The Eagles Wild Card round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks drew the largest viewing audience of any NFL game since last year’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. One of the major reasons for the huge audience was the anticipated battle between the Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and our guy, the hottest quarterback in the NFL during the last quarter of the NFL regular season, Carson Wentz.
Early in the first quarter, on the most important play of the game, Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney speared the Birds quarterback in the back with helmet-to-helmet contact as the signal caller was landing on the ground. The helmet-to-helmet contact caused Wentz’ head to bounce off of the ground. It happened very quickly, but it stood out to me immediately, as I saw the quarterback’s helmet hit the turf of Lincoln Financial Field.
I was expecting a flag after the hit because of the way NFL game officials protect the quarterbacks. At the same time, I was thinking, “Slide Carson Slide”. Throughout his NFL career, Wentz chooses to land head first on the ground on runs with the football, as compared to Wilson, who chooses to slide. Sliding gives Wilson more protection from the referees. When you slide, you’re saying you are surrendering. The play is over. When you land head first, you’re still trying to gain yardage, so a defender can hit you. Clowney had every right to hit Wentz, but it shouldn’t have been helmet-to-helmet.
That’s the thing that caught my attention. The helmet-to-helmet contact wasn’t substantial, but it did occur. I was even more concerned about the quarterback’s helmet making contact with the turf. I’ve known for years that the ground causes a lot of concussions because the ground doesn’t “give”. It’s solid and I believe it played a huge part in the Wentz concussion because the Clowney and Wentz helmet-to-helmet contact wasn’t severe.
The signal caller wasn’t removed from the game immediately, but playing a few additional plays after the Clowney hit, Wentz was walked to the tent on the Eagles sideline and soon he was escorted to the Birds locker room. Despite a great effort from backup quarterback Josh McCown, all Birds fans knew that the Eagles chances of winning the game were all but gone.
The Eagles offense, which had already loss all its starting wide receivers to injuries and had been totally decimated by injuries throughout the starting lineup, was now being hit with the ultimate punch to the gut. They now had to fight on without their franchise quarterback in the middle of the first quarter of a playoff game. The 40-year old McCown tried to lead the former practice squad players, such as wide receiver Greg Ward, running back Boston Scott and tight end Josh Perkins, to victory over Wilson and the Seahawks.
McCown was trying to do it without the Eagles Pro Bowl right side of their offensive line. Three-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks and two-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson were both sidelined with injuries and Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz was playing despite having a broken rib and a lacerated kidney.
It was too much to ask for from McCown. He led the Eagles down into the Seattle red zone a number of times, but he couldn’t lead them into the end zone. He was sacked on fourth down to end the Eagles final drive of the game and he made a catchable throw to rookie running back Miles Sanders on fourth down of the red zone drive a little earlier in the fourth quarter. He completed 18 of 24 throws for 174 yards for a 94.8 quarterback rating. That’s not bad for 40-year old quarterback, who hadn’t played in a game in months.
Still the difference in the two teams was the play of the quarterbacks. With Wentz out of the game, the Seahawks had a huge advantage because of the play of their signal caller. Seattle’s Wilson lived up to all of the hype, as he carried the Seahawks offense on his back with 325 yards passing, one touchdown throw and 45 of Seattle’s 64 yards rushing. The Seahawks have one of the worst pass blocking offensive lines in the NFL, yet Wilson’s ability to scramble and throw on the run, neutralized the Eagles pass rush.
Wentz was feeling better on Monday, as he encouraged his teammates and let them know that he was committed to continuing to battle for another Eagles championship in the future. During the off season, I hope Carson works on his slides.
Check out my G. Cobb Birds Report Podcast because we talk about the Clowney hit and the Wentz concussion. We also talk about the play of the Josh McCown and Russell Wilson. We talk about the importance of the game, the Eagles pass rush and running game. We talk about it all right here. – http://bit.ly/g-cobb-birds-report-32