As the Eagles swept the final four games of the 2019 season and won the NFC East, quarterback Carson Wentz was a model of efficiency – seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions playing with guys who, at some point in the season, had been on the practice squad. Wentz led the way with his resourcefulness, his leadership, his calm. He didn't turn the football over for the most part – just two fumbles in those four games – and the Eagles won all four games.
On Sunday at Washington, well, we know what happened. Wentz tossed two interceptions. Lost a fumble. The Eagles coughed up a 17-0 lead and never regained their early momentum on the way to a stunning 27-17 loss.
And now, it's on to the next week. Wentz knows what's going on around him. He knows he made too many mistakes against Washington. He owns it. The question now is, what happens next? How do Wentz and the offense reverse course against the Los Angeles Rams and their dominating defensive front and ballhawking back end on Sunday?
"Culmination of things, like we talked about. We came out swinging and started fast," Wentz said on Wednesday. "Obviously, the turnovers really hurt us. I've got to do a better job protecting the ball. We had a lot of negative plays on first down and put us in really tough situations. We had way too many really extra-longs. Negative plays really affected us. That was going across the board. It wasn't as much physical mistakes as communications and breakdowns that we've got to get situated and, like I said, I've got to do a better job protecting the ball and getting rid of the ball.
"I'm looking forward to bouncing back personally and I know this offense is as well."
We've been here before with Wentz, and before anyone overreacts – this is Philly, I know, I know, there is always overreaction – let's examine Wentz's career, because one of the hallmarks of his success has been his low interception rate – he threw only seven in each of the previous three seasons while at the same time tossing 81 touchdowns. That 81 touchdowns/21 interceptions ratio is among the best in the league in the three seasons.
At the same time, Wentz has fumbled too many times – 9 lost fumbles in 2019 and 6 lost fumbles in 2018. He tends to hold on to the football, trying to make plays, and as often as he muscles out of pressure or ducks under a lineman and we applaud his athleticism, he also just needs to be better protecting the football in the pocket. It's an area Wentz acknowledges that he needs to improve.
Five years into his NFL career, the question continues to be asked.
"I'm pretty aware of it," Wentz said. "Every case, every specific play is very specific. It's case by case and there's a time and a place to fight, and there's a time and a place to throw it away, and there's a time and a place to just eat it and take the sack. I'm obviously not going to get it right 100 percent of the time. It's continually talking it through with Press (Taylor, quarterbacks coach), with Coach (Doug Pederson), with everybody and understanding that you're not going to get it right, you're not going to get it 100 percent, but how can we grow? How can we get better?
"And at the end of the day, some of those things are going to happen but I can't put the ball on the ground. I've got to take care of it. Sacks might happen. Throwaways are OK, but I've got to be able to lock that ball up and not put it on the ground anymore."
Wentz is on the hot seat again after the Week 1 loss. He's been there before. He will be there again. If Wentz and this team isn't PO'd after losing to Washington, then something is wrong. And Wentz is PO'd. He's taken responsibility for Sunday's poor second half (plus two bad possessions in the first half). It's time to get on track. It's time to get a win.
And if Wentz controls the football, he controls the narrative. It's that simple. The history of his time here says that's true.
"I've got to be better," Wentz said. "That's on me."
Next test, Los Angeles. Ball security and offensive efficiency are the keys. The Eagles are on track to have right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Miles Sanders on the field, and their return will be enormously helpful for the offense. Wentz, though, is the quarterback. He is the central figure. As he goes, so go the Eagles, and everybody knows it.