After the Eagles beat the Redskins in Week 1, Philly’s retooled offense, featuring free-agent acquisitions Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, looked like it was a consistent deep ball away from being downright scary. The team had a middle-of-the-field threat in veteran tight end Zach Ertz, a pass-catcher in the slot in third-year pro Nelson Agholor, and a developing playmaker in quarterback Carson Wentz. Except Wentz connected on just one of seven deep passes in the season opener, and over the next three weeks—a loss to the Chiefs and wins over the Giants and Chargers—his accuracy on those deep throws remained, at best, inconsistent and, at worst, alarmingly poor.
But in Sunday’s 34-7 blowout victory over the Cardinals, the second-year signal-caller showed off a newfound precision on throws deep downfield, connecting on a pair of long scores to Smith and Agholor and finishing an efficient 21-of-30 passing for 301 yards with four touchdowns and one pick. Add with what looks like a suddenly dynamic rush offense—LeGarrette Blount carried the ball 14 times for 74 yards and the team ended the game with 122 yards on 33 totes—for the first time this year, we caught a glimpse of just how dangerous this Eagles team can be when everything clicks. Don’t take my word for it, though, just listen to Robert Griffin III:
Wentz and the boys in Philly are making play after play after play after play like poetry in motion— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) October 8, 2017
Wentz came into the game with exactly zero three-touchdown passing performances in his young career, but broke that barrier before the first quarter was even over. He threw scores to tight end Trey Burton, Ertz, and Smith in the opening frame, the third of which helped all but put the Cardinals away early. On the throw to Smith, Wentz saw something in the defense prior to the snap that he liked; he changed the play, and when the receiver got single coverage on a slant over the middle of the field, the 24-year-old quarterback made Arizona pay. He fired it deep over the middle to Smith, who outran his defender to make the score 21-0 with the 72-yard reception.
To cap his explosive performance, Wentz dropped a dime over Agholor’s shoulder on a third-and-19 midway through the third quarter. Agholor reeled it in, fought off a tackle attempt, then fell backward into the end zone for a 59-yard catch and the game-sealing score.
Nelson Agholor roasts Budda Baker, puts a juke on him and scores a 72-yard TD. Wentz now 8/9 for 207 yds and 3 TDs on 3rd down. WOW!!! pic.twitter.com/es7To7gGyb— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) October 8, 2017
Wentz played lights out on third down, finishing an incredible 11-of-12 for 229 yards and three touchdowns on third downs to push his season-long passer rating on that down to 137.7, with six total touchdowns and a 71.1 completion percentage. Combining efficiency and sound decision-making in the short and intermediate areas, an improved run game, and a few well-timed deep throws down the field, Wentz and the Eagles’ offense look capable of stressing defenses as we’ve never seen under head coach and play-caller Doug Pederson.
The Eagles’ defense is fighting through injuries to cornerback Ronald Darby, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and defensive back Corey Graham, but that banged-up group, which held the Cardinals offense to just seven points, got exactly the type of support it needed, as Philly controlled the football for over 35 minutes of the game. It was a complete team win for Philadelphia—the defense held strong, the run game gained traction, and the Eagles even got a big 76-yard return out of the newly re-signed Kenjon Barner. But while Wentz wasn’t perfect—he’d like the throw on that interception back, a miss to Ertz in the back of the end zone just before halftime—the second-year signal-caller stole the show, and he’s playing like one of the league’s most exciting young stars.