Wentz has career day in Eagles' dominating win over Arizona
PHILADELPHIA—There was no need for a dramatic ending in the Philadelphia Eagles' second home game of the season. The Eagles did not need to display their fourth-quarter resolve. Philadelphia fans could have started victory celebrations in the first quarter, because that's when it became clear that the Eagles would dominate the Arizona Cardinals in a 34-7 win on Sunday.
"That, by far, in our five games was the most dominating performance they've had as a team," said coach Doug Pederson, whose previous three wins this season came by a combined 15 points.
The Eagles took a three-touchdown lead in the opening 15 minutes and the game never appeared in doubt thereafter. Each touchdown came from the right arm of Carson Wentz, the second-year quarterback from North Dakota State who set a new career high with four touchdowns on Sunday. They are now 4-1 for the first time since 2014, ensuring they remain atop the NFC East standing entering Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
There have been convincing home wins in recent years — the Eagles beat the Steelers by 31 points last season and the Bears by 43 points in 2013 — but it's hard to find much fault from Sunday's performance. Wentz was the big reason.
Wentz, who was embraced by former Eagles quarter Donovan McNabb after the game, finished 21 of 30 for 304 yards. It's the first time he's thrown more than two touchdowns. He was 11 of 12 for 225 yards and three touchdowns on third downs. He threw a costly interception in the second quarter, so it wasn't perfect, but it was as well as he's played in an Eagles uniform.
"You hope for something like that," said Wentz, a Bismarck Century High School graduate. "I didn't imagine it going quite like that, maybe not quite that much, but the defense was rolling."
After forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession, Wentz led the Eagles on a 10-play drive punctuated by a 15-yard touchdown to tight end Trey Burton. Once Burton won the release at the line of scrimmage, wide receiver Torrey Smith signaled for a touchdown. Seven points appeared a formality based on how open Burton was in the end zone.
The defense forced the Cardinals to punt, and Kenjon Barner made sure the offense didn't have far to go. Barner, who was signed two weeks ago after Darren Sproles' injury, navigated through Arizona's punt coverage for a 76-yard return. That set the offense up at the 15-yard line, where Wentz needed three plays to hit Zach Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Wentz led the Eagles on another touchdown drive before the quarter ended. Smith was hard on himself leading up to the game, suggesting that he was amid the worst stretch of his career. The slump ended Sunday. Smith might have struggled with drops, but he's found ways to get open all season. That was rewarded on a third-down deep ball down the middle for a 59-yard touchdown, Smith's first score in an Eagles uniform.
"That's big for both he and I," Wentz said. "We've missed a couple down the field. Both of us have had our share of faults on those so...that was a huge play in the game and just good to see. I've never lost faith in him and it showed today."
Smith signed to be the home run threat for the offense, and he celebrated accordingly. Agholor pretended to pitch, and Smith pretended to hit a home run.
Agholor had his chance at the plate in the third quarter. With the Eagles pinned back for a third and 19 at their own 28-yard line, the Cardinals sent a blitz. Center Jason Kelce handled two defenders to give Wentz time to recognize that Agholor had a safety covering him. Agholor tracked the deep pass, caught it, and danced past a defender for the 72-yard score. He even fell backward in the end zone as a tribute to DeSean Jackson.
"At first I thought I was even with him," said Agholor, who led the Eagles with four catches for 93 yards. "I was ducking my head and then I saw the ball, so I turned up another gear to go track it. Carson just gave me a great opportunity and threw such a beautiful ball."
That was the most impressive highlight of the game, but the Cardinals posed little threat to comeback by the point. The Eagles defense had stymied the Cardinals, limiting them to 4 of 14 on third downs. The 21-point first quarter led gave the Eagles all the points they needed to please a crowd that endured rain Sunday.
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