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October 24, 2017

Awestruck Eagles running out of words to describe Carson Wentz

If good teams find ways to win, what does that say about a now 6-1 Eagles team that overcame its worst quarter of football all season and managed to beat the Washington Redskins by 10 points on Monday night?

Quite a bit, especially for a team that has been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball and is led by a quarterback-coach combo that’s only in it’s second NFL season. Despite that, here the Eagles sit at 6-1, in possession of the best record in the league, and 2.5 games ahead of the rest of the NFC East thanks to a 34-24 win over Washington. 

“It [shows] the resiliency of this football team,” head coach Doug Pederson said after the win, one in which the Eagles managed just 29 yards of total offense in the first quarter. “Yeah, it was a sluggish start. We've had a lot of time off and that's one of the things that I sort of messaged to the team was exactly what happened. You have to try to guard against that. 

"But the fact that they hung in there, battled, tied the game at three, and then scored a couple touchdowns again before the half and then just kept plugging away ... learning how to finish is the key in these games.”

It wasn’t just that the Eagles were able to take control of a game that appeared to be rapidly getting away from them. It was also how they did it. 

The aforementioned rough start – it included an opening-drive score by the Redskins, Jordan Hicks being carted off to the locker room, four penalties on offense on the first series alone, and a Carson Wentz interception to cap it all off – found the Eagles down 3-0 after the first quarter. In that quarter, the Birds managed just 29 yards of total offense. And Wentz finished with as many completions as interceptions (1).

That was the kind of night it was shaping up to be for the Eagles. The Linc was deathly silent for much of the first half. It felt like a loss. 

Instead, it was their biggest win of the season.

In other years, it might have ended differently – they looked really bad in that first quarter – but it didn’t. And with 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions, not to mention the NFL's best record nearing the midway point of the season, Wentz is the reason why.

Good teams find ways to win. Great teams have elite quarterbacks.

“He is amazing,” said Nelson Agholor, who caught his fifth touchdown of the season in the win. “I talk about how great and how athletic he is and how he has a great arm, but the attention to detail, the film study, the professionalism he has as a quarterback is second to none in my opinion.”

A legit MVP candidate in only his second season, the Eagles quarterback is for real. In front of a national television audience on Monday night for the second straight week, he once again delivered, finishing 17-of-25 for 268 yards, four touchdowns and an interception (126.3 passer rating). 

“Magic. To be as young as he is and do some of the things he does, you forget that this is only his second year,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “A lot of the times, I’m on the sideline telling him to slide, because sometimes he just goes for the extra two yards. It’s fun to watch him; he’s an exciting and electric player, and obviously, he has a lot of eyes on him around the league.” 

On a night when the Eagles were struggling to get anything going on the ground, Wentz finished with a game-high 63 rushing yards on eight carries.

No matter what went wrong for the Birds, Wentz seemed to have the answer. Take, for example, this absolutely ridiculous 17-yard scramble on third down. 

The Redskins had just scored to make it a seven-point game entering the fourth quarter. If Wentz had taken a sack there, it would've been three-and-out, and all the momentum would've shifted back to Washington. Instead, they drove down an answered with a touchdown of their own.

"The guy’s incredible. I can’t say enough good things about him," said tight end Zach Ertz. "That 17-yard scramble on third down – just to keep that drive alive and then we go down and score a touchdown. That’s a big turning point in the game... It’s a huge play in the game and we needed it at that time and then we kind of got on a roll after that.”

That play came after losing Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to a gruesome leg injury early in the second half. The pocket Wentz had enjoyed for much of the night was shrinking by the minute, but he was still making plays. 

When those plays weren't with his feet, he was standing in the pocket and making throws like this...

“He’s amazing,” said wideout Alshon Jeffery. “On that touchdown to Corey, I’m like, I don’t know how he saw him. He must have Spiderman vision. He’s great.”

Wentz may have be the biggest reason the Eagles improved to 6-1, but he’s far from the only one responsible for their win. 

With the offense struggling to get anything going early – and already without their starting middle linebacker – Jim Schwartz’s defense was able to keep the team in it – after all, they never trailed by more than a touchdown.

One of the key plays in the game, not surprisingly, came from Jenkins, who popped Jordan Reid on a 3rd-and-1 play to force Washington to punt. Over their next five drives, the Eagles scored four touchdowns. 

“We just kept saying stay together, weather the storm,” Wentz said. “Because, I mean, again when two teams like this know each other so well – they made their plays early. We knew we would get our shot to make our plays and that’s what we did.”

By late in the second quarter, it was like the first 20-plus minutes of the game never even happened. The Birds, stagnant up until that point, were suddenly making plays, like this 64-yard gem from Wentz to bike-riding rookie Mack Hollins.

Then, after a three-and-out by Washington, Wentz and the offense picked up right where they left off with this pass to Zach Ertz that might be even better than the Hollins touchdown.

A couple of plays later, it was Ertz again for the touchdown, giving the Eagles their first lead of the game heading into the locker room. 

They never looked back. Their quarterback made sure of it.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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