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Carson Wentz survives, and then delivers, on a national stage

The rookie showed everything Philadelphia wants in its quarterback on Thursday.

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski was on a mission late Thursday night and early Friday morning, working on a column for the Friday paper. He wanted to know what Carson Wentz’s teammates thought of a noteworthy moment early in the fourth quarter.

Wentz, you see, left the game late in the third quarter with a head injury. After being driven into the ground by the Giants’ Olivier Vernon, Wentz trotted to the locker room to be checked by the Eagles’ medical team for a concussion.

It turned out all was well in the cranium of the team’s future.

On the team’s next offensive possession, head coach Doug Pederson called for an end-around, and Wentz found himself in open space ahead of ball carrier Nelson Agholor. So Wentz found the nearest defender and dove, head-first, to block and carve space out for Agholor.

He dove head-first, just a dozen minutes after being checked for a concussion.

Turns out, plenty of Wentz’s teammates admired that move.

“I think that’s just the competitor in him,” Jason Kelce said after the game, chuckling. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to take that away from him, even if you’re Coach telling him not to throw a block. I think he’s too much of a competitor to not throw a block if one has to happen.”

When Sielski conjured Shakespeare in speaking with Zach Ertz, asking him if sometimes discretion is the better part of valor — meaning, sometimes isn’t it smartest to play it safe? — Ertz shook his head in disagreement and grinned.

“Not in this city,” Ertz quipped.

Wentz has played 15 games for the Eagles this season. He’s shown himself to be a leader of men, an eager talisman for better and for worse. Each time the rookie drops back to pass, he is ready to make a play, and he will sacrifice limbs, one by one, to make those plays.

Numerous times Thursday night, Wentz found himself running for his life, either behind the line of scrimmage or, in some cases, through it. On one of those daredevil scrambles, he rolled all the way to his right for what felt like nearly a dozen seconds, and launched an ill-advised ball downfield. It was intercepted.

He tried the same thing in the second half, with nearly the same result.

On another play, however, Wentz planted his foot in the dirt with such force that he pivoted like a catapult as a Giants pass rusher whizzed by him in the pocket. Wentz saw space and took off, picking up 11 yards and a first down before sliding to safety.

It’s been on display many times this season, but Thursday night’s win showcased in full what Wentz is all about. He may put himself in harm’s way, and he may make mistakes, but damn it all if the kid isn’t going to try his hardest to make something brilliant happen on each down.

“He’s a beast, bro,” Jordan Matthews said after the game. “He’s backyard football at its finest. He’s a great person to have as your quarterback, because no one’s thinking about [possible injuries]. Nobody’s saying, ‘Oh, well, you know, he just went out for a possible concussion. Let’s not have him be a lead blocker on a reverse.’ It’s like, that’s what he wants to do. You know? And when you have a guy like that, everybody wants to build around him. So to the outside world, everyone’s like, ‘Oh my goodness,’ but man, that’s who he is. That’s just his nature, his DNA, and I’m just glad we’ve got him.”

It might not be the best approach in the world in terms of prolonging Wentz’s career, throwing caution to the wind and having him lead with his head on end-around blocks. I’m sure Doug Pederson will have yet another conversation with the rookie about self-preservation this week.

But Wentz said this is just who he is, and he’s comfortable with being the guy who people look to for a play.

“It’s something I feel comfortable with,” Wentz said. “You’ve got to be smart when you do it. There’s a time and place. Obviously, I still want to be a thrower from the pocket, first and foremost. But when things break down, I want to make a play. Sometimes it’s a positive play. Obviously, tonight, there was a negative play in there. It kind of is what it is. I’ve just got to keep working on that.”

The good thing, as Ertz pointed out so eloquently in his four-word answer of Sielski’s inquiry, is that the way Wentz plays is exactly the way the city of Philadelphia wants its quarterback to play. Not back-pedaling away from pressure, like Nick Foles did for weeks on end. Not checking down short of the sticks on every play, as Sam Bradford so readily did last season.

Carson Wentz leads the Eagles’ offense with daring acts of football splendor, risking his body to bring a fanbase to life.

“[Philadelphia], they love hard work, and they love winning,” Wentz said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing. And I’m the same way. I hate to lose. If you’re not working hard, I don’t really tolerate it, either, so I think it’s a great fit for me.”

Wentz isn’t perfect. But he makes it very clear that he’s working, each and every down, towards something special.

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