As fans packed Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday wearing their No. 11 jerseys and T-shirts under their rain-soaked ponchos, they waited in eager anticipation for the pregame moment where Carson Wentz's name would be enthusiastically announced as he sprinted through smoke and fireworks on the field to deafening, climactic cheers.
Wentz's name would be introduced last of the offensive players, building up for the energy for the quarterback's first home start since November 2017. But second-to-last was the Eagles' dynamic tight end Zach Ertz, a good friend and favorite target of Wentz's.
The timing of their introductions was no accident, and it allowed the two to stand together in the back of the tunnel and reflect on what was about to happen.
"He knows how I feel about him, he's one of my best friends in the world," Ertz told reporters at his locker after the Eagles' 20-16 win over the Colts. "Just the ability to say I'm proud of you, I'm proud of everything you've overcome, how you've attacked this each and every day, that was kind of a special moment we had before we ran out on the field.
"And just the second play of the game, he throws a bullet to me just like old times," he added. "I was a like, 'All right, let's go. It's time to go.'"
It did feel like old times again on Sunday as Wentz completed 25 of 37 passes for 255 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and one lost fumble. On the second play from scrimmage, he found Ertz for 17 yards. On the 12th, he found Goedert wide open for a touchdown.
"He gives us lots of confidence," said tight end Joshua Perkins. "We've been talking about starting fast over and over again. We haven't started as fast the last couple games. This week, we had an emphasis on starting fast so to see him on that first drive execute like that, it was good to see."
On the second drive, Wentz showed off his signature moves. As the pocket collapsed on a second-and-7 at midfield, Wentz rolled out, spun, and cut back the other direction, escaped two tacklers, and fired downfield for a 6-yard completion to Goedert. The crowd leaped into a standing ovation.
"Yep, that's Carson," running back Corey Clement said. "You have to take the leash off of him. That guy - he's always wired to do something great. Whether it's on a pass or a run play, he's going to sell it to the best of his ability and make sure he keeps alive the down.
"He looked just like last year," Clement added. "And that's a blessing. To see a guy come back off an injury like he had and never miss a beat, that's pretty cool."
On a third-and-6 play with less than a minute left in the first half, Wentz faced a similar situation. He had to make a play with no timeouts and the clock ticking. So, he avoided one defender, spun away from another, ran toward the sideline, and finally dove over the orange first-down marker and out of bounds to move the chains.
Ertz and running back Wendell Smallwood said he and his teammates weren't worried about injury and loved seeing him scramble and make important plays. After watching that one, Smallwood said to himself, "It's good to have this guy back.
"He's a competitor and I love the way he competes," Smallwood said. "None of it makes me nervous."
Smallwood ran in a 4-yard touchdown with 3:02 remaining that capped of a 17-play game-winning drive that took more than 11 minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter. Clement, Ertz, and Smallwood all said Wentz was instrumental in his vocal leadership throughout the drive, offering productive encouragement when the team faced early penalties and long yardages.
"It just picks us up," Smallwood said. "Some guys need that motivation, need that pickup, and I know sometimes I need a guy to say to me, 'I believe in you, I believe in this group.' And sometimes it gives you that extra boost, that extra confidence. And this guy has the most pressure on the team. For him to be so loose and be carrying us the way he carried us, that's great."
Wentz's return was a lift on both sides of the ball. The energy in the building fed the defense all game, especially after Wentz's first touchdown pass when the defense came back on the field and forced a three-and-out to blaring noise in the Colts' own territory.
"I think it did more for the fans than anything," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He's an electric player, and he does some things that are just flat-out special. I think it definitely gave us juice as a team and made us better, obviously. It's just fun to watch."
The biggest questions coming into Week 3 were whether Wentz would be hampered with rust and if he could realistically play like he did in his MVP-worthy 2017 season coming back from injury. There were some mistakes made, but Wentz's overall play and impressive leadership in the victory seemed to answer those questions with an emphatic "Yes!"
"He hasn't looked like a guy coming off knee surgery since OTAs. All Training Camp, he's looked great," Ertz said. "He's put in a ton of work. I could kind of see the entire journey from a cool vantage point. And I'm just proud of him."
Check out all of the best photos from Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts on September 23, 2018.