By Al Thompson
If you just look at the box score, the stats line Carson Wentz ended up with after his first game back since Dec. 10, 2017 was not going to get him many MVP votes.
The third-year signal caller was 25 for 37 for 255 yards, one touchdown pass, an interception and five sacks, good for a pedestrian quarterback rating of 84.9.
The interception occurred with 9:41 left in the third quarter. It set up Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts at the Eagles’ 17-yard line. At the time, the game was tied 10–10.
Wentz also lost a fumble late in the third quarter that handed the ball to the Colts at the Eagles’ 13-yard line. The game at the time was tied 13–13.
After each turnover, the Eagles defense kept the visitors out of the end zone and made the Colts settle for field goals.
Wentz never lost confidence. With 14:20 left in the fourth quarter, he led the Birds on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that took up over 11 minutes of game clock and ended with a Wendell Smallwood 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a 20–16 lead they would not relinquish. His teammates, on offense and defense, couldn’t have cared less about his stats line. Wentz was back.
“He looked just like last year,” Corey Clement said at his locker after the game. “That’s a blessing. To see a guy come back off an injury like he had, and never miss a beat. That’s pretty good.”
Wentz’ biggest supporter on the team may be linebacker Nigel Bradham.
The seven-year veteran gushed about Wentz after their win over the Colts. He said Wentz does not need a pep talk after a mistake.
“He’s one of the top players (in the league),” Bradham said at his locker after the game. “He knows his mistakes. He’s one of those types of guys. As soon as he makes a mistake, he knows it. We’ve got his back. We’ve got a great quarterback, and that’s all that matters.”
Bradham said the defense knows this team is special when Wentz is on the field.
“The first thing we think to do is get him the ball right back,” Bradham said. “We got his back at all times. For what he does for us, his ability and what he can do for us at any time, to make plays at any time, he’s unbelievable. Any time he turns the ball over, or anything like that, we just think, ‘Let’s get him the ball right back right now,’ because he’s going to go score with it.”
Eagles center Jason Kelce was asked what is was like to see Wentz back out on the field and if it was uplifting for the team.
“He’s a special player,” Kelce said. “He’s a guy that’s very competitive, he’s a guy who wants to know every single person’s job. He wants to be involved with the offensive line. He’s constantly communicating with everybody. I think that’s one of the reasons he is such a special player, special teammate, very competitive and wants to win everything. whether it’s a practice or a game. That rubs off on other guys, for sure.”
Would he ever think about talking to Wentz after a turnover?
“No,” Kelce said. “He doesn’t have to say anything. Whenever a quarterback turns the ball over, sometimes you want to go to the guy and be like, ‘Hey, come on now, or hey, don’t worry about it, you’ll get it next time,’ but he’s not a guy you have to do that to. He’s going to be fired up and ready to go the next time he steps out on the field.”
After Sunday’s win, player after player said Wentz is the man. His leadership on the team is unquestioned.
“Carson just leads,” said wide receiver Nelson Agholor. “He comes in with great energy and we just feed off of him.”
Bird Seed: Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert posted career highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (73) and also caught his first career TD on a 13-yard pass from Wentz on the Eagles’ first possession to give the team a 7–0 advantage…Goedert is the first Eagles rookie TE with 70-plus receiving yards and a TD in a single game since Keith Jackson on 12/18/88 at Dallas (92 yards, 1 TD). Jackson accomplished the feat twice during his rookie campaign with Philadelphia in 1988…DE Derek Barnett produced his third career multi-sack game after combining for 1.5 sacks of Luck in Sunday’s victory. Barnett is now tied with Jordan Hicks for the second-most sacks on the team, trailing only Fletcher Cox (3.0)…Barnett and Cox split a sack for a seven-yard loss under the two-minute mark in the second quarter. Cox is now tied with Seth Joyner (37.0, 1986–93) for the eighth-most sacks in Eagles history and ranks second among all-time Eagles interior defensive linemen, trailing only Andy Harmon (39.5, 1991–97). Cox has contributed to sacks in all three games this season…Since 2016, Philadelphia owns a 17–3 record at the Linc (including playoffs), marking the best home winning percentage (.850) in the NFL in that span…The Eagles have won each of their last four home games (including playoffs). Overall, the Birds have won 13 of their previous 14 home games (.929) dating to Week 16 of 2016, with their only loss coming in the 2017 season finale vs. Dallas. The Eagles have gone 2–0 at home in their first three seasons under coach Doug Pederson. ••