PHILADELPHIA — The rookie quarterback quickly turned Philadelphia into Carson City.
Coaches and teammates have raved about Carson Wentz despite barely seeing him play in games. Now a city starved for its first NFL championship since 1960 has embraced the red-haired kid from Bismarck following an impressive NFL debut.
“It’s his team now,” right tackle Lane Johnson said.
Playing his first game in a month, Wentz showed no signs of rust or inexperience.
“It’ll hit me after the game that I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid,” Wentz said after he threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns to help the Eagles beat the Cleveland Browns 29-10 on Sunday.
Wentz looked every bit like the franchise quarterback the organization hoped for when it traded a slew of picks to move up in the draft and select him at No. 2 overall. By the way, the hapless Browns owned that pick before trading it away after they signed Robert Griffin III.
“It’s not surprising,” first-year coach Doug Pederson said of Wentz’s success. “Just knowing the maturity level that he has, this is who he is. This is his DNA. He prepared like a veteran and he played that way.”
Philadelphia is a tough town desperate for a winner. It can make or break athletes who can’t handle the pressure. Wentz seems to have the right psyche.
“It’s just a game,” he said.
Wentz, who missed the last three preseason games with injured ribs, immediately won over fans with a 19-yard TD pass to Jordan Matthews on the opening drive. Fast starts weren’t typical last year when Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offense ran the show. The Eagles didn’t even score a TD in the first quarter until Week 6.
“That was huge,” Wentz said. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Promoted from No. 3 quarterback to starter just eight days ago after Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota, Wentz played mistake-free football. He finished 22 of 37 with a 101.0 passer rating.
“I like what I see,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “That’s his preparation. He’s been here every morning at 5.”
One play after converting a fourth-and-4 from the Browns 40, Wentz tossed a perfect 35-yard TD pass down the right side to Nelson Agholor for a 22-10 lead in the third quarter.
“He’s a great competitor,” Agholor said. “He is ready for that moment.”
Wentz wasn’t concerned about protecting his ribs, stood in the pocket, took some hard shots and made crisp passes. He fired one pass to Matthews for a big gain right before getting knocked down.
“He’s extremely confident, not that he’s cocky, but no stage is too big for him,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “People think: ‘Oh, he’s playing in Philadelphia from North Dakota State.’ There are not enough good things I can say about him. The guys are excited to play with him.”
So, hold off on the notion that the Eagles (1-0) gave up on contending in a weak NFC East by trading Bradford and committed to rebuilding by starting Wentz. They’ll be right in the mix if Wentz plays like this.
“When Sam got traded, I knew Carson could step up and make plays for us,” left tackle Jason Peters said.
Then again, he only beat the Browns (0-1).
“This is just one game,” Matthews said. “This is not the Super Bowl. We have to get ready for Chicago.”
The Eagles visit the Bears on Monday night in Week 2.
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