CHICAGO, IL (CBS) — The smiling Howdy Doody face was gone, replaced by a lantern-jawed, angry determination. For the first time in his young, budding NFL career, Carson Wentz was facing adversity and it wasn’t his fault.
In fact, it was a little hard to tell the difference between the rookie who was playing in just his second NFL game and the veteran players surrounding him.
Wentz didn’t receive much aid on Monday night. It looked like Wentz was playing against both the Chicago Bears and his Eagle teammates for a good chunk of time at Soldier Field.
There were dropped passes. There were first downs wiped out by penalties. There were a ton of hits Wentz took. Basically, it was up to Wentz to carry the Eagles, not the other way around as it was designed.
Still, the Eagles pounded the decimated Bears, 29-14, despite penalties that created numerous third-and-longs and two dropped touchdown passes.
Wentz became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to begin a season 2-0 without a turnover. Currently, the Eagles have the largest point differential in the NFL, outscoring two bad teams by plus-34.
When asked about the fact that the Eagles haven’t turned the ball over, coach Doug Pederson knocked on the wooden podium.
“It’s something we don’t talk much about; we do talk about ball security and all of that,” Pederson said. “Offensively, it’s our job to protect that ball. And defensively, to get takeaways. For two games, not having a turnover is something to be said. It’s a pride factor with the guys.”
As for Wentz’s progression, Pederson said getting him into a rhythm early was important, especially with quick throws working out of an empty backfield.
“I thought he played well, well obviously enough to win,” Pederson said of Wentz. “Again, he took care of the football and stood in there and made some nice, tough throws. By no means was it perfect, but at the same time, he’s seeing things really well. He’s commanding the huddle and the dialogue on the sideline with the players and coaches. It’s something a nine-, 10-year vet would do. It’s just showing his maturity and the ability he has to play quarterback.”
It helps when you’re playing against a disinterested, head case quarterback like Chicago’s Jay Cutler. It also helps when the Eagles force three turnovers and play stubborn defense, which allowed one touchdown (Chicago’s second score came on special teams).
Wentz finished completing 21 of 34 for 190 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Mathews churned out 32 hard yards, scoring twice.
And the Eagles reached 2-0, despite Jordan Matthews absolutely blowing a perfect pass by Wentz that should have been a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Then, Nelson Agholor dropped a pass, after a Wentz scramble with a little less than 11:00 left in the third quarter. Agholor dropped yet another pass—this time in the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
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Pederson did a fine job with creative play calling, enabling Wentz to succeed. It just didn’t help when Wentz completions for first downs came back three times due to penalties.
What the Eagles—and Wentz—will have to be aware of is how many hits he takes. In two NFL games, he’s proven to be very durable—and incredibly tough. But how many more hits can Wentz take?
It’s two games into a new NFL season and it seems more and more apparent that Carson Wentz is for real.
But are the Eagles?
Reality comes this Sunday when the Super Bowl-contending Pittsburgh Steelers come and visit Lincoln Financial Field.