McMullen: A New Wentz Norm? ‘Hey, let’s go win the game’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - My first thought was that Doug Pederson was laying it on a bit thick at his day-after press conference Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
A 23-17 overtime win at home against the 2-11 New York Giants was the best performance in Carson Wentz's NFL career?
"I think this would have to be his number one game, quite honestly," the coach claimed. "You could ask him later this week. But I just think from the standpoint of putting the team on his back, leading this team down the field, down two scores, to tie the game, and then, of course, to win it in overtime."
Make no mistake, the performance was impressive.
Wentz played well in driving rain after losing his top receiver and All-Pro right tackle and playmakers who used to call the practice squad their home in Boston Scott, Greg Ward, and Josh Perkins. The narrative of late-game comebacks evaporated with a fourth-quarter march to tie it and the overtime game-winner.
In the final two drives, Wentz was 11-of-13 for 120 yards with two touchdowns to Zach Ertz.
"Some of the plays that he did make, whether it was extending it with his legs or keeping a play alive and finding receivers down the field, and then his toughness to stand in the pocket and take some shots. I would say this would be his number one game in the four years," Pederson insisted. "It's really kind of exciting for him. I think it gives him confidence moving forward."
Football remains a team game and the most overlooked part of Monday's win was the fact that the Eagles ended up running 89 offensive plays versus just 52 for the Giants, something directly related to a Jim Schwartz adjustment to play more zone coverage and take away the deep shot to Darius Slayton in second half, the only card in Eli Manning's deck.
Manning wasn’t able to convert anything underneath and New York was only able to amass 29 total yards of offense in the second half. The bigger part to that, though, was that the Giants defense was on the field far too much and gassed late, leaking oil.
Part of any coach's job, though, is buoying a player's psyche and Pederson obviously wants Wentz feeling good after a rough stretch.
"You think about some of the big games he's been in. Go all the way back to the Rams game in 2017 where he was playing, he was having an MVP season that year. That was a big game obviously to help us win the NFC East. Even though he got hurt that day, that was a big game," Pederson said. "There's been games like that where he's had big games. But this one, to be down the way we were, and to lose another receiver, to lose your right tackle, and to really step up and make the plays in those conditions, too, really to me, I feel like that's his best he's played. Something he can continue to grow and work on."
The other part of Pederson's hyperbole is the rest of the locker room, a group he wants believing in the on-field leader moving forward.
"I think he gains more confidence with his teammates, in him and his ability," Pederson said. "Listen, I played with one of the greatest fourth-quarter quarterbacks in Brett Favre, and really Dan Marino for that matter, but Brett Favre for eight years. You can see it, when it gets crunch time, you put it on the quarterback, and guys rally. That's what we saw yesterday.
"I think that's now what you're going to see, and hopefully you see as we continue to grow as a team, hopefully years to come, that's the case, that the guys now can ascend around Carson, and we can put it on his shoulders and say, ‘Hey, let's go win the game.’"
Today it's the 2-11 Giants. Down the road maybe it's the 11-2 flavor of the month.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen