Carson Wentz is Stuck in Reverse
PHILADELPHIA - The contrast was sharp.
Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, did not throw his first incompletion during a 37-19 drubbing of the Eagles until there was 3:06 remaining in the first half.
That was after the veteran had connected on 13 consecutive passes and helped his offense pile up 21 points. The Cal product ultimately finished 20-for-27 for 267 with three touchdowns to Tyler Higbee and a 142.1 passer rating.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz was the runner-up to Goff back in 2016 and fit back into that role seamlessly Sunday with a second consecutive less-than-inspiring performance.
And this time the offensive line wasn't a disaster, Miles Sanders was in the backfield, and Wentz was leading Jalen Reagor into harm's way, not the opposite.
Wentz countered Goff with a 26-for-43 day for 242 yards and two interceptions for a dismal 56.5 passer rating.
His first INT was the back-breaker. Down 21-16 and driving in the third quarter, Wentz tried to force the ball into J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at the goal line, a terrible momentum-shifter as L.A. regained its footing from there and eased to the finish line.
“I got pretty aggressive, trying to force one in there,” said Wentz.
On the surface, the optimism remains.
“We know once we get these things cleaned up, we have the potential with the pieces that we have on offense to be great. To be elite on offense," he said.
"... we’re excited to get those things fixed and start showing we are elite.”
Optimism is always better than the alternative.
The context to Wentz's self-affirmation, however, starts with an 0-2 record for the first time since becoming the starter five years ago during his rookie season. His accuracy remains disturbingly inconsistent and the turnovers continue to trend negatively.
With two more INTs Sunday after two and a fumble at Washington, Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2020 season are the first time Wentz has thrown two-or-more interceptions in two straight games.
Wentz didn’t throw his third INT last season until Week 6 and his fourth didn’t come until a week later deep in October. At this rate, it would be stunning if Cincinnati didn't hang another pick on Wentz by next week.
Doug Pederson seemed to be biting his lip with his post-game Wentz assessment.
"I thought there were some good plays there," said the coach. "Some good decisions. He did a nice job handling the run game with some of the checks that we had going on, and got us in and out of some throws from the standpoint of bad defenses into good, positive plays. So he handled the game that way."
Elite QBs make good decisions and often check from bad plays into good ones but the coach isn't typically bringing that up when game-changing plays are being made.
The game-changers are being made by the opponents.
"The one thing that, again, we all have to take a look at, especially offense, is the turnovers," said Pederson. "We had the fumble early and of course the interceptions. That's been, I think these first two weeks of the regular season, that's been sort of the tale of the tape."
The Eagles' QB1 is going in reverse just as things should be slowing down for him and the trajectory of his career vs. Goff's are like two ships passing in the night.
"We’re not panicking, the sky is not falling," Wentz said.
Depends on your perspective.
The sun will indeed rise in Philadelphia on Monday but the city will have the same QB it did when the same sun set on Sunday night.
For the first time in five seasons, that's not necessarily a comforting thought.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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