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How can the Eagles unlock Carson Wentz? Think LeBron James

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Woody strongly believes Eagles can win the NFC East (1:06)

Damien Woody believes that if the Eagles can win their next two games, they will take command of the NFC East division. (1:06)

The mighty ebbs and flows in the performance of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz were captured perfectly in Thursday night's 22-21 comeback win against the New York Giants.

Wentz started red-hot, going 4-for-4 on the opening drive with a rushing touchdown. He was a force late, tossing a pair of game-saving TDs on Philadelphia's final two possessions. On those three drives, he was a combined 9-of-12 for 166 yards (75% completion rate, 13.8 yards per attempt) with three scores.

Dr. Jekyll gave way to Mr. Hyde in between, as Wentz went 16-of-31 for 193 yards (52% completion rate, 6.2 yards per attempt) and threw his league-leading 10th interception.

It has gone that way of late for Wentz, who continues to fight accuracy issues -- his 23.4% off-target rate is the second highest in the league behind only Mitchell Trubisky, per ESPN Stats & Information research -- but has rediscovered his penchant for big plays and late-game heroics and has the Eagles (2-4-1) trending upward in turn.

The question in front of the Eagles is: How can they harness the good and mitigate the bad in Wentz's game to turn those flashes into a more reliable energy source?

Part of the answer can be found in the fourth quarter. Wentz has done the bulk of his damage in that frame, tossing six of his 10 TDs in the final 15 minutes while posting a QB rate of 86.7 -- by far the highest of any quarter this season. He has already engineered a career-best three fourth-quarter comebacks this season.

"You feel the backs against the wall, time to make some plays mentality. Kind of just cut it loose and play," Wentz said on why those moments bring the best out of him. "You're giving guys chances down the field. You're giving guys an opportunity to make plays."

All the ingredients are right late in games to put Wentz into playmaker mode: he's thinking less, reacting more, and using his legs to put stress on the defense.

It's less about Wentz being "clutch" and more about the way the offense is functioning in those situations. When the Eagles are in up-tempo, Wentz tends to be more decisive. That was true on the opening drive Thursday, when he just gripped it and ripped it for four straight completions, and again while playing catch-up late in the game.

His ability to strike while on the move often surfaces down the stretch, like when he sprinted right and hit wide receiver Greg Ward for a 3-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, or on the following series when he was flushed out and flicked his wrist for a 30-yard gain to tight end Richard Rodgers.

For his career, Wentz has a 6.3% touchdown rate outside the pocket compared to 4.4% inside the pocket, according ESPN Stats & Info. His accuracy doesn't go up in those situations, but the chances of him making a splash play do.

"I don't think Carson's really much of a dropback passing quarterback, sitting in the pocket type guy," ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said.

"The more they utilize him as an open-field weapon is better. I wouldn't ask him to sit back in the pocket too much. I'll be honest, I don't know if he has great feel for that. Like, he just likes to sit back there until he cannot. So I think getting him on the move is almost like getting LeBron [James] in a pick-and-roll situation. I don't know if you can go wrong with getting him on the move."

The state of the offensive line only furthers the need for this approach. Wentz has been hit 76 times so far this season, the most in the NFL by a wide margin (Cincinnati's Joe Burrow is second with 60 contacts). He has been sacked a league-high 28 times and has faced the blitz 97 times, the second most behind the New York Giants' Daniel Jones.

In the pocket, he's a sitting duck, and his propensity to hold onto the ball doesn't help any.

Just like last season, Wentz is working with a bunch of deep reserves and former practice squad players, and that has affected his bottom line. Yet he has still shown he's capable of rising above all of that to play at a very high level under specific circumstances. And while there are unique variables late in games, like how opposing defenses are playing you, it's up to the Eagles' coaching staff to take what is working in those moments and apply it more liberally through the game plan.