CHICAGO — He did it again. Carson Wentz made history, the Eagles improved to 2-0, the defense wrecked Jay Cutler and for the second week in a row, this is a happy version of Roob's 10 observations after a 29-14 win over the Bears on Monday night (see Instant Replay).
We've got lots of Wentz along with some Trey Burton, some Brandon Graham, some Jalen Mills, some Doug Pederson and much, much more.
Is this crazy, or what?
1. Last week, Wentz faced some challenges he’d never faced — his first NFL game, his first game with Jordan Matthews, his first game after missing a month of the preseason. He handled those challenges brilliantly. This week’s challenges were just as formidable. First night game. First road game. First national TV game. And he handled this set of challenges just as brilliantly. It’s only two games and you don’t want to get carried away, but Wentz so far has been nothing short of masterful. He followed his near perfect debut against the Browns with what may have been an even more impressive performance, considering it was Monday Night Football — where rookies were 1-15 on the road over the last 20 years — and the opponent had a more highly regarded defense. But there he was again, making perfect throws, perfect decisions, perfect reads. Forget the final numbers — which were fine. This is about a young quarterback in his second NFL game, who once again played mistake-free football, commanded the game, didn’t force anything and became only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to open up his career with wins in Week 1 and Week 2 of his rookie year. Really, it’s scary how good this kid is (see story).
2A. Here’s my best Wentz stat for you: He became the first quarterback in NFL history to win both starts the first two weeks of his rookie year and throw at least one touchdown with no interceptions in both games. Has never been done before. By anybody.
2B. One more: Wentz is only the fourth rookie quarterback in NFL history to be 2-0 two weeks into a season. The first since ... Mark Sanchez!
3. And two games in, wow, this defense has sure exceeded expectations. It's been extraordinary. We all thought it'd be better, but two games in, the Eagles have allowed 17 points, have six sacks, forced four turnovers and have yet to give up 300 yards. They’ve allowed only three second-half points. It’s all started with this dominating front, but the linebackers and secondary have both been better than expected. Best of all, this is a unit that in both games has gotten stronger as the game’s gone on. Amazing what happens when you don’t have to play 38 minutes a game. This defense took the fight out of the Bears Monday night and it did it on national TV and it did it in the Bears’ own stadium before their own fans. This was tremendous stuff.
4. I’ve been clear about just how much I like Matthews’ game. He’s a class act with a bright future. Blah, blah, blah. But goodness gracious, you can’t let that ball go through your hands. You just can’t. It was just before halftime, Eagles had a 2nd-and-10 on the Bears’ 35, and Wentz tossed maybe the best pass of his short career, an absolute thing of beauty that led Matthews perfectly into the left near corner of the end zone. It sailed right through Matthews' hands, and the Eagles had to settle for a 53-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal. Matthews has a chance to be a special player, but the drops have to stop. Especially ones that are so damaging. Matthews has to be better than that.
5. With Zach Ertz out, Burton became a real key guy, and the rarely-used third tight end came up huge with five catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. Burton came into the game with three catches in his career. Burton does not give you much on the line of scrimmage, but I have never seen him drop a pass. Ever. Anywhere. In practice, in a game, during warmups. I’ve been championing this kid for three years. He finally got his opportunity, and boy did he make the most of it.
6. I’ve been hard on Jason Kelce lately, and he struggled again Monday. I’ve seen Kelce play at such a high level, but it’s been a while. He struggled last year and he hasn’t regained his form yet. I think we’re at the point where it’s fair to wonder if Jeff Stoutland is going to give Stefen Wisniewski or Isaac Seumalo a shot. It’s too early now. But something to keep an eye on.
7. That said, I do like what I’ve seen so far from Jason Peters, who also had a down year last season. Peters may not be the best left tackle in the game anymore but he’s been very good so far, and that’s awfully encouraging.
8. I know everybody was down on Mills after he gave up a big pass play to Alshon Jeffery and then missed a tackle on Eddie Royal. But keep this in mind: Mills is a 22-year-old rookie who was playing in his second NFL game and his first with meaningful minutes. And he was covering a Pro Bowl receiver. After those first two gaffes, Mills was very good. Jeffery was only 2-for-23 in the second half and Mills had a lot to do with that. One thing I’ve learned about Mills is that he will keep fighting and keep battling. I’ve never seen any cornerback not give up a play here and there. A 22-year-old on Monday Night Football getting his first significant NFL minutes and facing a dangerous 6-4 wideout is not going to be perfect. For me, it’s about how Mills battled and how he rebounded. He did both of those things. He’s going to be a very good player.
9. Not just the interception Monday night, but Nigel Bradham has quietly strung together two very effective games. I really wondered about him after training camp, but he’s been solid so far both when he drops back into coverage and against the run.
10. Finally, props to Pederson, who has coached masterfully two weeks in a row as a rookie head coach. I like how Pederson threw early to build up a lead — the Eagles had 26 pass plays and nine rushing plays in the first half — then hammered the running game late to hold the lead and work the clock. Second half, the Eagles had 17 running plays and eight pass plays. Pederson so far has shown a real flair for calling a game.