Eagles

Carson Wentz's 'escapability was right on point' in Eagles' preseason opener

Carson Wentz's 'escapability was right on point' in Eagles' preseason opener

How good was Carson Wentz in the Eagles’ first preseason game of 2017? By some measures, the second-year quarterback was perfect.

Wentz completed all four of his pass attempts for 56 yards and a touchdown in his only series of work during a 24-9 loss to the Packers on Thursday (see Instant Replay). That’s an immaculate 100 percent completion rate to go with a sparkling 158.3 passer rating – the highest number possible.

He was only on the field 10 plays total, but Wentz was impressive while leading the Eagles across the goal line with a 38-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins. It was also far from a flawless performance, at least as far as the 24-year-old was concerned.

“I wouldn’t say perfect, first of all,” Wentz said postgame. “It was fun to see that out there. It was fun to get with the ones, to drive down, to score.

“We had a couple sloppy plays there, but we stayed on the field, we converted a couple third downs, a fourth down, and made enough plays there.”

The series was undeniably positive, especially for an Eagles team that found the end zone only four times on its opening drive last season.

“It’s obviously good for that first unit to go down and score like they did, come out and play fast,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s something that’s exciting to know they can do that and score early in games.”

Imperfections aside, that touchdown drive doesn’t happen without the quarterback.

Wentz made a pair of sensational plays during the drive, twice stepping out of sacks to deliver strikes and keep the chains moving.

“His escapability was right on point,” Pederson said. “For a big guy, he’s athletic and can move, and feels the pocket extremely well.” 

It’s an area of Wentz’s game that tends to go overlooked.

Listed at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Wentz is not an easy person to bring down. Just ask Packers outside linebacker and six-time Pro Bowl selection Clay Matthews III, one of the defenders who was left grasping for air during the drive.

Matthews appeared to have the quarterback dead to rights. Wentz walked through the tackle attempt with relative ease.

“It’s always been part of my game,” Wentz said. “Honestly, it’s just instincts. In those situations, it’s instincts that take over.” 

Survival instincts, perhaps.

The Eagles’ offensive line was not at its best in this one. Right guard Brandon Brooks was out with an injury, and the Packers blitz more than most in preseason games, which opponents don’t bother to scheme. This is not an indictment of the O-line.

“You don’t want him moving around quite that much, but I thought he did a nice job,” Pederson said. “He kept his eyes, his vision down field. He was able to avoid the rush, and step up and deliver some nice throws on the run.

“That just shows his athleticism, his strength in the pocket, and we’re excited to see that.”

Wentz survived the onslaught, his best play unquestionably shaking a Matthews sack, then hitting Hollins for the touchdown that would make all the highlight reels.

“It kind of just turned into improvise mode, and Mack made a good play getting open,” Wentz said. “I found him and he did the rest. He had two pretty nasty stiff-arms there to finish off the play.”

Perhaps the moral of the story is Wentz being a lot tougher than he’s given credit for being. It was Hollins who stiff-armed would-be tacklers to the ground, but only after his QB extended the play.

Expect to see more of that.

“Training camp, all offseason, you don’t get touched, guys run by you and yell, ‘Sack,’” Wentz said. “Sometimes, you’re just like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you would’ve got me there, bro.’”

Wentz just proved even a guy like Matthews might not be able to finish him. Add that ability to the Eagles’ arsenal for 2017.

Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

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Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

Hot tempers
The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

Long drive
After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

Deep connection
Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

Kicking woes
The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

Up next
Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."