunting buddy of Carson Wentz. Trout, who saw his first Eagles game back in the Veterans Stadium days, was able to visit with several Eagles players after Sunday's big win over the Vikings.

"I told them to go get it," he said. "Obviously, there hasn't been a Super Bowl champion in Philadelphia. I told them to go get it."

Trout recalled watching Super Bowl XXXIX more than a decade ago. The Patriots beat the Eagles, 24-21, in that one.

Trout sees a different Eagles team in the rematch.

"This team is just a little bit different," he said. "They want to win and it's not just one guy carrying them. Every guy has a part in it."

Trout's buddy, Wentz, won't be playing in the Super Bowl. He may have been on his way to the NFL's MVP award hadn't he been knocked out by a season-ending knee injury in December. Nick Foles has taken over and been at the helm for two playoff wins.

In six spectacular seasons in the majors, Trout has won two American League MVP awards and finished second three times. (That's why he will make $34 million in 2018.) He finished fourth in the voting in 2017 and would have finished higher if he hadn't missed significant time with a thumb injury that required surgery. He feels for Wentz, who has to watch from the sidelines.

"It's definitely difficult," Trout said. "I went through it last year. It's tough for him. I thought he was the MVP. It was hard to watch when he went down. But he's working hard. He's walking. I'm sure he'll be ready for next season.

"What he did on the field this season was amazing, and now Nick has stepped up."

Tuesday's conference call was set up by the Angels' media relations department because of the large demand to speak with Trout, who has emerged as the Eagles' most visible fan, woofing and pumping his fist in triumph with the rest of the fans at the Linc. Trout said he'd never heard the place louder than it was as Patrick Robinson ran back that game-turning pick-six in the first quarter Sunday night.

Philadelphia fans dream of a day when they will be cheering for Trout rounding the bases in a Phillies uniform. He is signed through 2020. His free agency is not that far away.

As always, Trout deflected a question about whether he could see himself playing in Philadelphia someday.

"I'm an Eagles fan," he said. "Obviously, I grew up a Philly sports fan. I love playing in Anaheim. I have a couple more years on my contract. I love Anaheim and the West Coast."

That wasn't exactly a no.

Trout was more direct when asked about what he expected in the Super Bowl.

"It's going to be tough," he said. "Anybody that goes against Tom Brady is going against the best and maybe greatest of all time.

"I still think the Eagles will pull it out and they're going to win, 31-24."

And the decisive play will be?

"An interception of Brady," Trout said.

Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

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Carson Wentz's greatest leadership feat

After the Eagles celebrated their win in the NFC Championship Game, Carson Wentz limped off the field at Lincoln Financial Field with the help of a cane. He wore an Eagles NFC champions hat, T-shirt and a giant smile.  

Wentz didn't get to play Sunday night, but he still played a huge role in the Eagles' getting to the Super Bowl. 

That was the message offensive coordinator Frank Reich tried to get across to Wentz when he had a brief chat with him during the fourth quarter of the blowout win. Wentz was one of the main reasons the Eagles got a chance to play the championship game at the Linc. 

Wentz wasn't just happy for the Eagles on Sunday. He was happy for Nick Foles, the guy who took over for him. 

"To me, one of the greatest things about a person that you can say, is when you see him celebrating somebody else's success," Reich said. "Even when you know it's at the same position. I don't care; human nature tells you that's hard to do. And it's been fun to see those two do that. It's fun to see Carson truly have the maturity to celebrate Nick's success and understanding how he's helping this team, also with the frustration knowing that he wants to be in there." 

For the last couple of games, Wentz has progressed enough in his ACL rehab to be allowed on the sideline during games and that's meant a lot to the Eagles, especially Foles and Nate Sudfeld. The three have spent all year together so it feels more natural to be together during games. 

During Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Wentz was on the sideline but part of him was on the field. The second touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery came on a play Wentz brought with him from North Dakota State. A FOX camera caught his reaction after the score: 

"Every time we score on his play," Reich said, "the smile's gonna light up."

Reich has some experience with watching big moments. Spending most of his career as a backup quarterback, he had to watch Jim Kelly play in big moments and he knows how hard that can be. 

"It's absolutely human to wish you were in there," Reich said. "But the whole key, it's a very fine line. That fine line to me is that you can still not just be happy for the team winning, but to be happy for Nick, who could potentially be stealing another person's thunder. That's the pretty cool thing. Of all the great things he's done this year, (this) even more exemplifies the leader he is."