Behind his fourth different offensive line in four games and throwing to a bunch of guys Eagles fans couldn’t pick out of a lineup, Carson Wentz still did enough to lead the Eagles to a gutty 25-20 win over the 49ers on Sunday Night Football.
It wasn’t pretty. It was far from perfect.
But Wentz did what he needed to do to ensure that the Eagles picked up their first win of the season and moved into first place in the lowly NFC East.
“Very gutty. He played very well,” Doug Pederson said. “He played inspired and led this football team tonight for the win.
“It might not have been perfect, but he gutted out several plays tonight and my hat’s off to him for just continuing to battle and continuing to stand in there and make some tough throws and some tough decisions. He did a nice job. More importantly, though, this was really a team effort and team win tonight.”
That’s where I might disagree with Pederson. Because, sure, it was a team effort. But the best sign on Sunday night was that their franchise quarterback doesn’t look lost anymore. If the Eagles are going to make a real run in 2020, that’s a vital development.
If you were to judge Wentz’s performance on Sunday Night Football by his stat line, you’d be unimpressed. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 193 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He had a very pedestrian passer rating of 81.4.
But that passer rating doesn’t account for toughness. It doesn’t account for smart decision making and picking up crucial yards on the ground, trusting guys who need name tags and going on 16-play drives uphill through molasses because that’s just what he needed to do.
Remember, heading into the nationally televised game against the 49ers, the stage was set for an epic disaster.
Wentz had already strung together three of the worst starts of his career and now he was going on the road to face a tough defense with just four other true starters on offense left.
Wentz’s offense line on Sunday included a former rugby player at left tackle, an undrafted left guard, a sixth-round right guard and, at times, a fourth-round rookie at right tackle.
And his receiving corps featured three former practice squad players — two were on the practice squad the day before — and one fifth-round pick.
Oh yeah, and he was also without a starting caliber tight end who would have really helped cover up all those receiver injuries.
“We had a game plan ready to go for that style of defense and we expected the guys to step up and make the plays when asked to and that’s what we did,” Wentz said. “For me, as far as my preparation I didn't overthink anything. Guys were there and they're going make the play and I trust them.”
Wentz didn’t try to force plays on Sunday like he had in previous games. At times, that meant throwing the ball away, at times it meant using his legs to pick up yards. He finished with 37 yards on the ground.
Sure, Wentz missed some throws against the 49ers. He lofted a ball to Richard Rodgers down the sideline. He threw a slant to Miles Sanders at his knees. He still missed some routine plays that a franchise quarterback absolutely needs to make in Year 5. No question.
But Wentz made big plays too. He put his head down to move the pile on a sneaky QB sneak. He threw a strike to John Hightower on that 4th-and-4. He released a dime to Travis Fulgham down the left sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.
Did he play like vintage Carson Wentz? Did he play like the guy who once came close to winning a league MVP? Did he even play like the guy who carried the Eagles across the finish line into the playoffs last year?
No, he didn’t.
But after three games where plenty of folks were really starting to question whether or not Wentz was the long-term solution for the Eagles at quarterback, he took a big step in the right direction on Sunday night. He got the Eagles a win and that’s not nothing.