How are we to take this Eagles loss, their sixth in the last eight games? That they gave maximum effort? Well, that only confirms they played less than 100 percent in earlier games.
That Zach Ertz proved something with 10 catches and 112 yards? Don’t be fooled. Ertz annually puts up lofty stats in meaningless December games, his plot to fool us that he’s approaching stardom. Oh, and Ertz cost a TD on a punt return by committing a (marginal) block-in-the-back penalty.
That Jon Dorenbos is their most irreplaceable player? Who knew how dire things would get if the steady long snapper (playing his franchise-trying 162nd straight game) got injured? We found out — sideline auditions and three “go for its” on fourth downs.
All fair takeaways. But I’m going with this: Despite the disappointment of the 27-22 loss to Washington, Eagles fans should continue to feel bullish about their rookie QB. With no weapons, no blockers and not much help from his coach, Carson Wentz shined on Sunday. He nearly won the game singlehandedly.
You saw the last drive. Wentz marched the Eagles 61 yards in a minute and a half, throwing to the likes of Trey Burton and Ol’ Pitchfork Hands Ryan Mathews. He evaded the rush, found secondary receivers, moved quickly and confidently.
The Eagles ended up at Washington’s 14 with 21 seconds to play. Time for an Elway-type miracle.
But, of course, this is not that season. Milliseconds after Wentz took the shotgun snap, he was plastered by elite pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who had pushed aside fourth-string right tackle Matt Tobin like a lace curtain. Flattened quarterback, fumble, game over.
Foolish critics may blame Wentz there. But, really, there was nothing he could do. He didn’t even finish his drop back before getting mugged.
The bigger point is how much he actually accomplished Sunday. That 61-yard drive came without three of their top four running backs, without three of their regular receivers and without three of their Week 1 offensive linemen. Wentz was trying to beat a NFL playoff contender surrounded by a roster resembling the has-beens and never-weres who show up for your Sunday rough-touch games.
Overall, Wentz went 32-for-46 for 314 yards, with one TD and one foolish end zone interception — all while being engulfed all afternoon by angry men in white and burgundy. Doug Pederson called it the No. 2 overall pick’s best game so far. I’ll stick with that Pittsburgh masterpiece back in September, but I get the coach’s point.
The kid is smart, confidence and technically sound. He’s got all the internal tools – he just doesn’t have the right pieces around him. He’s tough, rising from vicious hits on Sunday. He battles, even as his coach exposes him by calling an average of 47 pass plays over the last seven games.
Moral victories mean little, and Sunday didn’t provide one of them. But even in the loss, you can see the Eagles future at quarterback. And it remains extremely positive.
- Perhaps this is the time to again remind you how Lane Johnson screwed up the Eagles season. Injuries happen, but Johnson’s idiotic supplement suspension started the chain of events that had Tobin trying to block Kerrigan on Sunday — the equivalent of a kitten trying to stop a T. rex.
- Also, put some of the blame for that game-killing play on Pederson. It was incumbent on him to either give Tobin some help or move the play away from Kerrigan’s side of the field. Pederson said Monday that Tobin had been hurt the previously play, but had not told coaches or teammates. Perhaps so, but even at his best, Tobin was no match for Kerrigan. Mismatches are the responsibility of strategists, not players.
- I have no clue why that cheap-shot punk Deshazor Everett of Washington wasn’t tossed after his unconscionable blasting of Darren Sproles on a late-game punt return. This came after Everett drew a penalty for helmet-to-helmet contact after knocking out Brent Celek a few plays earlier. Back in March, league owners passed a rule ejected players who committed two personal fouls in one game. So …?
- Both before and after Sunday’s game, Desean Jackson coyly told anyone listening that he’d be interested in returning to Philadelphia. During the contest, all he did was catch three passes for 102 yards, including an 80-yard TD. Jackson now has three 100-yard games in the five he’s played against the Eagles.
- That 80-yard TD, not surprisingly, came with Leodis McKelvin struggling to cover Jackson. In the fourth quarter, however, the beleaguered cornerback jumped the route on another pass attempt and — shock of shocks — picked it off and ran 29 yards for a touchdown. McKelvin has a .00001 chance of playing here next year, but he’ll always have that play for his career highlight reel.
- Brandon Brooks called out with a stomach ailment hours before Sunday’s game, the second time this occurred in three weeks. Turns out, similar sick days occurred at least twice in the past two seasons when Brooks played for Houston. I will not question the gravity of Brooks’ sudden illnesses. But I will say they are worse for the team than a normal injury, because Sunday morning sick calls give the coach no time to adequately prepare a substitute starting guard or adjust his game plan.
- Oh, and one more thing: I can’t turn this column over to Flyers coverage with just three games left in the Eagles’ season. But the current hockey hot streak has been a pleasure to watch, with different heroes every game and real signs that the youngsters are coming on. It’s going to be a long, cold winter around these parts. Here’s hoping that the guys in orange and black take our mind off of shoveling snow and running mock NFL drafts.