Carson Wentz was trapped, seemingly smothered from all sides as his pocket collapsed on a third down early in the fourth quarter Monday night.
No chance Wentz gets out of this jam, right?
Safety Malcolm Jenkins figured as much on the Philadelphia Eagles bench, so he reached for his helmet and prepared to head back onto the field after the inevitable punt.
Then Jenkins glanced at the huge video board above the end zone at Lincoln Financial Field.
“He was still running,” Jenkins marveled after the Eagles put away Washington 34-24 behind their young quarterback. “That’s the magic of Carson Wentz.”
It was pure Harry Houdini — like there was some trick move, sleight of hand or trap door. Wentz broke out of that pack and scampered 17 yards.
“Amazing,” Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor said. “We didn’t know how he did that. Three, four plays later we are still on the sideline trying to figure out how he did that.”
Wentz started slowly Monday night but finished with 268 yards passing and four touchdowns, plus a game-high 63 rushing yards.
“I’m not really sure,” he said when asked to explain his great escape. “I think everyone was still engaged with their guy, so I knew I just had to get away. And no one, I don’t think, ever got their hands on me.”
The big run was just one example of the wave Wentz is riding while leading his team to a league-best 6-1 record.
The Eagles are on a four-game winning streak, with Wentz — he now leads the NFL with 17 TD passes — playing his way into the MVP conversation. After the scramble, he threw a 24-yard rope of a sideline pass to Alshon Jeffrey, then followed that up with a 10-yard TD pass to Agholor after he changed the play at the line of scrimmage.
Earlier in the third quarter, he pulled off another hocus-pocus play, on third-and-goal from the 9. He ducked as the rush came, stepped up, squeezed to set his feet in the space of a telephone booth (Millennials, ask your parents) and found his third read, running back Corey Clement in the corner of the end zone.
“He’s getting better every week,” said Washington linebacker Mason Foster, whose team has already been swept this season by Philadelphia.
Wentz finished with a passer rating of 126.3, very impressive when considering how the game began. After the first quarter that rating read 8.3, when Wentz went 1-for-3 for 13 yards and a pick on a grossly overthrown pass to Torrey Smith.
Yet Wentz reflected a resilient team. On a night when the Eagles needed a spark, the turning point came late in the second quarter when he found Mack Hollins, the fourth receiver, for his only catch of the night, a 64-yard TD pass that tied the score at 10.
The next drive, which began after the two-minute warning, began with a Wentz scramble and a 46-yard completion to Zach Ertz. It ended with a 4-yard TD to Ertz, the tight end who traditionally burns Washington.
Just like that, the momentum shifted. While Washington’s Kirk Cousins still hasn’t won on a Monday night (0-6), Wentz proved that he was ready for the bright lights. Simply put, he’s a gamer.
“He makes sure he gives his last ounce,” said Clement.
This is what a franchise quarterback is supposed to look like. Wentz’s accuracy is improving, particularly on the deep shots. And he feels more confident having had an entire off-season to prepare, reflect, tweak and grow.
“I do feel good,” he said. “There’s always plays every game, every week that you want back. I feel confident in all the guys. I just have to get the ball to them and let them make plays. We are picking up some big chunks down the field. Guys are winning and I’m just putting it there.”
And just think — Wentz could have been the Cleveland Browns quarterback.
The Browns decided they didn’t want Wentz at the top of last year’s draft, dealing the No. 2 overall pick which the Eagles gladly used to select him. Meanwhile, Cleveland is poised for another announcement Wednesday regarding the status of their unsettled quarterback job while Wentz has quickly become a favorite son in the City of Brotherly Love.
At one point in the fourth quarter, the festive Philly fans began the chant: “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
That sentiment was one thing Wentz couldn’t escape from.
SOURCE: USA Today – Jarrett Bell