CHARLOTTE — This one meant more to Carson Wentz. Because of how many challenges he overcame. And how many challenges the Eagles overcame.
Wentz led the Eagles to their fourth straight win Thursday night, and nothing came easy for him in the 28-23 win over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium (see observations).
Wentz got hit. Wentz got sacked. There were drops. There were penalties. There was a short week, a deafening hostile crowd, and, yes, there were officials who did not seem very interested in seeing the Eagles win (see story).
You name it, the Eagles were up against it. You name it, Wentz overcame it.
"It feels good, and I think it says a lot about the guys in this locker room. We stayed together the whole game," he said. "They did some good things defensively, some different pressure looks that we haven't seen.
"That's tough on a short week, but we found a way to win a close ballgame, and that's ultimately what we struggled with last year, winning on the road and winning close ballgames. We've done that successfully these first six games."
Wentz got battered early, got his sea legs in the second half and finished strong.
He completed only 16 of 30 passes — just 53 percent — but threw three touchdowns and had no interceptions, and made big throw after big throw in the second half as the Eagles warded off every Panthers' comeback bid.
The Eagles scored on three of their first four second-half drives, including a third-quarter TD drive in which Wentz was 5 for 5 for 90 yards and overcame a 2nd-and-25 and a 3rd-and-16.
"That was huge," Wentz said. "That was a huge drive. You never want to be in 3rd-and-16 and Carolina ... made it tough on us, but we found a way to convert that one and then had the big play shortly thereafter (37 yards to Alshon Jeffery) and just kept our foot on the gas and found a way to get in the endzone there."
That TD gave the Eagles a 12-point lead, and Wentz capped it with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor.
"That's the one thing about this kid — he's so tough mentally and physically," Pederson said. "He just stays in there and battles and still, his eyes are down the field. He doesn't let (getting hit) get to him.
"He's a great leader of this football team even in his second year. Guys really respect the way he plays. It's exciting to see from your quarterback."
Wentz just keeps getting better, and it's easy to forget that he's only 22 games into his NFL career.
"He is a big quarterback, and he is fearless," Panthers cornerback James Bradberry said. "I saw him take on one of our linebackers and a safety down there by the goal line. You could tell he was trying to will his team to win."
These last two weeks, Wentz has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception. He threw 16 TDs all last year.
He's fashioned a passer rating of 90 or higher in four straight games — only two shy of the franchise record — and his 99.6 passer rating is eighth-highest in the league.
Wentz has a game in hand but is now tied with Aaron Rodgers with an NFL-best 13 touchdown passes. He had 16 all last year.
The last two weeks, Wentz has blossomed. He's got seven TDs, one interception, 526 passing yards and passer ratings of 128.3 and 110.7.
The Eagles are 5-1, winners of four straight, and their 24-year-old quarterback is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Wentz has won games before, but this felt different. This felt like a young player genuinely elevating himself into the pantheon of elite NFL QBs.
"You saw glimpses of it when he was in college, obviously, with the championships and the success that he had," Pederson said. "You just look at his whole sports life and the success he's had — you just never know though until you get them in your building and you start coaching them to see exactly what you've got.
"That goes with any player, but the quarterback position is so important in this league and that's one position that you've got to get right and he's the right player for the Philadephia Eagles."
With his win Thursday night, Wentz improved to 12-10 in his career (and 7-1 in his last eight starts). One more win ties Donovan McNabb for most wins by an Eagles quarterback in his first two years in the league.
With 10 games to go.
McNabb is the greatest quarterback in Eagles' history, but after the Eagles beat the Cards at the Linc five days ago, he said he won't have any team records left in a decade.
"He's going to break all of them," McNabb said.
Wentz and his teammates aren't due back to the NovaCare Complex until Tuesday, so they have a few days to actually enjoy this one before starting preparations for the Redskins.
"It feels great," Wentz said. "That was a hard-fought win. On the road, on a short week, on primetime TV. So to come out of it 5-1 and to know that we're at home the next couple of weeks, that's big for us."