If Carson Wentz had a little help — and by help we mean receivers who can catch and an offensive line that plays cleanly without penalties — he could be one of the NFL's top quarterbacks.
Luckily for the Eagles, the Bears could be worse than the Browns. Philly moved to 2-0 Sunday with a 29-14 victory under the bright lights in Chicago Monday.
The help came instead from the defense which, created three big turnovers: the first a strip sack by Destiny Vaeao and the second an interception by Nigel Bradham — whose return to the 2-yardline led to a touchdown toss from Wentz to Trey Burton, putting Philadelphia up 22-7. The third was a Jeremy Langford fumble and, after a gutsy fourth and goal pitch to Ryan Mathews, put Philly up even further, 29-7. The Eagles have yet to turn it over in 2016.
Here are three things we learned Monday:
Poise under pressure
It seemed to happen time after time Monday night. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz stands tall in the pocket until the last possible moment and finds his man for a first down. Or, he scrambles around, finds a streaking improvising receiver — or improvises himself and runs for the sideline. The most important of several of these instances came midway through the second quarter, when Wentz drew a facemask penalty on a hit seconds after finding Trey Burton on third down. The play set up a Caleb Sturgis' second field goal.
Wentz also was in command under center, directing traffic, calling audibles, changing a run play from the left to the right side and for the second week in a row maneuvering the offense like a seasoned veteran. In all Wentz was 21-for-34 for 190 yards and a TD.
Several times early the Eagles made mistakes that cost themselves and rewarded the Bears. Jason Peters was flagged for holding on a key play. Not much later on a second and long in the second quarter, Wentz hit Brent Celek at midfield on a slant play that would have been a first down, but a holding call stopped the drive flat. A play later Jason Kelce was called for a second straight penalty on a facemask leading to a punt.
Just one drive earlier, Jalen Mills was called for pass interference in the end zone against Alshon Jeffrey leading to a one yard rushing TD to put Chicago up 7-3. A key Jordan Matthews drop on a perfectly thrown deep ball late in the second was another costly mistake, forcing Philly to settle for a 53-yard field goal attempt and meager 9-7 lead at the half.
In the fourth as the Eagles tried to drain clock to clinch their win, the team punted it away to Eddie Royal, who sprinted down the sideline 65-yards for a touchdown, closing the gap 29-14.
These mistakes were overcome by an opportunistic Eagles team, but will yield worse results against better opponents like the Steelers next week.
One of the biggest strengths for the Eagles on offense has been from their coaching staff utilizing every single player. Last week against the Browns, they used defensive tackle Beau Allen at fullback. Sunday against the Bears they routinely used an extra offensive lineman — lined up at tight end — on passing downs as a decoy. They also found a way to score their first touchdown in the red zone, using both Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles in the same play, spreading Sproles out wide to make room for Mathews, who surged up the gut to the end zone to put Philly ahead 16-7 in the third.
Head coach Doug Pederson also went for it three times (technically four times but one was flagged for a penalty) on fourth down and succeeded every time — an aggressive approach that differs a bit from the mentality of Pederson's mentor former Eagles head coach Andy Reid.