Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz Got The Help He Needed
Carson Wentz played his worst game of the 2016 season against the Vikings.
The rookie quarterback threw two interceptions and lost a fumble within the first eight minutes of the game. He forced balls into coverage, struggled to make accurate throws, and failed to see wide open targets running down the field. Despite all of this, however, the Eagles still managed to beat the only undefeated team in the NFL.
This week’s win was a sharp contrast from Philadelphia’s defeat in Washington last Sunday. In that game, Wentz simply didn’t get the help he needed. His protection was poor. Washington sacked him on five occasions and hit him 11 times. This week, Wentz didn’t take a single sack and he only got hit twice. The Eagles’ offensive line really came up big against a Vikings team that was leading the NFL in sacks per game at 3.8.
The Eagles’ defense stepped up their performance from last week as well. After allowing 27 points and 493 yards of total offense in Week 6, Jim Schwartz’s unit got back on track with a dominating effort on Sunday. Philadelphia’s defense generated a pass rush that bothered Sam Bradford all day long. The former Eagles quarterback was sacked six times and hit 16 times.
Wentz’s struggles obviously aren’t ideal for the Eagles, but at least the team proved they’re capable of helping their rookie out. Despite his sensational start to this season, the Eagles can’t realistically expect their 23-year-old signal caller to carry them to victory every week. Especially when he’s facing the best defense in the entire league. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he was proud of the way Wentz settled in despite a rough start.
“I thought Carson, overall, played well, played efficient, made some good throws,” said Pederson. “Obviously, I thought he forced a few early with a couple of those picks. But really settled in and managed the game.”
“On the run game, we had some checks for him and some different things, and he managed that extremely well. That’s just the type of kid he is. He seems to get better each and every week. I don’t want to overload him, obviously. I think he’s in a good spot mentally with the offense, and we’ve just got to keep building on what we’ve begun with him.”
The Eagles’ rushing attack didn’t go wild in this game, which was to be expected against Mike Zimmer’s defense, but it was efficient enough. Eagles running backs combined for 95 yards on 21 carries (4.5 yards per attempt).
Though he struggled moving the ball through the air at times, Wentz still found a way to contribute with his legs. The Eagles relied on him on their two-point conversion to give the Birds an 8-3 lead. Wentz also made up for bobbling a snap on a fourth-down conversion by running the ball for a first down. The rookie only finished with six rushing yards but the stats don’t show how useful his mobility can be.
It goes without saying that the Eagles will need Wentz to be better moving forward. It’ll be hard to win games like this on a weekly basis. This game was a learning experience for the rookie quarterback. Wentz said knowing he can bounce back from a bad start gives him confidence in the future.
“I guess you could say that,” he said. “I’ve always been a short-term memory guy. It’s football. You’re going to make mistakes. Those things are going to happen. We have to clean some things up. I think we had four turnovers today. That’s never good. You usually don’t win too many games when you do that, but our defense played unbelievable and kept us in the ball game.”
The good news for Wentz is that he won’t have to face a top defense every week. Minnesota was leading the league in interceptions heading into this game with seven through five games. Now they’re up to nine through six.
With that said, the pressure is still on the rookie quarterback to quickly cut down on his mistakes. The Birds have a two big division games coming up, starting with an Eagles-Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football this week. Wentz will reportedly face off against fellow rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who has been great for the Cowboys.
WHAT YOU MISSED
10 things we learned from the Eagles’ 21-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Instant Observations from the team’s fourth win of the regular season.
In case you missed any of the game, check out our updates from Sunday.
Bennie Logan sat out with a groin injury he suffered last week against the Redskins and might be out next week against the Cowboys.
The Eagles are now 3-2 when they wear their all-black uniforms.
Take a look at this week’s picks against the spread.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jim Schwartz dialed up the blitzes in the win over the Vikings, writes Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.
One of the popular story lines this past week was whether [Sam] Bradford or the Eagles defense would have an advantage based on familiarity. There’s a flip side to every coin, but it was clear that Schwartz and his group had a bead on the quarterback after a full offseason of practicing against each other.
A few zone blitzes, in particular, had given Bradford difficulty during training camp, and Schwartz made sure to bring those pressures early.
“We knew traps would give him trouble,” Eagles defensive end Connor Barwin said. “We knew when he gets pressure he likes to get the ball outside right away.”
Most of the early heat came from the ends, though. A Carson Wentz interception – his first of two first-quarter picks – gave the Vikings the ball on the Eagles 2. But on third down and goal, defensive end Brandon Graham bull-rushed past right tackle T.J. Clemmings and hit Bradford as he threw. The ball floated in the end zone and Rodney McLeod snatched his third interception of the season.
Josh Huff‘s kick return helped jump start the Eagles to victory, pens CSNPhilly.com’s Dave Zangaro.
Huff said he knew he was scoring as soon as he saw that he had just the kicker to beat.
With the Eagles’ down 3-0 and with their offense sputtering through the first quarter and change, Huff’s play was a game-changer.
“Josh did a great job on the return,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “[Special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every single week. You need those things. You need special teams scores.”
After Wendell Smallwood’s kick return touchdown last week, this is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have had kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games. They also have the NFL’s only two kick return touchdowns of the season.
“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”
Doug Pederson will talk to the media at around noon.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.