Eagles

Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

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Carson Wentz on verge of breaking NFL's oldest team TD record

When Sonny Jurgensen threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles in 1961, it was historic stuff. He tied the NFL record for TDs in a season — set two years earlier by the Colts’ Johnny Unitas — and broke the Eagles' record of 25, set in 1948 by Tommy Thompson during the Eagles' first championship season.

Nobody realized back then — 56 years ago — just how historic Jurgensen’s season was.

Because that franchise record for touchdown passes that Jurgensen set in 1961? It still stands.

Jurgensen, now 83 years old and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has over the last half-century taken on all challengers to his Eagles TD passing record.

Norm Snead, Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Nick Foles all went after Jurgensen. 

All failed.  

As Carson Wentz becomes the latest to challenge Jurgensen’s mark, this a great chance to put into perspective just exactly what Christian Adolph "Sonny" Jurgensen III accomplished back in 1961 and marvel at just how long his record has stood.

Jurgensen, the Eagles' fourth-round draft pick out of Duke in 1957, barely played his first four years. He backed up Bobby Thomason as a rookie, although he did go 3-1 in four starts, and then he backed up Hall of Famer Norm Van Brocklin in 1958, 1959 and in the 1960 NFL Championship season.

Van Brocklin retired after the 1960 season, and Jurgensen had instant success in 1961, quarterbacking the Eagles to a 10-4 record, setting an NFL record with 3,723 passing yards (in just 14 games) and also leading the league with both 32 TDs and 24 interceptions.

Jurgensen is best-known for his 11 seasons with the Redskins, but 56 years after he threw 32 touchdown passes for the Eagles, that record still stands.

The Eagles and Oilers/Titans have the oldest TD pass records in the NFL. George Blanda threw 36 touchdown passes for the Oilers in 1961. They were in the AFL at the time, but when the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, all AFL stats became NFL stats.

Wentz is the latest Eagles quarterback to challenge Jurgensen but definitely not the first.

In 1967, Snead — who the Eagles acquired from the Redskins in 1964 in the ill-fated trade that sent Jurgensen to Washington — threw 29 TDs in 14 games. Snead had three games with four touchdowns and three more with three touchdowns, but in the Eagles' eight other games he had only eight TD passes and was never really in a position to make a run at Jurgensen's mark. Interestingly, that was the only season Snead had more than 19 TD passes as an Eagle.

In 1980, Jaworski was on pace for 33 touchdown passes after 11 games. He had 23 touchdowns with five games to go but threw only four in the Eagles' last five games and finished with 27. Jaws had only one other year in his career with more than 20 TDs — 23 in 1981.

In 1990, Cunningham became the first Eagle since Jurgensen with 30 touchdown passes in a season. He had 26 with three games to go but threw only four the last three games of the season and fell two short of Jurgensen. That was Randall's only season with more than 24 TD passes until he revived his career in Minnesota.

McNabb was on pace to break Jurgensen's mark in 2004. After throwing five TDs against the Packers in early December, he had 28 TD passes with four games to go. But he had only one each the next two games, then — with the Eagles already clinching the No. 1 seed — he threw only three passes (with one TD) the last two weeks of the season and finished with 31. He never came close again.

Foles threw 27 touchdowns in 2013, but he didn't start until Week 6. If he played the whole season? He may have thrown 40. But he didn't.

Which brings us to Wentz.

With four games left, the 24-year-old has 29 touchdown passes, most in the NFL and already the fourth-most in Eagles history behind Jurgensen, McNabb in 2004 and Randall in 1990.

Wentz has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 12 games the Eagles have played. He's the only NFL QB to throw at least one TD in all 12 games this year.

With the Rams, Giants, Raiders and Cowboys left on the schedule, Wentz needs just three touchdowns to tie Jurgensen and four to pass him. Considering that Wentz is averaging 2.4 touchdown passes per game, the record should finally fall.

But it probably should have fallen a few other times.

More than half a century after he last played for the Eagles, Jurgensen keeps finding ways to cling to his record.

Wentz has had a remarkable year, maybe an MVP year, and it looks like the record will soon be his. But Jurgensen has been incredibly resilient. The Red Roach has protected his record for 55 years. Can he do it again?

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

LOS ANGELES — He went in to play for one team that gave up on him against another team that gave up on him.

Such is life in the NFL as a backup quarterback.

Nick Foles, now 28 years old and in his sixth NFL season, relieved an injured Carson Wentz Sunday night at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives as the Eagles rallied past the Rams, 43-35, at L.A. Memorial Coliseum (see breakdown).

“He was unbelievable," tight end Trey Burton said. "He stepped in there and led us and took us where we needed to be.

"He’s an unbelievable quarterback. A lot of people sometimes might forget about that, but he’s won a lot of games and he’s set a lot of records."

Although there was no word from the Eagles, team officials believe Wentz has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which would presumably end his season.

If that's the case, the 11-2 Eagles would go into the playoffs with Foles at quarterback.

“I’m absolutely ready," Foles said. "That’s why I’m here. I’m ready to go. Prepare every day, work every day, ready to go if need be. That’s my job. That’s why they brought me here."

Foles didn't exactly light up the Rams, but also, in his first extended playing time in more than 13 months, he didn't make any mistakes and made a few big throws under pressure.

He entered the game with the Eagles trailing 35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives — the second after a takeaway deep in Rams territory.

But his biggest play was a nine-yard completion to Nelson Agholor on a 3rd-and-8 with 1:52 left that enabled the Eagles to run out all but the last few seconds on the clock.

“They went two-man coverage and it was 1-on-1 inside, and Nelson did a great job of getting off his defender," Foles said.

"I threw it away from his defender, and he did a great job catching it and getting the first down and it allowed us to run a lot of the clock out, which was big."

Head coach Doug Pederson, who was Foles' position coach with the Eagles in 2013 and his offensive coordinator in K.C. last year, showed a tremendous amount of confidence in Foles on that third and long.

“I want the ball in my hands," Foles said. "I love throwing the ball. I love having the ball in my hands, making decisions.

"It’s one of those situations where, 'Hey, if it’s not there you either run (or) just don’t make it worse,' and Nelson did a great job. Coach Pederson showed a lot of confidence in me, and he knows I can go out there and play."

Foles led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2013 with a record-setting Pro Bowl season then went 6-2 in 2014 before getting hurt. He had a dismal 2015 with the Rams and then spent 2016 with the Chiefs before returning to the Eagles this past offseason.

Talk about full circle.

“It’s odd. It’s kind of crazy. But it’s one of those things you don’t really think too much about though," he said.

"You’re really just focusing on getting a 'W' and we did. A big one on the road."

The Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East title for the first time since 2013, Foles' big season.

"Hell of a job by Nick coming in and making plays when we needed it," Lane Johnson said.

"Nick’s a pretty good quarterback. People have forgotten the year he had a few years ago. Nick works his tail off, so I was confident he would do just fine. He was calm. Same Nick he’s always been."

Foles' numbers Sunday were modest: 6 for 10 for 42 yards plus a nine-yard scramble.

But he did exactly what he had to do (see observations).

"He prepares, he's had success before in this league as a quarterback," Malcolm Jenkins said. "We understand he's not Carson Wentz and there are some things he can't do that Carson can do, so we'll use common sense with that, but I think everybody feels good about him throwing the ball.

"That throw to [Agholor], that's a dangerous throw, but he put the ball right where it was supposed to be and allowed his receiver to make a play at a crucial point in the game. We've got a lot of faith in Nick, and we're going to lean heavily on him if Carson isn't out there."

Foles is 20-16 in his career as a starter and 15-9 as the Eagles' starter. Sunday in L.A. was his first extended playing time in an Eagles uniform in more than three years — since he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone injury in Houston midway through the 2014 season.

"I love it," Doug Pederson said. "This guy’s come in, he’s played a lot of football games in this league. He’s started in this league. Guys have confidence in him. I have confidence in him.

"Great way to step in under these circumstances and pull this game out. It’s huge for Nick."

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — With a heavy black brace around his left knee, Carson Wentz hobbled through the postgame buffet line in the bowels of the LA Memorial Coliseum, just outside of the cramped visitor locker room.

Wearing black shorts, a black hat, a black long-sleeve AO1 shirt and headphones hanging around his neck, Wentz used a big metal spoon to scoop some catered Mexican food into a bowl.

From there, he settled himself on the back of a motorized cart that took him outside the stadium into the cooling L.A. night. He then hobbled his way again, this time from the cart, onto the team bus and out of sight.

Of course, he walked. That's just what Carson Wentz does.

After the Eagles' NFC East-clinching 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown), Wentz will fly back to Philadelphia with the rest of the team. Call it a 4 1/2 hour prayer session. Because Monday he'll get an MRI on his left knee. The Eagles fear he's torn it, a team source confirmed (see story).

Wentz left Sunday's game in the third quarter. He injured his left knee on a play where he scrambled and dove head-first into the end zone for a touchdown that was called back because of a holding call. 

Then he stayed in the game.

Wentz very well might have been standing on a torn ACL, but he stayed in the game for four more plays.

"It shows how tough he is, man," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Shows how much this stuff means to him. Football means the world to him. He's a fighter. Moving forward, whatever the situation is, he's going to fight." 

Wentz's last play of the game — and possibly his MVP-like season — was a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

It was his 33rd touchdown pass of the season, breaking the Eagles' single-season record. The record had stood since 1961.

"Carson's a hell of a player," Jeffery said. "A hell of a competitor. He's our MVP."

Several of Wentz's offensive teammates thought there was a chance he was hurt. After all, he did take a tough shot on that diving play. But Wentz didn't speak a word about it in the huddle. Some of his teammates didn't even realize he might have a significant injury until he made the long walk of about 110 yards from the sideline to the tunnel.

The play where the injury came is a pretty typical Wentz play. He gave up his body to try to score a touchdown. That's just the way he plays.

"That's one of the things that makes him an incredible player in this league," center Jason Kelce said.

After Wentz went inside, the team almost immediately announced he was out for the game, never a good sign.

"He's the ultimate competitor," safety Rodney McLeod said. "He stayed in strong, threw that pass to Alshon. It was one of the biggest plays of the day. We're going to celebrate. We got the win for him and we're going to move on."

As you might expect, the mood after this game was a little strange. The Eagles won the division, so they celebrated. They beat another NFC contender, so they celebrated. And they own sole possession of the top spot in the conference, so they celebrated. 

But you'll forgive them if the celebration wasn't over the top. Because, sure, they won the game, but they might have lost the heart and soul of their team (see Roob's observations).

"Yeah, it sucks, but there's nothing you can really do about it," Johnson said. "We came into this game hoping to win this game and clinch the division. That part's done. I have the utmost confidence moving forward." 

Head coach Doug Pederson said he had spoken to Wentz after the game. Pederson said Wentz was "fired up" and "excited" about clinching.

Not too long before Wentz hobbled his way to the team busses, he waited at the entrance of the visiting locker room as his comrades bounced inside after clinching the division.

Wentz was there congratulate Nick Foles and the rest of his teammates on the NFC East title.

A little while later, Wentz tweeted how proud he was of his team.

"You see his leadership, man, no matter what," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "He's still going to be the leader of our team. He might not be out there, but he's definitely going to be out there in spirit."