When Carson Wentz crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak to put the Eagles ahead for the first time in the game with just 3:13 remaining Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he ran to an open area to spike the ball emphatically before accidentally stumbling on the way to the sideline.
It wasn't the first time Sunday evening that the franchise quarterback misfired, which is why it was great to see the emotional response to the scoring play.
“It was just a hard drive, there were a lot of conversions and obviously it was a slower start for us, and we were struggling a little," Wentz said. "So, to put that drive together, I was just really excited."
For the second week in a row, the Eagles' offense got off to a slow start. Unlike the win over Washington, Wentz couldn't flick the ball 50 yards to DeSean Jackson, as the speedster was sidelined since early in the game with a groin injury. Wentz didn't have Alshon Jeffery to win those contested catches, either. Jeffery was out with a calf injury. Even ascending second-year tight end Dallas Goedert tweaked his calf in pre-game warmups and was out.
Wentz relied on Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz, who certainly have carried the load in the past. But he also needed Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to contribute valuable reps.
And he had to do it while under siege by a fast Falcons defense.
On the Eagles' second drive of the game, Wentz took a shot to the ribs from linebacker Deion Jones. Wentz stayed in the game and said afterward that he'll be sore on Monday, but there was nothing serious.
But fans didn't know that when late in the second quarter, Wentz went into the blue medical tent on the sideline. Wentz was checked for a concussion, but cleared to return to play after missing six snaps.
“Honestly, that was super frustrating," Wentz said. "I was sitting on the sideline for about five minutes and then they called down to look at that. To me that is something that they need to figure out. It’s incredibly frustrating when I feel fine, but I understand that they need to look at that and that it is part of the game. But the fact that it took so long is really frustrating."
Wentz had one of the toughest single-half performances of his career, completing just 6 of 16 attempts for 47 yards with two interceptions for a 6.2 QB rating. But the Eagles were only down 10-6 at half.
Even after Corey Clement's kickoff return fumble to open the second half which resulted in a Julio Jones touchdown, the deficit was 17-6. Shoot, it was 20-7 at halftime last week.
But again: No Jackson, no Jeffery.
“It’s tough, but by no means are we going to make excuses," Wentz said. "We always talk about having the next man up but some of the stuff tonight you just can’t make up. I have never seen guy after guy go down like that so early in the ball game, but the guys stepped up. The guys were resilient. We came up a little short today, but I am proud of the way the guys fought.”
Wentz relied on some clutch play as he did against Washington. On fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line in the third quarter, Wentz threaded the ball over the middle as Atlanta rushed only three to make it 17-12. In the fourth quarter, Wentz hit Hollins for 17 yards on a third-and-9 then pulled off one of those plays that very few quarterbacks could imagine.
On third-and-9 with 5:59 remaining in the game, Wentz was being pulled to the ground by Falcons edge rusher Vic Beasley. Somehow, someway, Wentz got enough juice on the ball to get it to travel 17 yards to Hollins for the first down. He capped off the drive with the QB sneak and added two points for good measure with a dart to Ertz.
After Jones' 54-yard catch-and-run gave the lead right back to the Falcons at 24-20, could Wentz pull off one more miracle? Well, on fourth-and-14, Wentz stood tall in a muddy pocket and hurled the ball to Agholor, who made a beautiful 43-yard grab to atone for a drop down the sideline a few plays earlier. However, the comeback bid fell short when Wentz hit Ertz on a fourth-and-8 right at the sticks, but the Pro Bowl tight end was tackled just inches shy of the first down.
The final numbers weren't pretty, as Wentz finished 25-of-43 for 231 yards with one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown, and two interceptions for a 61.3 QB rating. But his guile and toughness will fuel the Eagles moving forward starting with next Sunday when Detroit comes to town.
"We are all in this together," Wentz said. "We made mistakes early, but we bounced back from it. We just came up short and it’s one of those games where we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to come back better, and we will.”
Check out the best photos from the Eagles Sunday-night matchup against the Falcons.