The Prodigy Returns

September 23rd, 2018 by Leo | Filed under Eagles, Football, NFL.

Carson Wentz’s return from injury will be one of the greatest moments in Philadelphia sports history.

Make no mistake about it, Carson Wentz turned the Eagles franchise around and brought them their first championship in six decades. Sure, Nick Foles stepped into the role and had a marvelous run, quarterbacking the team through the playoffs and an electrifying Super Bowl win. But Foles and his teammates rode Wentz’s spirit to victory. They followed the path blazed by Wentz, and were infused with the confidence that can only be inspired by a player endowed with divine abilities. Carson Wentz took a team, and a city for that matter, that had been so demoralized from fifty-seven years of losing, and changed their DNA. He changed their destiny.

So, on Sunday, September 23rd, 2018 at 1:00 p.m., savor what you are witnessing. Listen to the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field when Carson Wentz trots out of the tunnel onto the hallowed grass of his home turf. There will be a roar you will not hear again in your lifetime. Because the fans know innately what this wunderkind did. Generations feel it in their marrow. And they will welcome back their young, gridiron general with the enthusiasm and reverence reserved for only the greatest of warriors. It will be, well, let’s call it a religious experience.

That’s what Carson Wentz means to Philadelphia.

To take a peek back, it’s hard to believe what Wentz has accomplished in less than two years as a pro.

In his rookie season, he was baptized by fire when the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings just eight days before the opener for a first round draft pick (which became Derrick Barnett). Thrust into the starting slot, Wentz was good in his initial season, if a little erratic. He threw for 16 touchdowns, 14 Interceptions, 3782 yards, with a 62.4% completion percentage and a QB rating of 79.3. Not great numbers, but not bad for a Division II quarterback with no NFL experience. The Eagles finished the season at 7-9.

In his second year, Wentz came into his own. In the thirteen games before his injury, he had 33 touchdowns, only 7 interceptions and passed for 3,296 yards. And while his completion percentage dipped a little to 60.2, his QB rating jumped to 101.1. The Eagles were 11-2 when Wentz went down. They were the best team in the NFL, and Wentz was the leading candidate for MVP.

But more important than his numbers is the WAY Wentz did it. To recap a few sensational plays:

The Week One Scramble and Throw to Agholor. Wentz set the tone in the first quarter of the first game when, on a third and twelve from the Eagles 42 yard line, he scrambled away from four Redskins lineman and threw a 58 yard bomb to Nelson Agholor for a touchdown. Eagles win, 30-17.

The Bomb to Mack Hollins. This is one of my favorites. Again against the Redskins, this time on Monday Night Football and trailing 10-3 in the second quarter, Wentz hurls a 64 yard missile to Mack Hollins streaking down the right side. If you YouTube this one, notice that as soon as Wentz spots him how quickly he fires the ball which arches perfectly, travelling 61 yards in the air and lands perfectly in Hollins’ hands for a 64 yard touchdown. Eagles come back to win, 34-24.

Houdini’s Escape. Same Monday night game against Washington. On third and eight in the third quarter, the pocket collapsed around Wentz and he appeared to be gobbled up by Washington’s entire defensive line. Somehow, miraculously, he escapes and scrambles for 17 yards and a first down. The Monday Night Football announcers couldn’t believe it!

The Injury. Down 28-24 with four minutes left in the third quarter against the Rams in Los Angeles, Wentz led the Eagles on a 15 play drive down to the Rams’ 2 yard line. He took the shotgun snap at the 7 and scrambled to his right, sprinted toward the end zone and dove in for the go-ahead touchdown where he was crunched by two Rams defenders. This is the play on which he tore his ACL. The touchdown was called back for a holding penalty, so…

On the very next play, on a gimpy left leg weakened by that torn ACL, Wentz stayed in the game and threw a dart to Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown to put the Eagles ahead 31-28, before Wentz limped off the field.

[Just YouTube Carson Wentz 2017 Highlights to see these and many more amazing plays]

As a side note, I was lucky enough to be at that game against the Rams in Los Angeles last year. And what a day that was. It was easily one of the greatest football games I’ve ever seen.

More than half the stadium was filled with Eagles fans. The weather was perfect. When isn’t it in LA? The Rams wore their bright white uniforms with gold and blue trim. The Eagles wore dark green jerseys and white pants. The first thing I remember when the Eagles’ offense took the field is how big Wentz is. He’s bigger than most offensive lineman. And listen, Todd Gurley is a great player, but the best football player on the field that day was Carson Wentz. His drive to win was encapsulated on the play described above that put him out of action until this coming Sunday.

With Wentz out of the game, the Rams came back to take a 35-31 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. The Olympic torch in the far end of the LA Coliseum burned magnificently as day surrendered to night. And for anyone who’s seen the movie Heaven Can Wait starring Warren Beatty, it was as if Nick Foles stepped onto the field and was inhabited by the ghost of Carson Wentz. That’s not taking anything away from Foles, but I believe he benefited immensely from observing Wentz for the first thirteen games of the season. He learned how to win by watching Wentz. Foles went on to lead the Eagles to a 43-35 victory over the Rams, and the rest as they say, is history.

Which brings us to this moment. The prodigy is back.

Now in his third season, Wentz is entering his prime. He’ll turn 26 in December. His body has filled out and he looks bigger and more muscular. His knee? Well, you can be sure that he has done everything in his power to heal, recover and make himself stronger than he was pre-injury. That’s who he is. His work ethic is unparalleled. Let’s all pray that that leg holds up.

So remember where you are on Sunday. Watch and listen. Take it all in.

When asked this week what his goal is in his first game back, Wentz replied, “I just want to win. The goal is to go 1-0 this week.”

Now that’s wise perspective from a 25 year old. And something tells me he’ll find a way to get the W. It’s in his DNA.

Christian Klemash (GoPhillySports)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.