Meaningful Football is Oh-so Meaningful for Carson Wentz
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sunday is projected to be Carson Wentz's "biggest game," right up until it's not.
If the Eagles' fourth-year quarterback and his teammates beat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, the season finale up the Jersey Turnpike takes on playoff-level importance and if they keep winning there against the New York Giants, the postseason actually exists.
So what seems important today only tags off onto something far more important the more the winning continues and that's always the goal for any NFL signal caller.
In the moment, though, an elimination game against the Cowboys is No. 1 on Wentz's 55-game resume.
“You could probably say that,” Wentz acknowledged earlier this week when discussing the narrative that Sunday's contest is his biggest one to date. “It’s definitely a big game. We know the situation. We know what’s going on. At the same time, we’re treating it like another game, but we’re aware of everything. We are real excited and I’m excited we’re at home.”
Embracing talk-radio narratives isn't the point, however. Surviving is and to do that Wentz has to continue the clutch play that put Philadelphia in this position despite a significant talent dearth at the receiver position while also eliminating the one bugaboo that continues to plague the face of the franchise -- ball security.
Wentz is in the midst of two gaudy streaks, one that's really positive and another that's as negative as it gets.
He's thrown at least one touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games, a league-high, but Wentz has also fumbled in seven consecutive games, putting the football on the turf a stunning 12 times over that span and losing it on five occasions, the latest of which almost short-circuited the season at Washington before the defense stepped up and gave Greg Ward the opportunity to play hero.
Wentz's latest butterfingers stretch started against the Cowboys on Oct. 20 when two fumbles really contributed to the 37-10 rout at the hands Jason Garrett's team.
Before that game, Wentz seemed to have solved his fumbling issues and didn't put it on the ground at all during the first six games of the 2019 season.
Call them excuses or explanations but many have tried to nail down what's going on with Wentz.
Is it about a QB who thrives with oft-schedule stuff experiencing some bad luck while trying to extend plays with limited weapons? Or, is it just carelessness and failing to secure the football when the pass rush is closing in?
“A lot of times I’m ready to throw the ball,” Wentz explained. “If I knew I was taking off to run and faster maybe I’d do that a little more. I’d tuck it away and we all would be better off. A lot of it is I’m always looking to throw the ball.
"I can clean up those things.”
From Wentz's perspective, he's placed a zero-tolerance policy on himself.
“I have to protect the ball,” he said. “Every situation is different. It’s a case-by-case scenario but when I’m moving in the pocket [I] have to keep two hands on the ball and be cognizant of what’s around me.”
Protecting the football against a Dallas team that may be hampered a less-than 100 percent Dak Prescott would go a long way toward making Week 17 meaningful for Wentz and Co. And reaching the postseason would be checking off a box for Wentz who wasn't healthy enough to play meaningful football for the Eagles during their previous two playoff runs.
“The last couple years didn’t end the way I wanted to personally [from] being hurt,” Wentz said. “I’m excited to be playing here in December with what’s at stake and be out there with my guys.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen