McFeely: Wentz continues to impress on the big stage
CHICAGO -- If Carson Wentz reaches a point this season when he looks overmatched or out his element -- you know, because he's a quarterback from a small school -- somebody alert the media or the Internet or something.
CHICAGO - If Carson Wentz reaches a point this season when he looks overmatched or out his element - you know, because he's a quarterback from a small school - somebody alert the media or the Internet or something.
Monday Night Football at Soldier Field in front of a national television audience was not that time. Not even close. The rookie quarterback from North Dakota State looked as comfortable as a 11-year veteran, and actually outplayed one, as he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 29-14 walloping of the Chicago Bears.
Actually, the Bears played a big role in walloping the Bears. Turnovers, miscues, poor play. The Bears had it all. If football fans thought Philadelphia's Week 1 opponent, the Cleveland Browns, was bad, they had to be caught off-guard by the ineptitude of the Bears.
Wentz isn't complaining. After shredding the Browns in his NFL debut, Wentz continued the pace against the Bad News Bears, looking as cool, calm and collected as always. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.
And no interceptions. He still hasn't thrown a pick.
Not bad for a quarterback the Cleveland Browns deemed not good enough and the Los Angeles Rams rated second behind a QB currently sitting at No. 3 on their depth chart.
"I thought he played well," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Obviously well enough to win. He took care of the football. He stood in there and made some nice, tough throws. By no means was it perfect, but he's seeing things really well and he's commanding the huddle and the dialogue on the sideline with players and coaches is something that a nine-, 10-year vet would do."
It's not like Wentz is gunslinging his way to massive statistics, throwing the ball downfield and gunning for touchdowns. No, his game so far is mostly short, safe passes meant for easy completions. Part of it is Pedersen's offensive scheme. It's what he does. But part of it, too, might be preservation of the coach's prize possession. Philadelphia's offensive line is as porous as a wet Kleenex and the more Wentz drops into the pocket, stands and waits, the more he gets hit.
So while he gets to take an occasional shot down the field, Wentz so far mostly survives six- and eight-yard passes. Philadelphia's first possession was the perfect example. Wentz threw on the first six plays of the drive, completing every one of them.
"They were possession throws. They were throws that were out of his hand fast," Pedersen said. "Things we had seen on tape from Chicago in empty formations. Great way to get our quarterback in a rhythm early and kind of get him settled in."
The best pass Wentz might've thrown in the first half should've been a touchdown. On second and 10 from the Bears 35 with 19 seconds left before halftime, Wentz took a drop and lofted a perfect ball toward his favorite target, Jordan Matthews. The ball couldn't have been thrown any better. Matthews had a step on cornerback Bryce Callahan and Wentz dropped a strike near the left pylon of the end zone.
The ball went through Matthews' hands. Instead of a touchdown, the Eagles settled for a 53-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis and a 9-7 halftime lead.
If there is a weakness in Wentz, it's his willingness to take a hit. He didn't go out of bounds quickly enough on a short run in the second quarter and was flattened by Chicago's Danny Trevathan. In the third quarter, trying to run for a first down on third and 10, Wentz scrambled for seven yards and didn't slide. Instead, Chicago cornerback Sherrick McManis cut Wentz's legs out from under him, sending the quarterback flying.
Wentz has to learn self-preservation. He's not playing Youngstown State or Western Illinois anymore.
Some of the hits Wentz took are not his fault. It's where the Eagles need to get better to protect him. The biggest hit Wentz took came early in the second quarter. Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman came up the middle on a blitz and delivered a punishing blow as Wentz stood in the pocket and completed a pass to tight end Brent Celek for 19 yards and a first down. Freeman's hit to Wentz's chest was hard enough to lift the 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterback off his feet.
When the Bears began turning the ball over in the second half, two fumbles and an interception, Wentz and the Eagles took advantage.
He outplayed Chicago's 11-year veteran Jay Cutler, who lost a fumble and threw a terrible interception before leaving the game with an apparent hand injury.
Wentz is 2-0 as a starting quarterback in the NFL and the national media are singing his praises. Not bad for a kid from a small school who a couple of teams desperate for a quarterback decided to pass on.