Carson Wentz silences doubters, keeps Eagles' season alive

LONDON -- This was the first week in Carson Wentz's young career when grumblings could be heard in Philadelphia about the quarterback's play.

Not full-on Philly heat, but after Wentz failed to punch it in the waning moments last week against the Carolina Panthers despite being deep in Carolina territory, some questions popped up: Does he need to be more clutch late in games (he has three game-winning drives in three seasons)? Is he struggling with his decision-making? How much of the Panthers loss, and the Eagles' slow start to the season, should he wear? It was a topic of conversation on sports talk stations and around watercoolers. Coach Doug Pederson was even asked whether he would speak with Wentz about blocking out the noise.

You can bet those grumblings grew louder after Wentz committed two turnovers on the first two possessions of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team's season teetering in the balance.

Wentz rebounded in a big way, though, tossing three touchdowns to propel the Eagles past the Jaguars 24-18, sending Philly into its bye at 4-4 and with some hope for the second half of the season.

“He played awesome. He even caught a pass,” joked receiver Alshon Jeffery, referencing the batted pass that Wentz corralled and advanced for a first down early in the game. “He’s just getting comfortable, getting into a rhythm.”

His legs came alive late in the half, showing some of his best burst and agility since coming back from a multi-ligament knee injury. He used his feet to pick up a key first down on third-and-11, and again to find space to sling a 32-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert. He followed with a TD pass to Wendell Smallwood on the first possession of the second half.

“I told y’all, coming off a knee injury, once he gets his legs up under him and gets comfortable, the way he’s running and scrambling, he’s going to be the same guy we saw last year, if not better,” said tackle Jason Peters.

Wentz's best moment, though, came, well, in the clutch. Jacksonville's offense sprang to life and rattled off 10 straight points to cut the deficit to two. Thoughts on another late collapse, like the ones the Eagles had against the Panthers and Tennessee Titans, crept in.

Wentz helped ease those concerns by engineering a six-play, 75-yard fourth-quarter drive in response. He zipped a 36-yard completion over the middle to Jordan Matthews, and later threaded one to tight end Zach Ertz in the corner of the end zone from 5 yards out.

A big stop by the Eagles' defense on fourth down with three-plus minutes remaining kept the charging Jags at bay.

“It’s huge,” Wentz said of the win. “Being .500, still not where we wanted to be or had hoped to be. Going into the bye week knowing that the real meat of our schedule, the NFC East, is ahead of us when we come back from this bye, huge momentum and win for us heading into this.”

Wentz now has the second-most three-touchdown games over the past two seasons with eight, trailing only Tom Brady (nine) -- a stat that's all the more impressive when you consider he missed the final three-plus games last year. He has tossed 13 TDs to two interceptions on the year.

He and the Eagles still have an uphill climb. Injuries continue to mount -- they lost right tackle Lane Johnson with a knee injury and corner Jalen Mills (foot) Sunday -- and have a difficult schedule over the second half that includes games at the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. But at .500, they have life. And as long as Wentz is healthy and continues to play at a high level, anything is possible.

“The guy is as mentally strong as they come. He’s never going to show that he’s down. He’s always looking forward to the next play. I think that really resonates with a lot of guys in this locker room,” said Ertz. “Carson is a stud. He’s one of the best players in the league. His play kind of speaks for itself.”