Eagles

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Carson Wentz almost flawless, but officials atrocious

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Carson Wentz almost flawless, but officials atrocious

My thoughts from the Eagles' 28-23 win over the Panthers (see breakdown):

• Carson Wentz took a beating in this game as he was sacked three times and hit several other times.

That didn’t stop him from being nearly flawless (see 10 observations). Despite Wentz's completing just 16 of 30 passes, he was still able to throw for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He found the soft spots in Carolina's defense when he had to, connecting with eight different receivers. 

“We just have a bunch of guys that believe no matter the situation, we can win the ballgame,” Wentz said.

• Fletcher Cox returned after a two-game hiatus with a calf injury. He accounted for two tackles, half a sack, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed (see story)

Cox stated the calf injury never flared up and he gave a lot of credit to the Eagles’ training staff for getting him ready for this game.

• The Eagles’ defense had three official interceptions but should have had six. 

Rodney McLeod told me the Birds knew Carolina wouldn't be able to run the ball on them. That allowed the defense to be more creative on the back end in terms of anticipating and jumping pass routes.

• The officials were absolutely atrocious.The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards, while the Panthers had just one penalty for one yard. 

“We can't control the refs,” Cox said. “We just have to move on and play our game.” 

“Our coaches always tell us don't worry about the dropped flags, just focus and keep being aggressive,” Jalen Mills said. 

Both LeGarrette Blount and Mychal Kendricks informed me they had previously witnessed times in this stadium when the Panthers received a lot of calls. 

Luckily for the Eagles, it didn’t work this time.

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

usa-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

Remember when the Eagles lost Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles and plenty of folks thought the season was over? 

Doug Pederson does. 

Sure, this isn't exactly an apples-to-oranges comparison. Losing a left tackle or a middle linebacker or a running back isn't the same thing as losing an MVP-level quarterback entering his prime. It would be unfair to suggest they're the same. 

But Pederson has seen his team hurdle over every obstacle this year. With the biggest one yet now in front of them, it's his job to convince his team they can do it again. 

On Monday, Pederson tried to convince fans who have prematurely canceled Christmas. 

"To the fans out there, you can't lose faith," Pederson said. "This has been a resilient football team all season long. If there's ever an opportunity for me as a head football coach to rally the troops, now might be the time. 

"We just came off a tremendous victory to win the NFC East. Guys are riding extremely high. It's a little bittersweet. But you know what? We've got the Giants this week and we've got an opportunity to ... if you win Sunday, you get a first-round bye. There's still a lot to play for. That's what's exciting about this season. We're still playing for the opportunity to hopefully be in that game."

Pederson, just after delivering news of a torn ACL, was adamant that his team can overcome the loss of Carson Wentz. 

"It sure can," he said. "Heck yeah." 

It won't be easy. Before leaving Sunday's game, Wentz threw his 33rd touchdown pass of the 2017 season, breaking the Eagles' franchise record that had stood since 1961. But more than touchdown passes, Wentz made special plays seemingly every week, plays that only a handful of quarterbacks in the world can make. 

Nick Foles is a pretty adequate backup, and he did a nice job when called upon against the Rams. But he ain't Carson Wentz. Everyone, including his teammates, knows that. 

It's just that they don't have time to wallow in the loss of their superstar leader. Next weekend might be huge. 

A win against the Giants would earn the Eagles a first-round bye. A win against the Giants, paired with a Vikings loss, would earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After another obstacle was dropped in front of them on Monday morning, the Eagles can still help themselves. 

Pederson's role in all this is vital. He has to be the guy to hold it all together.  

"It's huge," he said. "I think even the guys felt it after the game yesterday. We just rally and we support the next guy. From my standpoint, you don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat, you just put your head down and you go to work. You get everybody ready to play. It was evident yesterday when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory in that game. That right there is a great step in the right direction."

How will Eagles' offense change with Nick Foles?

usa-nick-foles-doug-pederson-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

How will Eagles' offense change with Nick Foles?

There aren't many teams that have a backup quarterback who's been a Pro Bowl MVP, tied an NFL record for touchdowns in a game and has his cleats in a display case at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Doug Pederson's message Monday after announcing that Wentz will miss the season was that his loss is a devastating blow to Wentz, but that the Eagles are in terrific shape with Nick Foles taking over for the second-year pro.

"The reason we went out and got Nick Foles was reasons like this, situations like this," Pederson said after learning that there's no hope for Wentz's return to action this year.

"I'm excited for Nick. I hate it for Carson, I hate it for the season that he's been having, but at the same time it's the next-man-up mentality, and that's how we approach it this week."

Wentz suffered a torn ACL in his left knee Sunday night against the Rams and will need surgery.

Pederson wouldn't speculate on when Wentz would return to football activities, but for Foles, it's a chance to start for the Eagles for the first time since the first eight weeks of 2014.

"Nick has played a ton of football," Pederson said. "I was here when we drafted him (in 2012). We drafted him for a reason. Then we went out and got him again this offseason for a reason.

"You never want it to be under these circumstances but at the same time, my confidence is extremely high in Nick. You saw what he did in the game last night. The big 3rd-and-8 (conversion) to Nelson (Agholor).

"People ask me, 'Why did you throw the ball?' Because I've got confidence in Nick, I've got confidence in the guys, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm going to be aggressive."

Of the nine current backup quarterbacks who've started at least 30 games in the NFL, Foles' .556 career winning percentage is highest.

"It's huge, it's huge," Pederson said. "I love to be 11-2 and everything is great but at the same time I know and I think everybody in this room knows and everybody out there knows if you don't have a backup quarterback who's played and had snaps in this league, it's tough to continue the things that you've done, the things you've built this season. Nick is very capable of getting the job done."

Pederson said he won't have to change the offense very much to accommodate Foles, who is now in his fifth year under Pederson in the last six years.

The only year they weren't together was 2015, when Foles had his worst year ever with the Rams.

Pederson said he'll take input from Foles during preparation just like he took input from Wentz.

"He's a veteran player who's played and he's won a lot of games, not only here but in other places he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player, he's smart … and he and I will continue to dialogue like Carson and I did during the week.

"I want to make sure there are plays in the plan that he likes and I want him to speak his mind like Carson would, and we keep going. This is a veteran player we're talking about, so I feel comfortable doing that.

"I've known him for a lot of years and we're going to continue to have the same communication that Carson and I had during the weeks, and Carson is going to play a bit part of helping Nick get ready too. Not much going forward is going to have to change."