Will Carson Wentz Ever do Enough to Quiet the Doubters?

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – The NFC East is the worst division football, and for about 55 minutes of Thursday night’s game against the New York Giants, the Eagles looked like the worst team in it.

Then Carson Wentz did what he has been doing for the last couple of weeks. He put the team on his back and carried them to a 22-21 victory by throwing for two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the game.

The heavy load the Eagles’ quarterback is carrying this season hasn’t always led to wins, but it isn’t for lack of effort, but whatever Wentz does, it will never be enough to silence his doubters.

Maybe if the day ever comes that he wins a Super Bowl, maybe the critics will forever be muzzled, though it’s a tough crowd and it makes one wonder if that would ever truly happen, or if there would always be a flaw, a fault, something, anything they will pick at like a three-day scab.

Wentz will never be that pinpoint, 65 to 70 percent completion passer and that bothers some, but the way in which he is playing, using his legs, standing in a pocket that many times collapses quicker than a sandcastle at high tide, shows great leadership.

“He trusts the guys around him, and he trusts himself,” said safety Jalen Mills. “We’ve been playing tight games. He’s our leader, and he’s going to keep doing his thing.”

One of the greatest criticisms of Wentz was he wasn’t clutch, that fourth-quarter comebacks weren’t his bag. He’s had his share of success and failures in big moments, but he never shies away from them, and he has added two comebacks in the last two weeks.

While the one against the Ravens fell two points short, the charge was furious, with Wentz throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another in the final quarter. The signature play in the comeback was a 40-yard run on which he could have ducked out-of-bounds rather than turning upfield and barreling into Ravens defenders to complete the big play.

Then came the Giants and the two touchdown passes he threw in the final five minutes to escape an 11-point hole. Perhaps the signature play was the proverbial dime he dropped into John Hightower’s for a 59-yard completion that helped set up the first TD in the comeback, though a case could be made for the dart he threw to a streaking Boston Scott for the game-winning, 18-yard touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game.

“He's taken that step in the right direction to be one of the top quarterbacks in this league,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “Quarterbacks sometimes get measured by fourth-quarter comebacks. I know that's part of a stat that gets recorded, and he's done that.

“The last couple of weeks, we've put ourselves in position to really either tie the game a week ago and of course this week win the game. That's what it takes. Especially the situation that we are in health-wise as a team, we know these games are going to be probably closer than we would like. But it is good to see your quarterback standing there, go toe-to-toe, take some shots, and still lead your team down the field for the win.”

Wentz is taking some shots, for sure. 

The Giants sacked him three times and he has now been taken down 28 times in seven games. In the past two weeks, he has been hit a combined 26 times, with the Ravens doing it 16, the Giants 10.

“I feel great because we got the win and I feel great because we have a long weekend,” said Wentz. “Those are the things I feel great about. Anytime you play two football games in whatever it’s been - a four or five-day stretch - it’s tough. It’s tough on your body. But the fact that we got a win and the fact that we have time off, the body will be just fine.”

Early in the season when the Eagles were still, kinda, sorta healthy, Wentz was a mess.

Was it a lingering groin injury?

Was Jalen Hurts’ presence messing with his psyche?

Bad mechanics?

All of the above?

We may never know, but we know now is he has righted himself and he is pulling this depleted, injury-riddled roster right along with him.

“He’s a tough dude, real tough dude,” said Scott. “He battles day in and day out. It’s not just in the game – all throughout the week. He’s a true professional, a true leader. He does what he is supposed to do. His toughness is wild, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

It’s hard not to respect that, though not everyone will agree.

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