Carson Wentz Shines in NFL Debut as Philadelphia Eagles Defeat Cleveland Browns

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

In his NFL debut, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz finished 22/37 in the air with 278 yards and two touchdowns to lead Philadelphia to a 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns in Doug Pederson‘s first game as an NFL head coach. Wentz was poised throughout most of the game, sustaining drives and making tight throws. He had his rookie moments, but made some key throws, developing connections with receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz. Matthews had seven catches, 114 yards, and a touchdown, while Ertz had six catches for 58 yards. The Eagles offense ran as expected, running a lot of two and three tight end sets, and utilizing the run game to open up the field for Wentz. Running back Ryan Mathews had himself a day, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The Eagles defense completely stifled Robert Griffin III in his first game as a starter since week 17 of the 2014 season, holding the quarterback to just 190 passing yards and an interception.

Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense started the scoring on their first drive of the season. Wentz facilitated a 75-yard drive that lasted five minutes and 10 seconds, ending in the rookie quarterback throwing a 19-yard strike to Jordan Matthews for a touchdown. Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal at the end of the first quarter, which would’ve put the Eagles up 10-0, but instead Philadelphia took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. Jim Schwartz’s defense held RGIII’s offense without a first down in the first quarter, and forced a turnover on downs at the start of the second quarter.

The Eagles took over on the Browns half of the field, but weren’t able to find the end zone after driving to the four-yard line. Instead, Doug Pederson’s Eagles had to settle for a Sturgis 22-yard field goal to go up by ten. RGIII and the Browns would respond on their next drive to cut the deficit to three. After what seemed like a questionable pass interference call on Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Browns running back Isaiah Crowell ran it in from the two-yard line, putting the Browns down 10-7 mid-way through the first half. Following an Eagles three-and-out, Hue Jackson’s team got the ball back with a chance to take the lead before halftime. RGIII led the Browns into Eagles territory, but had a pass tipped by wide receiver Corey Coleman that got picked off by Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. Wentz again led the Eagles offense into the red zone, but the drive again resulted in a Caleb Sturgis field goal, this time from 38 yards. The Eagles entered the locker room at half up 13-7 on the Browns.

Cleveland got the ball to start the second half, and on their first play, RGIII completed a 58-yard pass to Coleman, putting the Browns at the Eagles 17-yard line. That was the only positive play the Browns would get on the drive, forcing kicker Patrick Murray to make a 35-yard field goal to cut the Eagles lead to three. The Browns forced another Donnie Jones punt, but couldn’t take advantage of their defense’s stop, as center Cameron Erving sailed a snap over RGIII’s head, resulting in a safety. The Eagles however, were able to take advantage of the Browns miscues. Following the safety, Wentz delivered a 35-yard spiral to Nelson Agholor on the Eagles next drive, extending the Eagles lead to twelve.

Both teams failed to score for the remainder of the third quarter and for the majority of the fourth. As the game was winding down, Cleveland had a turnover on downs at their own 15-yard line. Five plays later, Eagles running back Ryan Mathews found the end zone to seal the 29-10 victory for the Philadelphia. The Eagles will travel to Chicago next week to take on the Bears on Monday Night Football.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Eagles Notes:
– Wentz surprisingly clicked with Jordan Matthews, considering both missed preseason action with injuries, and never played at the same time together.
– Wentz and Pederson both had rookie moments that they overcame. At times Wentz rushed throws, and Pederson was passive in situations where he should’ve let his rookie QB air it out.
– Jim Schwartz’s defense has the potential to be very good this year. The Browns had drives throughout the game where they just couldn’t move the ball. While the Eagles defend did give up 120 rushing yards, they didn’t get beat in the air like they consistently have in the past.
– Doug Pederson has a running back committee that can do some serious damage. Ryan Mathews controlled the carries, with Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner getting in the mix, and Sproles and Wendell Smallwood making their presence known on special teams.