Eagles

Eagles roll over 49ers despite off day from Carson Wentz

Eagles roll over 49ers despite off day from Carson Wentz

Even when things aren't going smoothly for Carson Wentz, the second-year quarterback keeps finding ways to get the job done.

Wentz played arguably his worst game of the 2017 season Sunday. He missed wide-open receivers. He took sacks. The offense was inconsistent as a whole. And yet the Eagles still managed to defeat the 49ers, 33-10 (see breakdown).

Much like the steady rainfall at Lincoln Financial Field, Wentz's performance wasn't pretty. But it was good enough.

"We were sluggish early on," Wentz said. "(The 49ers) did some good things that kind of limited what we did offensively, and we just had to make some adjustments and stick to our game plan.

“Offensively, I know we have to be better. We have to be better in starting out sluggish like that two straight weeks, and we have to get that cleaned up.”

Wentz completed 18 of 32 passes (56.3 percent) for 211 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for an 84.2 passer rating — one point higher than his lowest mark of the season. We could quibble over which outing is actually the 24-year-old's worst, but this was against a 49ers squad still searching for its first win.

San Francisco was tied at zero or behind 3-0 for almost the entire first half.

"First of all, it's a good defense," coach Doug Pederson said. "They are very active on third down, really active on all downs.

“We didn't execute the protection as well. We got it fixed and were able to kind of hold it and piece it together, but at the same time, we've got to do better in that area.”

Protection was one of the issues. The 49ers blitzed early and often, sending a variety of pressures, some of which the Eagles hadn't seen on film. Wentz was sacked three times, all in the first half, before the offense was able to get it corrected.

The pass rush has become a common theme in the Eagles' slow starts of late, as defenses continue to search for ways to rattle Wentz.

"We're seeing blitz quite a bit," Pederson said. "I think we're probably the No. 1 team, offensively, that's being blitzed in the NFL right now. Teams are just coming after us.

“I don't know if it necessarily disrupted Carson. Obviously, it made him move around a little bit in the game, but later on, we were able to fix the protection.”

Pressure was certainly one aspect, but Wentz also missed the mark at times, including a potential 22-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery late in the first quarter.

Jeffery had his man beat. Wentz's 3rd-and-8 pass was overthrown. And while there was a pass rusher in his face, it's a play that was there to be made.

Fortunately, Wentz doesn't let the occasional misses bother him too much.

"It's a next-play mentality," Wentz said. "When you play this much, you're going to miss some throws. It kind of ticks me off right away, but it's just on to the next.

"I know I still have confidence in myself, coach still has confidence that we'll make the throw the next play. There's a handful of them this afternoon that I definitely wanted back, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Wentz would eventually find Jeffery for their first big hook-up of the season — a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter that helped put the 49ers away (see Roob's observations).

"We've missed a couple of those throughout the season, so when we finally hit that one today, I was super excited because I just have to get that guy a chance to make plays sometimes," Wentz said.

“He went up and got that ball, broke some tackles, got in the end zone, and that's why we brought him here. We brought him here to make those big plays.”

Big plays such as those have helped the Eagles snap out of similar funks at the beginnings of their games against the Redskins and Panthers. The ability to go the distance of the field in a snap demoralizes opponents, as it seemed to the 49ers, who were only down 20-7 at the time.

But the other reason the Eagles have been able to survive slow starts by Wentz and company is the defense. Shortly after the Eagles pulled ahead 9-0 late in the second, it was a Jalen Mills interception and 37-yard return for a touchdown that initially gave the team a commanding lead.

By simply limiting turnovers — just the one interception — Wentz was able to manage the game.

"I think he did a good job as far as not turning the ball over today, and we did a good job as far as causing turnovers today," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We just have to make sure we keep protecting the offense and keep hiding some of the flaws sometimes.

“When we can't get it going (on offense), we have to make sure we get them going by bringing our energy.”

The Eagles' offense was thankful for the bailout.

“It was just really sloppy, probably the sloppiest we've been all year," Johnson said. "Hats off to the defense. They definitely won the game for us.”

Though it rained for much of the contest and the field was wet throughout, Wentz downplayed the conditions as a reason for his struggles, calling the weather a "non-factor." He certainly seemed to be pushing the ball downfield with minimal issues and no noticeable effect (see report card).

It simply wasn't the offense's best game, and while it may have been good enough to beat the 49ers, everybody realizes it might not be enough next week or the week after.

"I'm happy. I'm just disappointed," Johnson said. "Any time the offense doesn't play the way we're capable of, it feels like a loss for us.

“We found a way to win, but just kind of disappointed with how we played today.”

At the same time, the fact the Eagles won without Wentz's completing 70 percent of his passes, throwing for over 300 yards or scoring four touchdowns was a positive. It was proof this team is more than just its quarterback and is capable of winning even when Wentz doesn't have his best day.

“At the end of the day, if the quarterback, in Carson's case, doesn't have the numbers but we win, I'd rather have the win," Pederson said. "We can fix the other and get better, and move on to next week.”

Wentz is on pace to throw for 4,126 yards, with 38 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and he has the Eagles off to a 7-1 record. I think he's going to be just fine.

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles guard/center Josh Andrews:

Roob: Let's clear the air first. You're definitely not related to Shawn Andrews?

Josh Andrews: No, I'm not. No relation to Shawn Andrews at all.

Roob: So that's one positive. Do you get that a lot?

Andrews: I've got it a few times now, but no relation.

Roob: Alright well that's good to know. Now, you've got a really interesting story. You've been here four years now. Talk about when you came here in '14, were there a lot of teams trying to sign you out of Oregon State? How did that whole thing go?

Andrews: Went undrafted, about three teams tried to grab me, but felt like the best fit was for the Eagles and I've been here ever since.

Roob: It's really crazy because obviously, they like you. Obviously, Chip (Kelly) liked you. Obviously, Doug (Pederson) likes you. But you haven't had a chance to play. How do you balance being here, preparing like you're gonna play every week and not having gotten that chance yet?

Andrews: Just gotta have that mindset to get ready every week. That's how I've been since I've been here. My time is coming, I just gotta wait and do what's best for this team right now and keep us winning.

Roob: Now there was a really interesting thing on Tuesday, Jim Schwartz, without prompting, I don't know if you heard about this, he mentioned you as far as talking about how guys on the offense help the defense prepare. And he mentioned that you'll go to him and say, 'Hey we're figuring this out in running scout team.' Because you run scout team center or guard, I guess mainly center I would think. That's kind of unusual for a defensive coordinator to mention a scout team offensive lineman. What do you bring to him? What do you see from the first defense that can maybe help?

Andrews: Just blocking schemes you know, the way that they're ran. Say if (Fletcher Cox) needs help with something I'll be like 'I think this is the best way to go.' And it's been working. They've been getting home a lot this season and it's really been paying off for our defense.

Roob: How hard is it to not play?

Andrews: Man, it's tough. It's really tough. But just gotta keep going. I love playing this sport and I will continue as long as I can. 

Roob: I remember there was one game, I think it was 2015, where somebody got hurt and you ran on the field and then they didn't leave the game. 

Andrews: Oh yeah, that was against the Cowboys in 2015. Lane (Johnson) got hurt, pretty sure it was Lane. And I was about to go in and then he came back on the field. I was like, 'Ah man, that was my shot.' But, I gotta keep positive. Gotta keep that positive mindset. That's how I've been ever since I've been here.

Roob: Now you've actually been here longer than most of the team. (Jason) Kelce's a guy who's been here your whole time. What have you learned from being around him, watching him play, watching him practice?

Andrews: He's such a smart guy man. On the field, the way he just commands attention, the way he commands the offensive line is just impressive to see. I try to mimic that every time I step on the field. I've learned so much from him over these past four years and he's just a great player to learn from and be under. 

Roob: Now preseason games I guess are like your Super Bowl now, right? Cause that's your chance to play. What do those games mean to you? You're not playing a lot. A few of them you're playing a lot. But what does it mean to get out there and have a chance to play?

Andrews: It's gold man. That's everything for me right now. When I get a chance to get on that field, I give it all I got. I've done that ever since I've been here. That's just, like you said, my Super Bowl. Every time I go on that field I give it all I got. 

Roob: What's (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Stoutland meant to you? You've been around him a while now. 

Andrews: Great mentor. Great teacher. He's just been wonderful. He's really hard on us and it's for a good reason, to get us better and get us playing at a high level. That's the way he commands the player and I like that. 

Roob: What's special about this team now? You've been on some good teams and some bad teams since you've been here but you guys are rolling, 8-1, seven-game winning streak going into Dallas Sunday night. What do you like about the kind of vibe in this locker room?

Andrews: The vibe is awesome. Everyone's on the same page. Everyone's with each other. It's been really different from the past three teams I've been on. I feel like we're gonna go far with the team we got right now. 

Roob: Alright last question. Chip Kelly, do you think he's going to take the Florida job?

Andrews: Sheesh, I don't know. We'll see. That's a good question.

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

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USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott — both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.