Carson’s Comeback is a Successful One
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In a micro sense, the Eagles latest 20-16 heart-stopping win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field was business as usual, the team's 17th home win in 20 tries during the Doug Pederson era.
In a macro sense even if Jacoby Brissett's desperation heave at the end of regulation found an Indy receiver, a loss should have been deemed a success.
That's because win or lose, Carson Wentz returned after nine-plus months on the sidelines to throw for 255 yards and a touchdown while also flashing some of the dynamic playmaking ability he's become known for.
And that means when Philadelphia gets some of its playmakers back from injury the offense could begin to take off in the coming weeks.
For now, Doug Pederson had to make due against his old buddy Frank Reich and the Colts and did pretty well with the cards he was dealt.
Instead of his typical three-back committee of Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement, it was Wendell Smallwood, Clement, and undrafted rookie Josh Adams.
Instead of 11 personnel featuring Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace and Zach Ertz, it was a lot of 13, especially early with Agholor, Ertz and fellow tight ends Dallas Goedert and Joshua Perkins.
"It was just kind of the way we game planned," Goedert said of the look, which included plenty of tempo as well. "When you have three tight ends in the game, you are going to get quite a few targets."
All seven targets in the opening drive did go to the TEs with Ertz and Perkins getting three apiece before Goedert snared a 13-yard pass for a score.
"Man, Carson changed [the play] at the line," Goedert said. "I can't even remember what it was. I just saw the middle part like that. He threw me a good ball and looked off the safety nicely. It was just executed really well."
Smallwood contributed 91 yards of total offense -- 56 on the ground and 35 through the air -- while Goedert caught all seven targets thrown his way for 73 yards and his first professional touchdown.
The eventual game-winner was a 4-yard Smallwood inside zone run late in the fourth quarter which capped a 17-play drive helped along by four Colts penalties, an advantage that ultimately held up when the Eagles defense put together another fourth-down stop with just over a minute to go.
"It was long. It was a long drive that just got extended a couple of times," Reich said. "I thought we had them stopped, but we have to finish it. We have to finish it."
The hero this time was second-year defensive end Derek Barnett who tripped up Andrew Luck as the latter was trying to extend the play after Philadelphia sniffed out a throw-back play to the tight end.
"Just everybody playing together up front. Guys that are doing their job and guys on the back end locking things up," Barnett said when asked to describe his big play. "Tough game, came down today to the wire but we stayed calm and executed when we needed to."
Overall Jim Schwartz's stop unit allowed Luck to throw for only 164 yards and held the former No. 1 overall pick to just over 4.0 yards-per-attempt, a dismal number.
The defense also made up for Wentz's two glaring mistakes -- an interception and strip sack -- that set the Colts up on short fields. The two potential game-changing turnovers amounted to just six points for Indianapolis, however.
"We talk about it all the time being really good in the red zone, holding the team to three points," star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "... Jim Schwartz does a great job putting us in situations in practice. Coach Doug [Pederson] puts us in situations like this. You do all those reps so many times that it just becomes natural when it's in the ball game."
LOCKER ROOM WHISPERS:
Reich in inserting Brissett to throw the Hail Mary on the game's final play: "He can throw it a mile. We knew Jacoby had the arm to get it into the end zone."
Colts' T.Y. Hilton on the tough Eagles' red-zone defense: "That's how you lose. We had our chances. We just have to finish. If we get another TD then it changes the whole game."
Eagles' Brandon Graham on defending a short field: "Yeah, I think we just went out there embracing it rather than complaining about it."
Colts' LB Anthony Walker on his INT of Wentz: "I was in a great coverage call and Darius [Leonard] was on the blitz coming off and I knew that the ball had to come out pretty quick. Eighty-six [Ertz] is their guy so I just kind of sat on him a little bit and was able to get my hands on the ball."
Eagles' Corey Clement on Wentz being so mobile in his first game back: "Yep, that's Carson. You have to take the leash off him. That guy - he's always wired to so something great."
Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins on the win: "It's hard to win in this league and it's the feeling that we've been accustomed to, obviously. After last week, it was something we wanted to get back to."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen