DALLAS – Full of confidence, infused with great energy and a sense of purpose, the Eagles landed in Texas on a rainy, chilly Saturday and arrived at their Dallas hotel, greeted by a large crowd of fans. Awesome scene. It's always a perfect greeting. As quarterback Carson Wentz made his way past the crowd and the fans yelled for him, he steered his luggage into the clear, up the escalator, and in the direction of his FOX network production meeting.
Carson Wentz is on center stage for this NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys. This is one of "those" games that you look to the franchise quarterback to lead the way, to be the best player on the field.
This is a big moment for Wentz and for this team as the Eagles (6-6) look for a win at AT&T Stadium and a tie at the top of the division.
A lot of things have to happen right for the Eagles on Sunday to beat a hot Cowboys team. The defense has to be sound against a balanced Cowboys offense. The tackling has to be at its best because, as we know, missed tackles mean large gains for Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott. Coordinator Jim Schwartz has a scheme in place that he hopes will contain Elliott and put pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott, whom the Eagles must pressure with discipline and not give him lanes to escape and make big plays with his legs.
The offense, well, there are many components involved here. The most significant is Wentz.
There are certain times when a quarterback has to rise above everything and everyone else to win a crucial game. This feels like one of those games. Wentz, in his 11th start of 2018 and almost a year to the day from when he suffered the serious knee injury in Los Angeles (last December 10 against the Rams), has a challenge in front of him against a top-five NFL defense. The Cowboys are fast, they're sound, they are confident, and they don't have many weaknesses.
That said, the Eagles bring some power into this one as well. It's been a season of starts and stops for the offense, but Monday's game against Washington provided a sense that the Eagles have turned a bit of a corner offensively. They scored 28 points, including seven on their opening drive. They moved the ball up and down the field and, while there missed opportunities inside Washington's 10-yard line and there were some throws, as he said this week, that Wentz "would like to have back," the plays were there to be made.
So, it's going to be a great matchup. Wentz threw for a season-high 360 yards in the November 11 meeting with the Cowboys, including 20 first downs. The Eagles scored 17 points in the second half of that 27-20 defeat. Wentz established some rhythm against the Dallas D. He needs to continue that from the very start and the offense has to play its best game of the season.
For the most part, Wentz has been very good this season and has come a lot further a lot faster than quarterbacks who blow out their ACLs in December and play the following September. Six times, including five straight games, Wentz compiled a passer rating of 100-plus. In two other games his passer rating exceeded 95. Really, only that New Orleans game (three interceptions, zero touchdowns, 31.9 rating) was a true clunker.
But in this one, with the Eagles still in a must-win situation, Wentz has to have one of those special games in which not only is he at his best, but he helps his teammates play at the top of their games. The Eagles certainly can't expect Wentz to bail them out in third-and-long situations on Sunday afternoon. The offense has to play ahead of the sticks, win at the line of scrimmage, eat some clock and, when the chances are there, connect down the field. It makes sense for the Eagles to attack down the field, and Wentz has to be on point with his decision making and his throws.
The Eagles enter this game knowing they've won four of the last five and six of their last eight games at AT&T Stadium. It's as favorable away from home as a team can have. This is a perfect time for a Carson Wentz Game for the Eagles. He isn't the only player on the field on Sunday, but it sure gives the Eagles an advantage if Wentz is the best player on the field on Sunday.