All-22 Wake-Up Call: Inside Carson Wentz’s INT

Doug Pederson explains who the rookie should've thrown the ball to.

Nelson Agholor

It took 275 plays, but after four games Carson Wentz finally looked like what everyone expected him to look like: a rookie.

The 23-year-old’s accuracy, arm strength and decision-making helped give him the third-longest streak of passes thrown before an interception to start an NFL career among all quarterbacks. Wentz (134) ranks behind Tom Brady (162) and Dak Prescott (155) and ahead of Warren Moon (131) in that category.

The North Dakota State product completed 25 of his first 32 pass attempts against the Lions for 238 yards, two touchdowns and a 118.5 passer rating. But on the Eagles’ final play of the game, Wentz threw his only interception of the year, sealing Philadelphia’s 24-23 loss in Detroit.

“It’s a teachable moment for him,” Doug Pederson said. “Next time in that situation, he’ll definitely understand what’s going on, I think, and not make those decisions. The one thing about Carson is it’s a short-term mentality. It happens once, he forgets it, he moves on and that’s what we got to do in this situation and get ready for this week.”

THE PLAY

With the game on the line, the Eagles started the drive on their 25-yard-line with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. They didn’t have any timeouts, but Caleb Sturgis had made all three of his field goals that day, including a 50-yarder, so they had plenty of time to get into field goal range.

The Eagles came out in a trips right shotgun formation with 11 personnel. Josh Huff was the lone receiver on the left side of the field, while Zach Ertz, Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor (from inside out) were on the right side. Darren Sproles was to Wentz’s right in the backfield.

According to Pederson, Matthews, who ran a shallow crossing route over the middle, was Wentz’s first read. Ertz, who ran an intermediate basic route, was Wentz’s second read. Sproles, who ran to the flat, was Wentz’s third read. Agholor, meanwhile, ran a post route that was “alerted” based off of the coverage. Huff ran a simple go route on the boundary side of the field.

Wentz's INT

The Lions showed a pre-snap look of cover-2 man — two safeties splitting the deep part of the field in half in zone coverage with man-to-man coverage underneath. But once the ball was snapped, the Lions transitioned to cover-1 robber by having their free safety drop down and roam the middle of the field while the strong safety patrolled the deep part of the field by himself.

“It was something that we had seen from them out of the first half at the end from their two-minute drives, one of the coverages, so it was kind of an alert I had breaking the huddle,” Wentz said. “You always want to get the drive started on the right foot, especially in those situations, but the coverage kind of dictated that.”

After the ball was snapped, it appeared Matthews was open for a quick, short gain over the middle. However, the robber safety dropped down to take away Ertz after that once Wentz declined to throw the ball to Matthews. Wentz felt pressure on his backside, which caused him to drop back further and to the right soon after the snap, potentially affecting where he thought he could throw the ball.

After going through the beginning of his progression, Wentz located Agholor running a post route deep down the field. However, Wentz threw too far outside and Agholor was unable to prevent Lions cornerback Darius Slay from coming down with the ball.

“One, from a quarterback’s standpoint, late down the middle obviously is not a good thing,” Pederson said. “That goes all the way back to my days in Green Bay with Brett Favre talking about that kind of stuff and those are things you learn.

“The second thing is when the ball goes up, it’s our ball or nobody’s ball. That’s the mentality. That’s the mindset. That’s what we coach. That’s what we teach. And just being able to track the football. Nelson had an opportunity to make a play there from where the ball was thrown. It was slightly outside — you know, it was a deep throw. But typically it’s either our ball or nobody’s ball.”

Slay said after the game he was surprised Wentz threw the pass, while Pederson noted Wentz should’ve thrown the ball to Matthews. Agholor added that if he would’ve located the pass better, he could’ve given himself a better chance to battle Slay for the ball.

Still, Pederson quickly brushed off the notion that Wentz was being too aggressive or that he needed to rein in his quarterback at all.

“Listen, this is his fourth start,” Pederson said. “We’re beating him up over his fourth NFL start and he did some great things in this football game.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles worked out three linebackers yesterday.

“That was one of the things I wanted to make sure this morning that I was correct and accurate in that ruling.” Doug Pederson thinks the Lions should not have been awarded Ryan Mathews’ fumble late in Sunday’s loss to Detroit.

“If we don’t make the mistakes that we made and don’t play as sloppy as we played, we don’t lose this game.” Disappointment all around the Eagles after their one-point loss to the Lions.

Two late turnovers, the first turnovers of the season, were big reasons the Eagles lost Sunday afternoon.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Due to a heavy workload early on defense, Doug Pederson decided to rotate his linebackers, pens Zach Berman of the Inquirer.

Coach Doug Pederson said Monday that the Eagles rotated the linebackers then because of the heavy workload the players endured in the first half of the game, when the Lions put together three long drives and had the ball for nearly 18 of the 30 minutes. Mychal Kendricks and Stephen Tulloch played in place of [Nigel] Bradham and [Jordan] Hicks.

“If you saw the third series of the game, it was a 14-play drive [with] 12 total plays,” Pederson said. “. . . The defense had previously been on the field 22 plays. Basically . . . we just needed to give guys a break, just to give them a blow. It was a long first half for our defense staying on the field.”

Bradham played 22 of 32 defensive plays in the first half – he just didn’t play in nickel and dime packages on the third series. Pederson said Bradham was not being punished for his arrest during the bye week.

Pederson also said this loss won’t change the way the Eagles look at the rest of their season, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.

“This is a different football team than a year ago,” Doug Pederson said Monday.

In what could be perceived as a mild dig at his predecessor, Chip Kelly.

“I think it just shows the character of this football team and where we are from even a year ago,” Pederson said Monday. “I think this team a year ago, it got out of hand and it got blown out. This group didn’t do that yesterday.

“This group was resilient, this group battled. Sideline was calm, they were, ‘Whatever adversity comes our way, we were going to overcome it.’ Like that two-minute drive before the end of the half. Overcame that. It’s a sign of a good football team.”

Kelly’s Eagles got blown out twice in five days last November, 45-17 to the Buccaneers and 45-14 to the Lions on Thanksgiving. That made them only the eighth team in the last 27 years to allow 45 or more points in consecutive games.

COMING UP

We’ll have more from Sunday’s game.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.