Carson’s team is being careful with the ball
From the beginning, almost everything was a struggle Monday night for the Eagles, starting with the awkward protest to bring attention to social injustice at venerable Soldier Field.
While several Eagles stood, hands over their hearts for the national anthem, veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins and teammates Steven Means and Ron Brooks stood side by side and raised their right fists. Unconfirmed reports suggested Marcus Smith was part of the protest. It was one of those demonstrations where it was hard to know who was demonstrating.
What was indisputable on this night was how Carson Wentz, the rookie out of North Dakota, has become the Eagles’ leader. In just two games, it’s become crystal clear the team that was supposed to win with defense and special teams will go as far as Wentz takes them.
And so it was in the third quarter of a game going nowhere fast, the Eagles clinging to a 9-7 lead. Wentz led the Eagles on an eight-play, 68yard drive capped by Ryan Mathews’ second-effort three-yard run to take a 16-7 lead.
It was over on the ensuing series when Jay Cutler lobbed the ball to Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, who returned it to the two-yard line, late in the third quarter. It was one of three takeaways for the defense in a 29-14 victory.
With 290-pound offensive tackle Matt Tobin playing tight end and 327-pound defensive tackle Beau Allen at fullback, Wentz threw a screen pass to Trey Burton for the TD giving the Eagles a 22-7 lead. The PAT was missed, Caleb Sturgis hurting his hamstring in doing so.
Cutler shut himself down after the pick with a hand injury. Kicked around veteran Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback and his first march ended with a fumble by Jeremy Langford, recovered by Brooks.
The Bears aren’t going to win many games. They’ve gotten rid of high-priced players and are in transition. They’re no match for Wentz, the Eagles or the NFC North, for that matter. Especially Wentz. Wentz would have had three TD passes had Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor hung onto catchable balls.
In the first half Eagles rookie cornerback Jalen Mills became the example of what not to do — pose — on a double move.
Alshon Jeffery made him pay with a 49-yard gain to set up the Bears’ touchdown giving them a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.
Late in the first half, Matthews dropped a perfect throw that should have been a 35-yard score. The Eagles settled for a 53-yard Sturgis field goal and a 9-7 lead at the intermission.
Wentz didn’t have great numbers. Just getting up off the ground following all the hits he took was like watching John Wayne take on all those bad guys in True Grit. When Wentz’s line didn’t let him down, the receivers did.
But Wentz kept the Eagles together through all of the strife. He made the teammates that protested look good. He has an interesting chemistry with head coach Doug Pederson.
Speaking of Pederson, he went Bill Belichick on the first series, setting the tone by having his guys convert a fourth down in Bears territory. It led to a field goal. In the fourth quarter Pederson stepped on the Bears’ throats as he called a fourth-and-goal run that became Mathews’ second TD.
For good measure, Pederson went for fourth down again just before the two-minute warning. Once again, the Eagles converted.
At this point you cannot expect anything less from Pederson and Wentz, who became the first NFL quarterback to start and win his first two games without turning the ball over.
The only good news about the Eagles hostikng the Steelers Sunday at 4:25 p.m. is the opposition will play without suspended MVP candidate Le’Veon Bell.
Thirty-three-year-old veteran running back DeAngelo Williams is tearing it up with 58 rushes for 237 yards (4.1 average) and two touchdowns, plus 10 catches for 66 yards and a TD.
Worse, Antonio Brown has 12 receptions for 165 yards (13.8) and two TDs despite constant doubleteaming.
Big Ben Roethlisberger bas six TD passes, three interceptions and a 95.5 passer rating for the Steelers (2-0), who were 5½-point favorites over the Eagles before the Birds hit the field Monday night.
The Steelers have outscored Washington and the Bengals, 6232, and are plus-1 in turnover ratio.
Tony Romo could be back in action when the Cowboys host the Eagles Sunday night in Week 8. According to Jerry Jones, Romo, who suffered a hairline fracture of the L1 vertebra the last week of August, had “a real good exam” with a battery of doctors before the Cowboys beat Washington Sunday.
Romo threw the ball a bit, as well.
The Cowboys initially said he would miss six to 10 weeks. It will be six weeks Oct. 6 and nine weeks Oct. 27.
The consensus among Dallas area columnists — down there, they’re generally the voice of outraged fans — is the starting job should be rookie Dak Prescott’s to lose.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram writer Mac Engel summed it up with:
“Mr. Romo, you are officially on notice. Whenever you come back from two back surgeries, the end of your career could look a lot like the start, on the bench as the No. 2.”
Jones insists the Cowboys are a better team with Romo, and he’ll have the final say.
The Eagles get their bye after they oppose the Steelers Sunday. Then they play at Detroit and Washington before welcoming Sam Bradford back to the Linc on Oct. 23.
To contact Bob Grotz, email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ BobGrotz
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) has stood out in the crowd in the first two weeks of his first NFL season. What’s really amazing is he’s gone through two games without the Eagles’ offense giving up a turnover.