The numbers are phenomenal. Heck, the numbers are virtually unprecedented. Carson Wentz is piling up stats that virtually no quarterback in NFL history has ever piled up.
This isn’t about the numbers, though. It’s about what happened at the end of the game Sunday and why Wentz fell short. Why the Eagles fell short.
The Eagles’ epic collapse, blowing a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead, certainly isn’t all on Wentz. But his performance down the stretch was disturbing because, with the game on the line, he suddenly lost his magic. And that’s when he needed it the most.
The decisions Wentz made down the stretch were mystifying and alarming. And although his final numbers were magnificent, the outcome was anything but.
The play that really killed the Eagles was Wentz’s decision to force a ball into Alshon Jeffery in double coverage in the end zone on that 3rd-and-2 with 37 seconds left from the 14-yard line when he had Wendell Smallwood wide open in the left flat.
Dump it to Smallwood, who could run out of bounds and stop the clock, and now you have four shots at the end zone from a manageable distance — right around the 10-yard line.
Wentz acknowledged after the game he knew he had a back open and shouldn’t have made the throw. But he did anyway.
This was Wentz trying to be Superman. Trying to do too much. Smallwood and Corey Clement are both capable receivers, but Wentz targetted them just four times on 41 pass plays Sunday.
Nick Foles always spoke about taking whatever the defense gives you, and if that meant 10 straight check-downs, he would trust his reads and throw it to the backs 10 straight times.
With the game on the line, with the season on the line, Wentz chose to throw into double coverage in the end zone instead of taking a high-percentage first-down throw, and if you’re the captain, you’re the leader, you’re the franchise, you’re the MVP, you simply cannot make that decision.
And it wasn’t just the 3rd-and-2. Wentz took a sack earlier in the fourth quarter that turned a 2nd-and-10 into a 3rd-and-18 and killed one drive. Who knows what happened on 1st-and-10 on the final drive, the pass that was nearly intercepted. A miscommunication, but whoever’s fault it was, that can’t happen. Not then, not there. And then the fumble on 4th-and-2? Inexcusable.
Doug Pederson didn’t do Wentz any favors with his play calling. A running attack would have taken some pressure off Wentz down the stretch, but Pederson only called one run on 14 plays on the last three drives — the big Smallwood eight-yarder.
Wentz wants to be the best. He wants to be the best ever. It definitely seems like he tries to do too much in key situations, tries to put the team on his shoulders and be a hero.
And that’s admirable. You want those qualities in a quarterback.
But he has to learn to temper that desire to make the remarkable throw with knowing when to just make the smart throw.
Sometimes, just being good makes more sense than trying to be incredible.
Since coming back from the ACL, he’s completed 71 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns, one interception 300 yards per game.
But he’s also 2-3. And down the stretch, he hasn’t been good enough.
Wentz has the seventh-highest passer rating in the NFL but in the fourth quarter? He has the 23rd-highest.
And on third down in the fourth quarter? He’s 26th.
Wentz is an astonishing talent, and he’s going to win a lot of games for this franchise. He just has to learn how to be as effective in the final seconds, with the game on the line, as he is the rest of the time.
He needs to learn how to finish. Or all the stats and touchdowns and numbers in the world won’t mean a damn thing.
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