AFTER SLOW START, WENTZ PUTS ON A SHOW, LEADS EAGLES TO A 34-24 WIN OVER WASHINGTON
PHILADELPHIA: They say in life timing is everything. You’re either in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time.
For the Eagles these days, their timing couldn’t be better, at least through the first seven games.
Quarterback Carson Wentz could not have picked a better time to escape the inescapable and make the unmake-able play.
The Eagles faced a Washington Redskins team at Lincoln Financial Field Monday night that came prepared to take them down.
But Wentz found a way in situation after situation to lead the Eagles to a 34-24 victory, a 6-1 overall record, and a 3-0 mark in the NFC East.
For more than a quarter, the game was hard to watch. The Eagles struggled on offense and defense.
The Redskins (3-3) got on the board on their first drive, going 66 yards on eight plays, that resulted in a Nick Rose 27-yard field goal.
On the Eagles first drive Carson Wentz threw an interception on the fifth play. But Washington could not capitalize on the turnover.
In fact neither team did anything offensively until well into the second quarter.
When the Redskins took a 10-3 lead after Chris Thompson caught a seven-yard pass from Kurk Cousins, it looked like the Eagles had no timing at all. The home team simply looked flat.
So Wentz couldn’t have picked a better time in the second quarter to chuck a 64-yard bomb to rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins that tied the score 10-10.
Wentz couldn’t have picked a better time to connect with tight end Zach Ertz on a 46-yard pass to set up a four-yard touchdown pass to Ertz to give the Eagles 17-10 lead they would not relinquish.
In the third quarter and again early in the fourth and with his team leading by just seven points,
Wentz did what only what Wentz can do.
He knew he had to take an even bigger role after All Pro left tackle Jason Peters left the game early in the third quarter on a cart with what looked like a severe right knee injury.
First, on a third and nine from the nine, the second-year signal-caller seemed trapped and set for a sack, then somehow was able to shed his would-be tacklers and hit rookie Corey Clement with a remarkable touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to go up 24-10.
Wentz admitted he has no idea how he avoided a sack.
“I’m not really sure. Honestly, I think the pocket just collapsed,” Wentz said. “I think everyone was still engaged with their guy so I knew I just had to get away. And no one really I don’t think ever got their hands on me.”
Washington responded with an eight-play 52-drive ending with a five-yard touchdown pass from Kurk Cousins to Jordan Reed and Redskins were back to within seven.
Early in the fourth quarter Wentz again looked like he was about to take a big loss when he escaped to run for 17 yards, energizing a drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholora and a 31-17 lead.
“He made a great play,” linebacker Mason Foster said at his locker after the game referring to the Clement TD. “He stepped up in the pocket, we were all in his face, he threw it up there and made a good play…you have to take your hat off to Wentz, he’s been making big plays all year.”
LeGarrette Blount could not have picked a better time to rip off a 21-yard run with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles trying to run out the clock with a 34-24 lead. Before that carry, the 30-year-old veteran had rushed the ball 10 time for a net of two measly yards.
Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett could not have picked a better time to record two sacks of Kurk Cousins, whose offensive line had given up just eight sacks over their first five games.
The Birds sacked Cousins four times overall. Cousins finished 30 of 40 for 303 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception.
The Redskins offense was hurt when All Pro guard Brandon Scherff left the game late in the third quarter.
Agholor couldn’t say enough positives about his quarterback.
“I talk about how athletic he is, how he has a good arm,” Agholor said. “But his attention to detail, his film study, the professionalism he has as a quarterback is second to none in my opinion.”
Agholor said when you see Wentz pull off a play with timing that seems out of this world, it’s not an accident.
“That’s from watching film, that’s from knowing coverages, that’s from knowing things so well,” Agholor said. “When he goes to the line, he checks like a vet, not just a guy in his second year in the league but like ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time!’ Then you throw a dime for a touchdown…so I get a touchdown! And I appreciate it!”
Linebacker Najee Goode and Joe Walker couldn’t have picked a better time to come up with solid performances after Mychal Kendricks was deactivated due to a hamstring injury and Jordan Hicks left the game in the first quarter after the suffering an ankle injury.
“It was huge,” Goode said at his locker after the game. “We practice and we go over the game plan because ‘it’s next man up.’ There are still some plays I wish I could have back, but we came out and played good we were able to make plays.”
Wentz finished 17 of 25 for 268 yards and four touchdown passes. He was sacked three times and threw one interception. His rating after the first quarter was 8.3.
The Eagles ended up rushing for 127 yards on 33 carries. Wentz produced 63 of those yards on just eight carries.
Head coach Doug Pederson talked his team coming back from a rough start.
“Well, I just think, again, it’s the resiliency of this football team,” Pederson said. “Yeah, it was a sluggish start. We’ve had a lot of time off and that’s one of the things that I sort of messaged to the team was exactly what happened. You have to try to guard against that. But the fact that they hung in there, battled, tied the game at three, and then scored a couple touchdowns again before the half and then just kept plugging away. They kept battling, hanging in there, and again, learning how to finish is the key in finishing these games.”
Wentz said the key to overcoming their slow start was to not panic.
“I think the biggest thing was we had a good game plan,” Wentz said. “They did some things early that got to us and we just knew we had to weather the storm. Keep our poise. We knew the plays would be there. We just kind of started clicking. Again, we knew we had to weather the storm, stay together, and we made the plays.”
Stefen Wisniewski, who seems to have landed the starting job at left guard, marveled at some of the sacks Wentz was able to get away from, especially the play to Clement.
“It was an unbelievable play,” the 28-year-old said. “They blitzed us a lot, especially third downs. If you have a quarterback that, when a team blitzes, he’s going to be able to scramble…they close in a defense when they blitz like that. If a quarterback can get through it…I mean it’s an unbelievable play, obviously a big play in this game, that’s the kind of thing that’ll scare other people from blitzing because if you see that, you’re not going to want to blitz the guy.”
Because with Wentz, defenses never seem to be in the right place at the right time and the Eagles are in front of the entire league because of it.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii