Car­son’s team is be­ing care­ful with the ball

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

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 bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @ BobGrotz

NAM Y. HUH — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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