There’s just something about Carson Wentz on Monday night against Washington.
Last year, the Eagles’ quarterback set a career high in rushing yards with 63 and made a flurry of head-turning plays with his feet.
In Monday’s 28-13 win over Washington, he excelled in passing out of the pocket and turning broken plays into big gains. His command at the line of scrimmage led to a huge win for a team that’s very much in playoff contention with a showdown next Sunday in Dallas for first place in the NFC East.
“Yes, that is big for us,” Wentz said. “I think we are leaving some plays out there but we are finally starting to click a little bit and mesh together. We are extremely excited for next week’s opportunity.”
Wentz set the tone on the Eagles’ opening drive and showed that this start would be different than the slow ones that haunted the Eagles in past games.
After a third-down conversion, the Eagles faced a first-and-15 near midfield due to a false start. Wentz dropped back, searched for an open target, scrambled around a collapsing pocket, and made a confident motion toward wide receiver Golden Tate as he was chased.
Tate hesitated for a moment and then turned upfield. As he took a powerful hit, Wentz flicked a perfect rainbow pass to Tate who caught it in stride down the sideline for a first down. With communication and vision, Wentz turned a broken play into a 19-yard gain and a first down.
At the end of the drive that lasted more than seven minutes, Wentz improvised again. On second-and-goal from the 6, he rolled right, away from rushers, cut back left, and fired a pass on the run to Tate again who found himself open in the end zone.
The pass was on the money and thanks to Wentz’s scrambling ability, the Eagles scored on their opening possession for just the third time this season.
“Play-action, boots, and nakeds and stuff are something that we always thought kind of our bread and butter, especially on first and second down,” Wentz said. “Getting the run game going, really opens up those things. Gets me on the edge, gets me a chance to make some plays, and gets some guys down the field and underneath to make some plays down the field. I think we used it effectively tonight.”
Wentz finished 27-of-39 passing for 306 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He was not sacked. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Wentz completed 6 of 7 passes outside of the pocket for a career-high 100 yards. Wentz also set a career high in play-action passing yards with 163.
“Anytime he can extend plays with his legs, he's such a good athlete and throws well on the perimeter, I think it's an advantage to the offense,” said head coach Doug Pederson after the game. “And he was able to do that tonight.”
Wentz credited the running game for opening the door for the play-action passes. With rookie Josh Adams leading the way and veteran Darren Sproles returning for his first game since Week 1, the Eagles combined for 130 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
But Wentz made the most of the opportunities created by the run game. Wentz's deepest ball came on a second-quarter play-action pass when he rolled to his right, threw on the run again, and found wide receiver Nelson Agholor for 39 yards down the field.
A play-action pass to tight end Zach Ertz two plays later gave the Eagles a first-and-goal. A similar play to Ertz in the fourth quarter converted a third down and helped ice the game.
Play-action passes became the Eagles’ bread and butter. And it was Wentz’s ability to extend and execute that allowed it to be effective and open other facets of the offense.
“Being able to do that helps us stay on the field,” Pederson said. “He's gifted at doing that, and it's just something that happens naturally for him, and it's an exciting play.”.