Ford: Wentz plays like a rookie

LANDOVER, Md. - There were no asterisks to attach to this loss, none of that rusty-after-bye, play-here-play-there stuff. This was a bad loss, a divisional butt-kicking in which the Eagles were dreadful on defense, disjointed on offense and unable to be lifted up by their star rookie, who threw for his fewest yards this season, lowest completion percentage, lowest quarterback rating and took five sacks while doing so. For the first time, he looked like a rookie.

"It was tough to get in the groove today," Carson Wentz said.

By the time the game ended, there might have been a groove down the middle of the field carved out by the quarterback's shoulder pads. He was on the ground a lot. On the stat sheet, aside from the five sacks there were 11 other quarterback hits. That means he was smacked five more times than he hit his own receivers. That's not a good way to play football.

Not all of it, or even most of it was Wentz's fault, but he took a pair of coverage sacks on what turned out to be the Eagles' final drive, turning a second and 6 at the Washington 42 into a fourth and 24 at their own 40.

"I've got to get the ball out," Wentz said. "That's on me."

In a way, the perception of how Wentz played in the disappointing 27-20 divisional loss to the Redskins is altered by how well he played in the first four games. Even in the loss at Detroit, Wentz emerged with a rating of 102.8, completed more than 75 percent of his passes, and the worst thing you could say about him was that he threw a ball at the end of the game that might have been ill-considered, but also one that his receiver didn't compete to catch.

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If Wentz hadn't been so good until Sunday, then this performance would have been shrugged off as a rookie game from a rookie, and what did you expect? But the bar is higher now. He wasn't very good in this one, although he had a lot of company.

For instance . . .

The defense had an atrocious first half for the second straight week and was pushed around throughout the second half as well against the Redskins. The offensive line was a sieve on the right side because of the absence of Lane Johnson, and that caused coach Doug Pederson to commit extra bodies to plugging that side, stealing from the scheme. The Eagles once again committed penalties that hurt on both sides of the ball, but particularly stymied the offense. They were flagged during three of their four second-half drives and limited to two field goals, despite having first downs on the Washington 20 and the Washington 11 on two of those drives.

So, yeah, it was a team effort, and that's what it took to lose by a whole seven points to the Redskins, who probably aren't all that good, either. The two field goals is all the offense provided and the game would have been a rout if not for Wendell Smallwood's kickoff return for a touchdown and the one egregious error that Kirk Cousins seems to make every game, this one going for a pick six by Malcolm Jenkins.

All that said and noted, Wentz struggled, too. He admitted to misreading some coverages and making some errant protection calls. He sailed a few passes and took too many sacks. There was the occasional oh-my mixed in, including the 54-yard beauty to Jordan Matthews on a third down in the fourth quarter, and several escapes from the crumbling pocket followed by a laser flick to someone open underneath. But those were candles in the darkness on a rookie kind of day, and a day in which the Eagles began their toughest stretch of the season. If this game was tough, just wait.

"Listen, last week, this week, these are going to be great learning lessons for Carson," Pederson said. "Being able to mature as a quarterback, still taking a lot of reps. He's still a rookie, but he's still our guy and I'm so excited to continue to work with him. He's going to clean it up and be ready to go next week."

Pederson had better be ready to help him out, and that means not putting him in the way of getting hit 16 times. The coach said he still believes in Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the replacement at right tackle. It's hard to know if he meant that or said it out of coach-speak habit. Whatever the case, he needs to get Wentz settled again, which will be kind of a chore against the Minnesota Vikings.

"It's football. No one likes to lose, but we've got to learn from it," Wentz said. "We're not losing hope. We're not losing any of the edge we bring on Sundays."

No, but they are losing football games, and it's too late to go back to when that wasn't supposed to matter this season.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports