PHILADELPHIA – Carson Wentz will confound and exhilarate, sometimes on the same play.
The Eagles have seen this for five seasons now with Wentz, and that continued Thursday night in their furious rally from an 11-point deficit with six minutes left to a 22-21 win over the Giants.
The game-winning touchdown pass, a dart to Boston Scott from 18 yards out with 40 seconds left, was vintage Wentz.
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“He wasn’t the primary read on that play,” Wentz said about Scott. “And the way it happened, I stepped up in the pocket. The guy had pretty good coverage, but giving Boston a chance there to make a play, and he did. He plays bigger than what he is, 5-foot-7.”
Then there are the sacks Wentz takes when he holds the ball too long, like in the first quarter, when he was sacked at the Eagles’ 4-yard line on third down. That forced the Eagles to punt out of the back of the end zone, giving the Giants the ball at the Eagles’ 39.
It only took one play for the Giants to tie the game.
Then there was the interception when the Eagles were at the Giants’ 15 in the second quarter. Wentz, rolling to his left, overthrew John Hightower and the ball was picked off. The correct play would have been to throw the ball away or run out of bounds because it was second down, and the Eagles were well within field-goal range.
But too often, Wentz tries to do too much, and it ends up costing the Eagles.
In fact, Wentz led the Eagles inside the Giants’ 20-yard line four times after the Eagles scored on their opening drive. They came away with a total of three points. There was the interception, a missed field goal by Jake Elliott, which wasn’t Wentz’s fault, and a turnover on downs (more on that later).
A touchdown on any one of those drives would have given the Eagles enough of a cushion that the fourth-quarter rally wouldn’t have been needed.
Then again, some of it is understandable.
Wentz was playing behind a porous offensive line with yet another new starter in Sua Opeta at left guard, with Lane Johnson again leaving with an injury (this time to his knee).
Wentz was sacked three more times Thursday and hit 10 more times. For the season, Wentz has been sacked an NFL-high 28 times.
It’s almost an accomplishment in itself that Wentz has been able to finish every game so far this season.
As Scott put it: “His toughness is wild.”
No wonder Eagles coach Doug Pederson praised Wentz’s toughness, while at the same time showing exasperation for the same mistakes that Wentz keeps making now that he’s in his fifth season.
“Maybe on the stat sheet, things looked good, but there were some throws, some decisions that he would want back,” Pederson said.
“But I tell you what, he’s the leader of our team for a reason, and you saw that (Thursday).”
Sure, Wentz completed 25 of 43 passes for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns. But he also threw his 10th interception of the season after throwing only seven in each of the previous three seasons.
There were so many head-scratching plays in between the Eagles’ masterful opening drive in which Wentz moved them down the field before his 1-yard touchdown run, and the frantic two touchdown drives in the final 6:17 of the game.
And yes, Pederson deserves some blame for that, too.
Wentz was having one of his great drives late in the third quarter, the Eagles down by four. He hit Travis Fulgham for 40 yards down to the Giants’ 9. Soon after, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-goal from the 3. For some reason, Pederson decided to put in tight end Hakeem Butler for his first NFL snap, then have Wentz try a fade route to him in the end zone.
It didn’t work. Not even close.
At first, Pederson said Butler was heading to the wrong side of the field.
Then Pederson added: “When he got back over to the right side of the field, or the right side of the formation, he was uncovered. When we snapped the ball, the defender (Logan Ryan) had gotten back over there just in enough time to really knock the ball away.”
This is the Eagles’ Catch-22: They have a franchise quarterback who’s at his best when the situation is most dire. But the situation is most dire in large part because the franchise quarterback keeps making the same mistakes that he has made since his rookie season in 2016.
“We’d love to not be in those situations where our backs are against the wall,” Wentz said. “We left a lot of plays out there. We were in the red zone a lot and didn’t score many points … But when our backs are against the wall and we have to make plays, I’m going to give guys all the opportunity in the world to make them.”
So Wentz did, beginning with a 59-yard pass that he feathered to rookie John Hightower to begin the fourth-quarter comeback, and ending with the game-winning pass to Scott in the front of the end zone.
For Wentz, that was enough to mask the pain – both from the hits he took, and the mistakes he continues to make.
“I feel great because we got the win,” Wentz said, “and I feel great because we have a long weekend.”
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.