December 5, 2022

Week 3 notes: Eagles running out of excuses for Carson Wentz, Dave Gettleman’s hot seat, Josh Alllen MVP, more

After a week of questions about whether Carson Wentz has regressed in Year 5 as the Philadelphia Eagles franchise quarterback, there weren’t many answers in the Week 3 tie to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, he scampered for the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He also missed a wide-open touchdown pass earlier in the frame that probably would have won the contest. And three overtime possessions—which is nearly impossible with a 10-minute OT period—all ended in punts.

At the end of three weeks, the Eagles are still winless. Wentz is better now than he was in the first two weeks, but still not good. And the City of Brotherly Love just did all the sister-kissing it could against a Bengals team that’s miserable in close games.

“You’re going to miss a couple and you’re gonna make some plays and things happen,” an even-keeled Wentz told reporters after the game. “Obviously I’ve just got to be better. I’ve got to handle some of these. Some of them are communication and just make sure we’re on the same page with everybody, and some are just poor throws. And I’ve got to be better, and I will.

“We’re still meshing and gelling as a team and building the chemistry and a lot of moving pieces today. Not as an excuse but guys will continue to get this experience and learn from it and we’ll all be better, including myself.”

Wentz was a respectable 29-of-47 for 225 yards, but he threw two interceptions against one touchdown. For the third time in three games in 2020, the Eagles lost the turnover battle. And head coach Doug Pederson shouldered the blame for 11 penalties the team withstood.

But beyond the box score, Wentz was once again bad on deep balls. He went 1-for-7 on throws of more than 20 yards in the air. And on throws of more than just 10 yards, he was 2-for-11 with one touchdown and an interception.

Wentz has consistently tried the deep ball this season despite finding little success. As a passer, he hurt his team more through two weeks than any other quarterback not named Kirk Cousins. He improved slightly Sunday but was still outdueled by rookie Joe Burrow, and his completion percentage was 4.1% below expected.

When a reporter asked Pederson earlier in the week why Wentz was missing layups, the Super Bowl-winning head coach did the old “have you played the game?” with a reporter, which is usually reserved for when nerves are frayed post-Thanksgiving and the playoffs out of reach. Pederson went to that well in Week 3, and when asked Sunday if mechanics were the reason for Wentz missing layups against the Bengals, he didn’t dignify it with a response.

But Wentz did miss a wide-open Miles Sanders with just more than 10 minutes left in the game when the running back had rookie linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither beaten on third-and-10. Wentz overthrew his running back and had to put together an 11-play drive at the end of the game to tie.

Pederson may take some grief for his late-game decisions on Philly airwaves this week, but they were the right calls. The Eagles were the better team and didn’t need to go for the 2-point conversion to go up late and avoid overtime. And after a false start on what would have been a 55-yard field-goal attempt for the win, Pederson had no business trying for a 60-yarder that would have given Burrow a short field if the attempt failed.

Those decisions speak less to Pederson’s faith in Wentz and more to a long-term vision. Here’s a coach who just went 4-0 in December to get into the playoffs last year… who won a Super Bowl with a backup… who was a backup most of his career. As bad as the city wants a win right now, taking the guaranteed tie could pay dividends in a few months as the Eagles try for one of four available playoff spots.

Wentz didn’t hurt the Eagles as he did in the first two games this season. But he also didn’t do enough to win them a game against an overmatched opponent. It’ll be another long week in Philly before they head to San Francisco for Week 4.

Sticking with Gostkowski

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson look very wise right now. Remember kicker Stephen Gostkowski missing three field goals and an extra point in Week 1’s 16-13 win in Denver?

Ever since then the veteran kicker has simply booted the game-winning field goal in wins in Week 2 and 3. First, it was the game-clincher against the Jags with 1:36 left in the game in Week 2. Then Sunday, Gostkowski nailed a 55-yarder with 1:48 remaining to beat the Titans.

Good on the Titans brass for trusting in their kicker—one of the best in NFL history—and seeing him through to a 3-0 start.

Raiders found a keeper in Abram

I know he lost, but Raiders safety Johnathan Abram is fun to watch. He’s played well in consecutive games that I’ve watched against the Saints and Patriots, and I love his attitude on the field. He’s come back fully from that torn labrum his rookie season and has a chance to be a top safety in this league.

Gettleman’s hot seat

The Giants played a San Francisco team missing more than one-third of their starters and got laughed off their home field in the 36-9 loss. I’m stunned by how the Giants weren’t even competitive in this one, and it’s lopsided losses like this one that will make the seat even warmer on GM Dave Gettleman.

Jumping on the bandwagon

Josh Allen, welcome to the way-too-early MVP conversation.

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