In the week-to-week business that is the NFL, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is living in the “now.” And that “now” means rebounding from a tough loss in Atlanta with energy, with clarity, and with a great plan moving forward as the Eagles prepare for visiting Detroit on Sunday.
Who the Eagles will actually have available to play in that game is another question, entirely.
Injuries are front and center once again with a bunch more to figure out, but for a moment here I’d like to step back and admire just what quarterback Carson Wentz showed on Sunday night in the tough loss against the Falcons.
Playing without tight end Dallas Goedert for the entire game and having wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (six snaps) and DeSean Jackson (11 snaps) only briefly, Wentz was severely hampered by a loss of key personnel. Much of the pre-game planning the Eagles practiced went out the window. With Zach Ertz as the lone tight end, the offense couldn’t use its dangerous 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends). And minus Jeffery and Jackson, two valuable, explosive weapons were diffused.
Add to that the game-long struggles to establish the line of scrimmage and any kind of consistency in the running game, Wentz pretty much had to carry the offense on his back. After a poor first half in which the Eagles trailed 10-6 and through the first half of the third quarter when Atlanta tacked on a touchdown to go ahead 17-6, Wentz and the offense turned it on.
It was vintage Wentz. And it was the kind of performance he’s going to have to have moving forward for the Eagles to get through this minefield of injuries.
Wentz completed 19 of 27 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown in the second half. He added a quarterback sneak for a touchdown and then completed a pass to Ertz for the two-point conversion to put the Eagles ahead 20-17 late in the fourth quarter. Wentz ran away from pressure, threw under tremendous duress, somehow stayed alive in the pocket, and made great throws into tight windows to not only give the Eagles that three-point lead, but also then led the offense down the field and put a perfect pass on the fingertips of wide receiver Nelson Agholor down the left sideline for what might have been a go-ahead touchdown had Agholor held on to the football.
Wentz kept the drive alive with a fourth-down throw that Agholor went up and caught, and came within inches, literally, of converting another fourth down that would have kept the game alive in the final seconds.
After the game, after taking so many hits and giving up his body and exhausting all of his energy, Wentz dressed and met the media and said he felt “fine” and that it was “just football” after such a physical game.
He’s a tough guy. He’s a leader. And with Carson Wentz on the field, the Eagles have a shot to win every game.
So, he’s heading into a critical, early-season stretch here. Wentz needs to lead the way, whether he’s throwing to Jackson, Jeffery, and Agholor or Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Doesn’t matter. Wentz has to find a way.
Pederson is going to put together a game plan this week as the Eagles prep for Detroit, a team that just shut down a potent Los Angeles Chargers offense for a win on Sunday. This is going to be another very difficult football game. Nothing is going to be easy for the Eagles in 2019.
Wentz is the one who is going to have the football in his hands. He’s the leader here, the alpha of the locker room. When the Eagles did their homework prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, they fell in love with Wentz’s competitiveness and his desire to do anything to win. Well, we saw a glimpse of that on Sunday night in the most trying of times.
An offense that figured to be loaded on all cylinders for Sunday night in Atlanta lost a significant amount of firepower before the first quarter was finished. And Wentz took a step back, and then leaped three strides forward and nearly pulled out a minor miracle of a win.
The good news here is that Wentz has a strong mindset and that he loves challenges. He’s facing one now. The Eagles will take their cue from No. 11 and prepare for a rumble against Detroit on Sunday to get back on the winning track.
The Day After a brutal loss, the Eagles got back to work with Detroit in focus knowing this: The leader of the pack here is Carson Wentz and he’s going to come out next Sunday with everything he’s got. The rest of the locker room will follow his lead.