After Doug Pederson and Andy Reid embraced following the Eagles’ loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, Reid complimented Pederson’s team and made special mention of Carson Wentz.
“That quarterback is something,” Reid said.
Reid’s sentiment was similar to the source of optimism in Philadelphia entering the season, and the first two weeks only fortified the confidence. Wentz completed 25 of 46 pass attempts for 333 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and 55 rushing yards in the 27-20 loss. The performance had its blemishes – the interception was a costly mistake – but it’s hard to be discouraged by Wentz two games into his second season.
“I thought he played well,” Pederson said Monday after reviewing the game film. “He hung in there and battled and made some tough throws. Made some great, accurate throws down the field. Again, extended some plays with his legs. Very efficient there. … Even the two-minute drive to go down and score at the end of the game was a tremendous drive and made some third-down conversions there. But overall, I thought he played well.”
Wentz acknowledged that his nature is to leave a loss lamenting missed opportunities instead of celebrating what went well. The good he took was that the Eagles remained competitive on the road with one of the NFL’s best teams. But the agonizing feeling was the two turnovers that led to 10 points for Kansas City in a seven-point game – and one of the turnovers was his doing.
The interception was not an egregious throw that seemed intended for the opposing team. It was a deflected pass. But it came at a critical point – it was 13-13 in the fourth quarter and the Eagles were in their territory – and it put the Chiefs in position to take the lead. Under pressure on a third down, Wentz said he tried throwing at Darren Sproles’ feet on a screen play. Sproles stumbled on Jason Kelce’s foot, which might have disrupted his pattern. The pass never reached Sproles’ feet, though, instead ricocheting off the helmet of Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston. That created a loose ball that the Chiefs intercepted.
“Obviously, anytime a ball gets tipped around, it’s bad luck,” Wentz said after the game. “But obviously, I’d rather not throw it into a D-lineman’s helmet.”
However, it was the second interception in as many weeks that came off a deflected pass. And it hasn’t been limited to interceptions; other passes have been batted down, too. That’s noteworthy for a 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback.
“A lot of times, quite honestly, our offensive line does an outstanding job of stopping the rush and then [the defense] stand and time their jumps,” Pederson said Monday. “Bennie [Logan] did that yesterday and tipped the one pass, and then the other one, he had pressure and actually it glanced off of a player’s helmet. That one you can fix. That one’s fixable. That’s just a matter of understanding a little bit more the situation and the type of throw and trying to get it a little bit higher release and those are all learning experiences for him moving forward.”
Wentz was sacked six times and hit 10 times Sunday, an indication that he was under duress. It also showed that he dropped back so much that there were enough opportunities for the Chiefs pass rushers to find him. But Wentz must take responsibility, too.
There were moments throughout the game when he held on to the ball in a relatively clean pocket. Wentz has that Ben Roethlisberger-like tendency to be willing to hold the ball longer and extend plays, knowing he has the size to withstand pressure and the feet to evade it if needed. In fact, Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford said they call him a “smaller Big Ben.” When it results in a play such as Nelson Agholor’s Week 1 touchdown, it’s celebrated. When it results in a sack, it can sometimes unnecessarily reflect the protection.
“That is part of it,” Wentz said. “There are big plays to be made sometimes when I am scrambling and there’s going to be sacks sometimes where you hold on to it. It is going to be a constant thing kind of every week knowing when is the right time and you just have to find the right balance with it.”
If a quarterback drops back 56 times in a game, though, pressure is inevitable. The pass-run distribution will be the topic of the week, and until Pederson starts incorporating the run more frequently, there will be more afternoons similar to Sunday. Wentz threw 607 pass attempts last season, and his pace through two games would significantly eclipse that total this season.
“You don’t ever want to throw the ball that many times. You want to have more of a balance,” Pederson said. “And do I want him to drop back that many times? No.”
That’s been said before, though. The proof will be evident on Sundays, not during Monday news conferences. But the first two weeks – and Reid’s postgame sentiment – show that relying on Wentz’s right arm isn’t necessarily a bad plan.