Eagles' struggles remind Wentz of his rookie year
PHILADELPHIA—The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions who are playing more like the team that went 7-9 in Carson Wentz's rookie season.
Penalties. Turnovers. Missed blocks. Dropped passes. Squandered opportunities.
It's added up to a 2-3 start for the Eagles after they lost 23-21 to the Minnesota Vikings before almost 70,000 restless fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles, toasted as conquering heroes after beating New England in the Super Bowl eight months ago, were getting booed by the home crowd Sunday, Oct. 7. Lustily and more than once.
"It kind of feels like that's where we were two years ago. We were that young team making these mistakes. Having the veteran club last year, you didn't see a lot of that," said Wentz, the third-year quarterback. "The veteran team that we have, I am confident we'll fix it. I'm confident we'll turn it around, but it's frustrating right now."
The former North Dakota State star from Bismarck, N.D., finished 24 of 35 for 311 yards and a touchdown, but like his team he had ups and downs.
Wentz made some plays, but had a key intentional grounding call and was sacked three times, one of which led to Minnesota nose tackle Linval Joseph catching the loose ball out of the air and chugging 64 yards for a touchdown.
"We have to take a real hard look in the mirror. Little mistakes like that. It was the same thing that echoed after last week's game. Those little mistakes that can sometimes go overlooked are just killing us," Wentz said. "We're playing like we're a young rookie team and we're not. We have to be really hard on ourselves and learn from these mistakes and turn it around fast."
If the Eagles are looking like a 2016 version of themselves, it's obvious the fans aren't feeling the same way they were that year. Optimism about the future has switched to the expectation of immediate success.
That could make this season a difficult one for Wentz and the Eagles.
The problem is that this is not the same Eagles team as a year ago. That team rode the wave of Wentz's Pro Bowl-caliber season before a late-season knee injury and the hot hand of Nick Foles after it. Now, Philadelphia's offensive line is a mess and the questions have started from the media about how offseason changes on the team's coaching staff might be affecting Wentz and the Eagles' offense.
Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Wentz's first two seasons, have moved to other jobs. Reich is the head coach for Indianapolis and DeFilippo is Minnesota offensive coordinator. They've been replaced by Mike Groh and Press Taylor.
Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson said the coaching changes are not the problem. And they continue to say Wentz is all the way back from his injury.
"We're self-inflicted. We're shooting ourselves with penalties and turnovers that are hurting our offense," Pederson said.
The Eagles rallied from a 20-3 to make it 20-14 after Wentz hit Wendell Smallwood on a 12-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. After the Eagles recovered a Vikings fumble at the Minnesota 30 with 10:03 left, it looked like Philadelphia had all the momentum.
But three penalties—illegal formation, Wentz's intentional grounding and delay of game—moved the ball back to the 45. The Eagles punted and Dan Bailey hit a 52-yard field goal on Minnesota's next possession for a 23-14 lead.
"If we don't get that fixed, we're going to lose a lot of games. At the end of the day, I know the guys in that locker room. I know they will play with a sense of urgency and come tomorrow ready to work," Wentz said. "That's not something that I've really feared. Even my rookie year when we were technically out of the playoffs, there's no quit in these guys. We're not just going to lay down."