One of the most memorable Carson Wentz moments of the 2017 season should have been a sack.
On a third-and-8 in the fourth quarter of last year's Monday night game against Washington, Wentz was swallowed by the collapsing pocket. The Eagles led by just one score and a dejected Merrill Reese said, "They've got him."
But they didn't.
Wentz somehow powered through the pile, eluded and confused defenders, and escaped for 17 yards and a massive first down. It led to a much-needed touchdown. Fans rose to their feet and erupted. Reese and Mike Quick couldn't believe it.
"How'd he do it? How'd he do it?" Reese yelled.
"I thought you said they got him!" said Quick.
Wentz finished the game 17-of-25 for 268 yards with four touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 126.3. He was also the team leader in rushing yards that night using eight scrambles to go 63 yards. It's the most he's ever had in a game.
"Carson Wentz is really a tough guy to bring down," said Washington head coach Jay Gruden in his conference call with Philadelphia reporters Wednesday. "He's accurate, he's strong, he can run. We had him botched up in the pocket a few times and he escaped. His escapability I think is underestimated."
When the Eagles take on Washington this Monday for the first of two consequential meetings between the divisional foes, Wentz will try to rekindle some of that magic from the last time these two teams played.
A key issue for the Eagles' offense is slow starts. The Eagles are last in the league in first-quarter points with just 21 in 11 games. But in his press conference Thursday, Wentz pointed out that similar struggle was overcome against Washington last season.
"As a whole, offensively, I mean, we started out slow," Wentz said. "Then we stayed kind of slow for a couple of drives and then just kind of turned it on. We turned it on and offensively, we started rolling, defense played great, and obviously, there were a ton of big plays made in that game.
"And there's a lot to build from in that game and learn from for how to attack these guys."
Wentz has not been as mobile this season coming off his ACL and MCL tears last December. He has just two games this season with more than 20 yards on the ground.
But from what Gruden has observed, that is not a sign of Wentz slowing down. He's just changed his priorities.
"For a young quarterback, I think his pocket awareness is very, very good," Gruden said. "He doesn't look to escape, he looks to throw like most great quarterbacks do. But if things break down, he has the ability to hurt you with his legs.
"He really is a great pocket-presence runner," he added. "I think that's the most memorable thing about that night. I know we had some great opportunities on third down to get him down and we failed to do so because of his strength."
There were plenty of impressive moments from last year's game that didn't require Wentz taking off down the field. For the Eagles' first touchdown, Wentz dropped back and fired a ball more than 60 yards in the air on a dime to a streaking Mack Hollins for his first career touchdown.
On another third-down play, Wentz escaped two pass rushers in the red zone, threw off his back foot off balanced, and connected on a perfect pass to running back Corey Clement for an amazing touchdown catch.
No one knew how he did it. Not even Wentz himself.
"That was hard to say exactly what happened," Wentz said. "With some of those plays, I always just say they're happenings. They're plays where instincts just take over and guys just make plays. I made a play, Corey made a heck of a play. Plays break down and you need to find a way to make a play. Last year we made a handful of them and I think it was the difference in the game last year."
"There were just a lot of plays in that game that he made that, you don't coach it," said quarterbacks coach Press Taylor when speaking with reporters Wednesday. "The coming out a pile and making a play, he had the touchdown throw down the sideline to Corey Clement, stuff like that. We're moving, he has a feel for where guys are, that's just the instinct ability he has that he was able to make some plays. That was fun to watch. that was a special game for him."
The Eagles passed a test by beating the New York Giants in last Sunday's must-win battle. Against Washington, it becomes a must-win situation again. Wentz is confident that when reviewing the tape, he can draw upon last year's success for a much-needed offensive performance against a tough opponent.
"That's a good defense," Wentz said. "It's hard to say what I see that's a big-time difference from last year, but I see a good defense. It's exciting because we know it's a good defense but we both know each other so well. We play each other so often and their scheme hasn't really changed too much so it's going to come down to execution and that's what we're excited about."