Wentz’s Sunday Quickly Turns from Brilliance to Frustration
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Like many who were at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Carson Wentz was a little shaken after watching Carolina turn about 50 minutes of the worst football you will ever see into a 21-17 win.
Before heading to the post-game podium, a necessity win or lose for every starting NFL quarterback, Wentz sat at his locker, staring at the floor while trying to make sense of what happened, a 17-0 lead evaporating in an instant.
"Really, just praying just to ease my mind and ease my heart going forward," Wentz said when asked about his reflection.
Between his first and last drives in the game, Wentz was as sharp as he's ever been and finished his afternoon 30-for-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert.
The numbers, though, are lost in translation after the final drive where brilliance was replaced by uncharacteristic mistakes.
Things started promisingly despite all the momentum having shifted toward the Panthers, who scored TDs on three consecutive possessions to turn the 17-0 deficit to a 21-17 lead.
A deep shot to Jeffery didn't connect but paid dividends in the form of a huge 48-yard pass-interference penalty putting the Eagles in position to walk off a winner.
Wentz then badly overthrew Zach Ertz in the middle of the field, resulting in a near interception by Eric Reid that would have sealed the game. In fact, it was called an INT on the field but overturned by video replay giving Philadelphia new life.
"That was just a miscommunication between Zach and me," Wentz said. "We've got to get that ironed out."
Things settled down a bit on the next play when Wendell Smallwood burst up the middle for eight yards setting up 3rd-and-short. Instead of converting the first down to a wide open Smallwood in the flat on the next play, Wentz forced the football to Jeffery in double coverage with Luke Kuechley underneath.
"I was just trying to give him a shot to make a play," Wentz said. "I've got to get the ball higher if I'm going to do that. I have to see the tape — there might have been another guy open. … I just tried to force one in there that I probably shouldn't have."
The Eagles final opportunity was on 4th-and-2 and shortcircuited by a strip sack by the great Julius Peppers while Wentz was again looking for Jeffery.
"I saw Alshon open across the middle late and as I stepped up and tried to make the throw I got hit and the ball came out," Wentz explained. "... "When you're on the field at the end like that with a shot and the ball's in your hand, it's frustrating."
While the defense will rightly be excoriated for allowing Carolina to pile up 236 yards of total offense with three consecutive TDs on its last three possessions, the offense never helped stop the bleeding, amassing all of 22 yards over its last three chances.
"We had chances to win there at the end," Wentz said. "Offensively, we had chances to seal the deal with the two drives before and we didn't do it."
And now the Eagles are underwater at 3-4 and two games behind Washington in the loss coulm when it comes to the NFC East. As far as the top of the NFC, the LA Rams and New Orleans continue to win.
"We're at make-or-break time, almost," Wentz said. "It's hard to say exactly what it's going to take. We know what we can do, we do it here. We just have to put it all together."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen