Wed, 02 Dec 2020

Gunslinger Carson Wentz has Eagles atop NFC East and on a roll

Philadelphia Eagles
26 Oct 2020, 18:12 GMT+10

Dave Spadaro

For whatever reason, Carson Wentz thrives in chaos.

He's the kind of quarterback who can escape a collapsing pocket and find some space and set up and make impossible throws into the tiniest of windows. He is the fearless quarterback who stares down two-score deficits with aggressiveness and confidence.

They call these kinds quarterbacks "gunslingers." And when you have a gunslinger, you live with the moments where you say, "What are you doing on that throwwwwwww?" And when your gunslinger does what Wentz did on Thursday night, leading the Eagles from an 11-point deficit to a victory with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes that were just so improbable and exhilarating, you say, "This guy is going to give me a heart attack!!!!"

The gunslinger of all gunslingers in recent NFL times was Brett Favre, the former Green Bay Packers great who finished his career in Minnesota. Head Coach Doug Pederson played with Favre, so he knows the mentality, and he knows the game. There were a lot of great moments with Favre, a Super Bowl winner. There were also a lot of impossible interceptions and questionable decisions, but that the end of the day, Brett was always Brett and that made him one of the NFL's all-time greats.

Is Wentz cut of the same cloth? Pederson talked about it on Friday after the win over the New York Giants the night before and, well, it sounds like Pederson likes the comparison.

"That was always the thing with Brett, the reward was definitely greater. But you knew there was going to be some risk involved. Carson obviously has the ability to do that. He's got the arm strength, the mobility to extend plays with his legs," Pederson said. "I would think the one thing that we're seeing with Carson now, the same thing I saw with Brett, is that physical toughness, being able to stand in the pocket, take some hits, bounce up, and do it again. To me, that's kind of some of the similarities there. Carson is solid. He's getting better every week. Again, had a great comeback yesterday for us. That's some of the same things that obviously I saw in Brett when I played with him."

Wentz has a lot of work to do to clean up a game that, in 2020, has produced an NFL-most 10 interceptions, the most since his rookie season of 2016. He has to temper the inclination to try to make something out of nothing and learn that when a play is not there, he can throw the ball away and live for another play. Wentz wants to hold the ball and wait for something to open, and sometimes it just doesn't open. Five years in, and Wentz should be better at this, and he knows it.

But when you're a gunslinger, it's tough to put a lid on the play-by-play expectations. That mentality paid dividends against the Giants when Wentz led the Eagles to consecutive touchdown drives to turn a 21-10 deficit into a 22-21 win after touchdown passes to Greg Ward and Boston Scott.

Now the Eagles are in first place in the NFC East all by themselves, even with an unsightly 2-4-1 record. Dallas, having lost at Washington on Sunday in an ugly game, is reeling. The Eagles have a chance to make up some ground after a rough first six games of the season and if they do, that fourth-quarter rally to defeat New York could be the turning point.

"It does a lot for our confidence the way we've really fought to come back in the last couple ballgames. To actually do it and pull out a win is huge for our confidence and we know it's a divisional game," Wentz said. "So, it's huge for the NFC East, as well. We'd love to not be in those situations where our backs are against the wall. We left a lot of plays out there. We were in the red zone a lot and didn't score many points. Those are the things we have to clean up and be better.

"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. (Head Coach Doug Pederson) does a great job of calling the game in those situations where we're playing fast and putting a lot of pressure on the defense. We're obviously doing some good things in those situations. We have to keep building on it. But again, ideally, we don't put ourselves in those situations. But when we need it, we've been successful for the most part so far."

The Eagles have been in come-from-behind situations for much of the season and they've shown sparks of life with wins in San Francisco, close losses in Pittsburgh and against Baltimore, and the win over New York. Wentz also engineered a late-game touchdown drive to force overtime against Cincinnati. The blueprint is to start fast and finish strong, but when the Eagles have veered off course this season, they know Wentz is going to keep fighting to get back in the game.

The Eagles aren't going to quit. That much is for sure.

"It's good to see your quarterback being able to put the team on his back and lead a comeback like he did in this game. Obviously, the Baltimore game is another one where we made the comeback and put ourselves in a position to tie that football game. That part is good to see," Pederson said on Friday. "We want to try to at least minimize being down two scores late in the fourth quarter and have to come back every week. Those are hard to overcome. That's one of the things you love about Carson, he's constantly fighting with his guys and battling with his guys out there. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game.

"The other thing is when we're down two scores like that, you go right into your two-minute offense. You saw the play (59-yard gain) to (John) Hightower, you saw the play (30 yards) to Richard Rodgers. The Richard play was a scramble, big play in the game. That's who Carson is, a constant competitor and wants to win."

More Philadelphia News

Access More

Sign up for Philadelphia News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!