Life is always easier when you get a little help from your friends.
In last night’s thrilling 34-27 win over the Packers, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz didn’t have to be Superman. Wentz was able to be an important part of a big win, perhaps the biggest of his career, without having to do all of it himself.
Last night, he threw three TDs and had a passer rating of 113.2, but only threw for 160 yards (his fewest in a game since last year’s 48-7 loss to the Saints), and had just 27 pass attempts. In 2018, there was only one game in which he threw fewer than 30 times (28 against the Giants in a 25-22 win at Lincoln Financial Field) and last night’s 27 passes were the fewest he’d thrown since he attempted 27 in back-to-back weeks against the Broncos and Cowboys in 2017.
The Eagles won those two games 51-23 and 37-9, by the way.
Certainly, when you get a big lead, there is no need to throw the ball all that much, and that was a theme for Wentz’ ‘17 season. But he also got a lot of help from his running game and his defense, both of which came through for him last night, too.
When The Eagles run.. Carson Wentz wins:— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 27, 2019
In games Wentz has started since 2016, the Eagles are 24-6 when the team rushes for over 100 yards (and 7-0 when rushing for over 175 yds like yesterday)
When rushing for under 100 yards, the Eagles in that span are just 1-13
It doesn’t make sense to run the ball if it’s getting stuffed all night, which is what we saw happen to the Eagles’ running game in the first three weeks of the season. But last night, the offensive line dominated in the way everyone expected them to at the beginning of the season and manhandled a very good Green Bay defensive line all night.
Jordan Howard ran 15 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Sanders added 72 yards on 11 carries. That’s 159 yards on 26 carries for an average of 6.1 yards per attempt. Successful runs on 1st down set up easier 3rd down situations, situations in which the Eagles were 5-for-9 last night. They got 10 rushing first downs compared to 12 passing first downs, and the ability to run the ball in the red zone helped them score touchdowns on all four trips inside the 20.
While Wentz was likely going to be the league MVP in 2017, people forget how good the team’s rushing attack was that year. They averaged 130.8 yards per game on the ground that year, 3rd-most in the NFL. The trio of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement, as well as the Eagles’ dominant O-line, kept teams honest and made play action that much more dangerous. Last year, however, the Birds ran for an average of just 94.6 yards per game, 3rd-worst in the NFL.
It was all on Wentz, who while battling injuries and coming back from an ACL tear had Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood as his leading rushers, both of whom combined for 875 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. The entire offense was on Carson’s shoulders, and his alone.
What Wentz received from his running game last night is what Dak Prescott gets every week. And conversely, as Green Bay struggled to run the ball against the Eagles’ defense, Aaron Rodgers had to put it up 53 times. Sure, he threw for 422 yards and 2 TDs, but in the fourth quarter, with his team trailing by seven, the Packers decided to put it in the air on their last six goal line tries. The first five fell incomplete, and the sixth landed in the hands of linebacker Nigel Bradham.
We’ve seen Wentz in the exact same position Rodgers was last night, with no semblance of a running game and missing key receivers. Even a QB as gifted as Rodgers was unable to overcome those obstacles, just as Wentz hasn’t been able to overcome them every time, either.
But it wasn’t just the running game. Wentz was also the beneficiary of short fields, thanks to outstanding special teams plays and turnovers by the defense.
Sanders’ 67-yard kickoff return gave him the ball, down 10-0, at the Green Bay 34. Instead of having to drive 75 yards to get back in the game, it only took five plays for Carson to get the ball in the end zone. He also got a short field when Derek Barnett strip-sacked Rodgers at the Green Bay 17-yard line just before halftime. From there, Wentz simply handed the ball to Howard four times which led to a touchdown and a 21-13 lead.
In ‘17, the Eagles were 4th in the NFL in takeaways per game (1.8). Last year, they were 28th (1.0). Through four games, they are middle-of-the-pack, in 17th (1.2). And we haven’t even talked about all the dropped passes of recent weeks, drops that have essentially cost the Eagles two victories and a 4-0 record.
Carson Wentz drives against the #Lions:— Tyler Steege (@TSteegeNFL) September 26, 2019
Punt (3rd down drop)
Turnover (RB fumble)
Turnover (WR fumble)
Punt (3rd down drop)
Punt (3rd down drop)
Turnover on downs
Time expired (TD dropped in endzone)
Last night, Alshon Jeffrey dropped a couple, but he clearly is still battling a calf injury. The rest of the receivers hauled in their targets (Nelson Agholor got one target the entire game) and made the plays that were there to be made. There were no fumbles, either.
Sometimes, Carson Wentz has had to be perfect and, occasionally, he’s been able to live up to those ridiculous expectations. But he shouldn’t have to be perfect every week. He shouldn’t have to be the saving grace every week.
Wentz is a Pro Bowl QB and one of the best passers in the game, but as Rodgers showed last night, even the greatest quarterbacks in the world need a little help from their friends.