<
>

Momentum is fleeting, but Carson Wentz should guard against an Eagles slide

DETROIT -- Doug Pederson is new to the job of Philadelphia Eagles head coach, but he has been around long enough to know that momentum can go both ways.

He experienced it just last season as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost five straight games from mid-September to mid-October to dig a seemingly inescapable 1-5 hole, then rattled off 10 straight wins to close the season en route to a playoff berth.

This is probably why he tried to drill the message home following the Eagles' 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 25 that, even at 3-0, the team hadn't accomplished anything yet.

As Sunday's 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions reinforced, fortune in the NFL is a fickle friend.

The Eagles' turnover-free streak, which lasted nearly four games, came to a crashing halt in Sunday's contest with 2:41 remaining, when Ryan Mathews fumbled, leading to the Lions' go-ahead field goal.

"I just messed up," Mathews said.

Carson Wentz followed up with the first interception of his young career on the Eagles' next offensive play from scrimmage.

A defense that hadn't allowed a passing touchdown through the first three games allowed three to Matthew Stafford in the first half alone. Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz entered with plenty of buzz, given the job he had done through three games, but he exited his old team's stadium with questions surrounding his decision-making. That includes his use of a heavy linebacker rotation in the first half that kept his top players at the position -- Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks -- off the field for chunks of time while the Lions gathered steam.

“No, not at all," said Pederson, asked if the decision to limit Bradham's snaps was related to his recent legal issues. "Definitely wanted to get [Stephen] Tulloch some more reps tonight early in the game and then keep Nigel and Jordan fresh and healthy as the game went on.”

Add 14 penalties for 111 yards and you have enough to get the pendulum swinging in the other direction.

The trick is preventing momentum from getting stuck on the wrong side. This is where the rookie coach will be tested. Pederson will be charged with getting his team to clean up its play and regroup as the 3-1 Eagles turn their attention to a key divisional game this Sunday at the Washington Redskins.

Pederson's biggest ally in this effort could very well be Wentz. While some areas of the operation faltered against the Lions, the first-year quarterback enjoyed another strong performance. He ended up 25-of-33 for 238 yards through the air, with two touchdowns and the late interception. Wentz was 11-of-12 with two touchdowns against the blitz on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information research; and he is now 27-of-32 with three touchdowns against the blitz this season.

Through four games, he has thrown for 1,007 yards, with seven touchdowns and one interception. Despite his lack of experience, he arguably has been the team's biggest constant to date.

So long as that continues, momentum shouldn't leave the Eagles for long.