NFL re­port:

Ea­gles QB adds elu­sive­ness to his arse­nal

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Martin Frank @mfranknfl USA TO­DAY Sports

Power rank­ings plus how hot is Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s seat? uFan­tasy rank­ings, Page 8 uWager­ing tips, Page 9 uWeek 2 game pre­views, Pages 10-25 uWeek 1 box scores, Pages 52-55

First, Car­son Wentz ducked and spun to his left to avoid line­backer Chris Carter. Then he saw Washington line­backer Pre­ston Smith bear­ing down on his left as Carter loomed on the right, a com­bined 600 pounds of force ready to pounce on its prey.

Some­how, Wentz cut right and got around Carter, then stepped up to elude Smith grab­bing at his an­kles. Then Wentz cut to his left and threw off his back foot down the field, a process that Ea­gles wide re­ceiver Nel­son Agholor de­scribed as “doop, doop, doop, doop.”

Wide re­ceiver Al­shon Jef­fery, mean­while, said he had no idea where Wentz was throw­ing the ball. He was try­ing to get open in front of Wentz as a safety valve. Then Jef­fery looked up and saw the ball land­ing in the arms of Agholor, all alone.

Agholor did his part, which Jef­fery de­scribed as: “Hey, just catch the ball.” Agholor did, giv­ing the Ea­gles a 58-yard touch­down on their open­ing drive.

“I told him that I had only seen two play­ers in the NFL make that play, all that elu­sive­ness and mak­ing a hell of a play — him and (the Green Bay Pack­ers’) Aaron (Rodgers),” Jef­fery said. “Hey, that’s spe­cial.”

Not the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers’ Ben Roeth­lis­berger?

“I’ve seen Aaron and only him,” Jef­fery re­peated. “That’s prob­a­bly the play of the NFL sea­son so far.”

Added Agholor: “I mean, he’s a ma­gi­cian, man.”

When the Ea­gles dis­sect their 30-17 sea­son-open­ing win against Washington, that is how they’ll mea­sure the growth of their fran­chise quar­ter­back from his rookie sea­son into the start of his sec­ond.

That, af­ter all, is the qual­ity that sep­a­rates the good quar­ter­backs from the great ones.

“That’s what you want be­cause scram­ble plays are al­ways big,” Jef­fery said. “We know the de­fense gets tired. Scram­ble plays are al­ways huge in any of­fense for any­one.”

That is what the Ea­gles des­per­ately need from Wentz. He was un­der siege through­out the game, even be­fore left tackle Ja­son Peters left in the sec­ond quar­ter with a groin in­jury.

Wentz was sacked only twice, but hit nine times. Yet he com­pleted 26 of 39 passes for 307 yards, two touch­downs and an in­ter­cep­tion. Most im­por­tant, he broke Washington’s col­lec­tive backs with his abil­ity to es­cape.

“He took shot af­ter shot af­ter shot,” Ea­gles coach Doug Ped­er­son said. “He ex­tended a lot of plays with his legs and his ath­leti­cism. He’s bat­tle tested. We saw it last year a lit­tle bit, and he proved it again (in Week 1).”

It wasn’t al­ways pretty. Ped­er­son, when asked about how the of­fense played, re­sponded, “Just OK.”

But Wentz made it OK enough. That’s be­cause the Ea­gles’ fast 13-0 start was quickly fall­ing apart just min­utes af­ter cor­ner­back Ron­ald Darby was carted off the field in the sec­ond quar­ter with what a dis­lo­cated an­kle.

The Ea­gles found them­selves trail­ing by a point with 1:17 left in the first half. The easy so­lu­tion would have been for Wentz to run out the clock in the first half and re­group for the sec­ond half.

But he didn’t. He con­verted a 3rd-and-10 to tight end Zach Ertz. He con­verted an­other 3rd-and-6 to Agholor, and he even­tu­ally got the Ea­gles close enough for a 50-yard field goal by Caleb Stur­gis as the first half ended putting the Ea­gles back in front.

Mid­way through the fourth quar­ter, with the Ea­gles up by six points, they faced a third-and-10 from their 26.

Wentz pulled an­other Hou­dini act. He scram­bled to his left and lofted a pass down the side­line to Ertz, who kept run­ning while the de­fender had to pause and con­sider mak­ing a play on Wentz.

The play went for 23 yards and al­lowed the Ea­gles to take off an­other pre­cious few min­utes off the clock.

“That’s tough on the sec­ondary any time the quar­ter­back can ex­tend plays and find guys down the field,” Wentz said. “I mean, they have to cover guys for a long time, and that could be re­ally frus­trat­ing ... That’s some­thing we just got to keep de­vel­op­ing.”

But the Ea­gles re­ceivers al­ready know. That’s why Agholor didn’t have to think twice when he looked back and saw Wentz scram­bling around in the first quar­ter, des­per­ately try­ing to avoid a sack. He ran deep and Wentz found him.

“In­stinct kicks in,” Agholor said. “You keep eyes on the quar­ter­back and you try to get away from de­fend­ers.”

Wentz will take care of the rest.

ED MUL­HOL­LAND, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Car­son Wentz finds new way to win.

GE­OFF BURKE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz’s scram­bling abil­ity gave Philadel­phia ex­tra op­por­tu­ni­ties in its win against Washington.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.