The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off the Carson Wentz era in style as they routed the Cleveland Browns by a final of 29-10 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Brown – 2016 Week 1
Eagles 29 – Browns 10
Second-overall pick Carson Wentz impressed in his NFL debut, finishing 22-for-37 with 278 yards and two touchdowns. Wentz played mistake-free football, ending with zero turnovers to his name. The Philadelphia Eagles offense also received major contributions from familiar faces. Ryan Mathews chalked up 77 yards on 22 carries and a late fourth quarter touchdown. Receivers Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor silenced critics with a touchdown apiece. Also, to no surprise, the Eagles defense and special teams showed sparks of their inspired play from previous seasons.
Nonetheless, it was Wentz who stole the show. The small-town North Dakota State product seemed unphased by the bright lights of Lincoln Financial field.
“This is his DNA. He really handled himself great all week long. He prepared like he was a five, six-year veteran.”
said Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson in his postgame press conference.
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Wentz’s teammates echoed the same mantra.
“We knew what we had in the building all along with Carson, he’s a special, special player. He didn’t play like a rookie today by any means.”
said Eagles TE Zach Ertz. Ertz finished with six catches for 58 yards, including an impressive one-handed snag in the first quarter.
Wentz wasted no time to show his poise. On his first drive, Wentz did his best veteran impression by drawing Browns’ defensive lineman Xavier Cooper offside on a third and short. The drive spanned 75 yards, as Wentz capped it off with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews for six. Wentz and Matthews seemed to form a solid duo Sunday, as the two connected for seven receptions.
Wentz’s second touchdown pass was equally as impressive. Number 11 floated a 35-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the front right corner of the end zone early in the third quarter. Agholor finished with four catches for 57 yards and that touchdown, trying to avenge a largely disappointing rookie season.
Along with his two touchdown passes and several other clutch throws, Wentz’s toughness was tested. Recently healed from a hairline fracture in his ribs Week 1 of the preseason, many looked to see if Wentz could survive a full game of hard hits from a first-team defense. Wentz was sacked twice Sunday, as well as hit hard most notably by Browns linebacker Nate Orchard on a scramble late in the first half.
Each time he was knocked down, the 6-foot-5 QB bounced right back up.
Wentz and company were given ample help from the Eagles defensive unit. The Jim Schwartz-led group surrendered only 10 points, with a portion of those points awarded to Cleveland following a questionable pass interference call on Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles defense held the Browns to zero first downs in the first quarter as well as eventually surrendering only 288 total yards.
“We gave ‘em a couple big plays… overall I think we hung in there, we stayed strong and we never wavered,”
Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Graham said.
Despite the success on the stat sheet, Graham and the Eagles front seven struggled to get pressure on Robert Griffin III early in the game. This resulted in Griffin having time to connect on deep passes to Browns’ wide receivers Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman.
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The Eagles never seemed to let the Browns’ offense gain traction, however. Newly-acquired Eagles safety Rodney McLeod completed a tip-drill interception late in the second quarter to squander a Browns offense gaining momentum. As the game progressed and the Eagles’ lead ballooned, pressure from Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin, and the rest of the Birds front seven was able to contain Griffin and clinch the Eagles’ first victory of the season.
Looking ahead, the Eagles will travel up to Chicago to face Jay Cutler and the Bears on Monday Night Football. The Birds should enter relatively healthy. According to the Eagles website, Leodis McKelvin has a hamstring strain and Ertz suffered a rib displacement injury. Both are listed as week to week.