When a turnover set the Eagles’ offense up just past midfield with less than two minutes to play in the first half when trailing by three Sunday in London against Jacksonville, it was important to get into field goal range.
On third-and-11 from the Jacksonville 46-yard line, that seemed unlikely. That is, until, Wentz stepped up in the pocket, scrambled past rushers, and fearlessly powered head-first past the first-down marker for a gain of 13 yards.
One play later, Wentz rolled to his right on play action, pulled up to throw off a rusher, gathered himself, and fired down the left side to tight end Dallas Goedert more than 30 yards down the field. Goedert broke a tackle and got into the end zone to give the Eagles a 10-6 at the break.
There were concerns that the quarterback returning from an ACL and LCL tear would not be able to move around or play the same way he did last year when he was considered an MVP candidate. Wentz has answered those questions emphatically. In his first six games of 2018, Wentz may be playing even better than last season.
“Carson is a stud. He's one of the best players in the league. His play kind of speaks for himself,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “The guy is as mentally strong as they come. He's never going to show that he's down. He's always looking forward to the next play.”
Wentz’s passer rating from Sunday in London was 119.6. It marked the fourth-straight game in which Wentz finished with a passer rating of at least 115. He is the first quarterback in Eagles history to accomplish that.
Wentz has thrown at least one touchdown pass with no more than one interception in 21 straight games dating back to 2016. That is tied with Matt Ryan from 2015-17 for the longest streak in NFL history. He hasn’t had a multi-interception game in his last 23 starts.
Wentz has registered at least 275 passing yards and two touchdowns in five straight games, which is tied with Donovan McNabb for the longest streak in Eagles history. Finally, Wentz is the first Eagles quarterback to complete 70 percent of his passes in three straight games since Randall Cunningham in 1992.
His numbers are impressive. They’re even more impressive considering his first six games this year coming off a knee injury compare favorably to the first six games of his MVP-caliber 2017 campaign.
“I thought he was a very good quarterback last year. I think he's a very good quarterback this year,” said Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera before Week 7. “I don't think he's changed his style. He's still an aggressive football player. You still see him tuck and run when he has to. He doesn't go down easy. He fights for everything. I think he's going to be one of the really good ones coming up in this league.”
In 2018, Wentz has a completion rate of 70.7 percent compared to 60.9 percent in his first six starts last year. He has thrown for 1,788 yards compared to last year’s 1,584 and has as many touchdowns with 13. His passer rating was 99.6 last year after six games. It's 109.6 this season.
Wentz has thrown just two interceptions so far and had three in six games last season. He is one of just three quarterbacks in the NFL (Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson) with 10 or more touchdowns and no interceptions in the red zone. He is fourth in the league in interception percentage (0.9 percent) behind Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.
And Wentz has shown he’s not afraid to run the ball either. In the Eagles’ 24-18 win over the Jaguars on Sunday, he scrambled three times for 28 yards including two for big first downs. Wentz was 21-of-30 for 286 yards and three touchdowns as he recovered well from a first-quarter interception and a lost fumble.
“I thought he played extremely well,” head coach Doug Pederson said Sunday. “Led the team, played well, played tough. Made some tough scrambles for some first downs. Hung in there. ... I thought he played aggressive. He played hard. He played tough. Really kept us in the game.”
The most telling moment of Wentz’s 2018 season came on the Eagles’ second play of the third quarter.
Wentz dropped back on a play-action pass just in front of the Eagles’ end zone when All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell came lumbering toward him with a sack and a turnover on his mind. Wentz stood firm, ducked as Campbell flew over him, and jumped right back up to deliver a pass.
Campbell stood up and looked Wentz directly in the eye. He then put his hands on his hips and tilted his head in astonishment which made Wentz laugh. He walked away still shaking his head.
Campbell couldn’t believe what he just saw. And sometimes, neither can we.