QUESTIONS ABOUT BENCHING WENTZ GET LOUDER AFTER LOSS TO BROWNS
The Eagles offense literally scored nine points to help Cleveland overcome its own offensive shortcomings
CLEVELAND: The Eagles offense actually outscored the Cleveland Browns offense 17-13 at rain-soaked First Energy Stadium Sunday.
Unfortunately for Eagles Nation, the Browns (7-3) walked away with the victory. The 22-17 setback left the Eagles record at 3-6-1 but somehow still clinging to first place in the NFC East.
The Browns defense fleeced the Birds offense for nine points...seven on a pick-six by linebacker Sione Takitaki in the second quarter and two points on a sack of Carson Wentz by linebacker Olivier Vernon in the third quarter
The defensive touchdown happened on the first Eagles drive of the second quarter when Wentz went back to pass from the Cleveland 46-yard line.
The pocket collapsed as Wentz went to release the ball intended for running back Miles Sanders. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward broke through from behind the quarterback and hammered the quarterback as he went to throw.
The hit caused the ball to flutter in the air making it an easy interception for Takitaki, who raced 50 yards for the score.
“I definitely did not want to float it out there," Wentz said after the game in video conference. "Anytime you get hit when you throw, it is a bad feeling. It is a bad feeling, because you know that the ball is just kind of floating in the air. You are hoping it falls to the ground. I will have to go back and watch the tape. I mean, we were trying to do something against that specific coverage and it was not there so I was just trying to chuck it down. I got hit on it, so it was unfortunate there.”
Wentz, who was 21 of 35 for 235 yards, two touchdown passes, two interceptions quarterback rating of 75.3, said he is still the same player from 2017. He said the turnovers were unfortunate but he will not hesitate even though that is kind of what Happened on the safety.
“No, not at all. I have not changed. I am trying to be smart," said Wentz, who was sacked five times. "As far as hesitation, when I see a guy open, I am cutting it loose. The pick-six? That was unfortunate. The guy made a good play by bringing the blitz up the edge. Like I said, obviously getting hit on that is not ideal. They made a good play there. But the other ones? No, I am not hesitating. They made some plays, too. Ideally, I get the ball out there quicker. You know, it was unfortunate to be in the end zone there and taking that sack. Hats off to them. They made a good play.”
Head coach Doug Pederson was asked if he thought of benching Wentz at one point in the game. He was also asked if Wentz was the starter next week against Seattle on Monday Night Football. The coach said no to both questions and added that pulling his franchise quarterback is not in the plans for many reasons.
“Look, I think if you get that spot where you do not start him or you bench him, I think you are sending the wrong message to your football team that the season is over," Pederson said. "That is a bad message. We have to work through this. When times get tough, sometimes that might be the easy thing to do. This business is about work. This business is about detail and having ownership – things I talk about with the team. That is what we have got to do. That is coaches and players. That is not one guy. It is bigger. This sport is bigger than one guy. We all have a hand in it and we all have to fix it."
The defense held up its end of the bargain Sunday holding Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to a how-does-this-guy-get-all-those-commercials performance going 12 of 22 for 204 yards, no touchdown passes but no interceptions. He was sacked three times.
Cleveland's vaunted rushing attack was held to just 18 yards at the half. Nick Chubb padded the Browns stats with a back-breaking 54-yard run in the fourth quarter. Chubb took off from the Cleveland 37-yard line and barreled and bashed his way to the Eagles seven-yard line. Kareem Hunt scored a leaping touchdown from the five-yard line to earn the Browns only trip to the end zone by its offense.
Chubb finished with 114 yards on 20 carries, Hunt just 11 yards on 13 carries.
Chubb was asked about the Eagles run defense that had him and Hunt stopped until that big play.
“It was really tough,: Chubb said. "Give credit to them. They definitely came to play, and I thought they played extremely hard. There was really nothing there. Maybe only once or twice we had an opening, everything else was blocked up. They played hard.”
Safety Rodney McLeod was asked about how frustrating it was to hold the opponent to 13 points, sack the quarterback three times, get turnovers only to see the offense had nine points to the other team.
“At the end of the day, we care about those 13 points that we gave up," McLeod said. "That is where we have to improve. It was not good enough. We talked about eliminating big plays, and they capitalized on three today. They all contributed and turned into points. When I look at this film closely, I have to look at what we can do as a defense to change the outcome of the game, myself included. I look at the long run that Chubb had, and I missed that tackle. I pride myself on being a good tackler. Other plays were self-inflicted that they got on us.
"Next week, we have to eliminate those if we want to be the leader on this team," McLeod continued. "As the defense, we set the pace. We can’t allow those plays to happen. We have to minimize them as much as possible and create more turnovers for our team.”
Wentz was asked if he was surprised there were questions asked to his head coach about benching him after handing the Browns nine points.
"You guys can ask whatever questions you want," Wentz said. "I know that is part of the deal. I know it is always a scrutinized position, playing quarterback. That is what I signed up for when I came out and played quarterback going back to high school. I can take it. I can wear it. It is what it is. Are we playing as good as we can as a team? No. Am I playing my best football? No. There were some circumstances out there today, where we left some plays on the field. We will be critical. We will go back and watch the tape. At the end of the day, that stuff is what it is. You guys can ask whatever questions you want. Bring up whatever you want. For me, I am just going to put my head down and go to work.”
At some point soon that may not be enough. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii