Rising star: Carson Wentz, Eagles take control of NFC race

PHILADELPHIA -- The exceptional is starting to feel commonplace when it comes to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

Just about every time he has played in what is turning out to be a breakout sophomore season, Wentz has made a dazzling play or two that leaves spectators asking: How did he do that?

Cut to the beginning of the third quarter against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, a divisional game that would either pull the Eagles closer to the NFC East pack or allow them to break away. Having just lost potential Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters to a knee injury, Wentz dropped back on a third-and-goal from the 10-yard line and was immediately swallowed by the pass rush. But he dodged the first wave, stepped into the second and somehow, with two Washington defenders tackling him, lofted a ball to the right corner of the end zone and into the arms of running back Corey Clement for a touchdown.

There were other plays to choose from -- his Houdini escape early in the fourth quarter, on which he improbably emerged from a crowd of Washington defenders and broke loose for a 17-yard scramble, or his 64-yard touchdown bomb to Mack Hollins -- but it was hard to top the TD to Clement.

After four scores Monday, Wentz leads the league with 17 touchdown passes against four interceptions. With Aaron Rodgers out because of a broken collarbone, Wentz is playing at a higher level than any other QB in the NFC. The proof is in the results: Behind Wentz, the Eagles have raced to a 6-1 record, the best in the league. They had an 88 percent chance to win the division entering the game, per FPI, and they took a big step by completing the sweep of Washington. The Eagles are now the only team in the NFC East with a winning record. They not only hold a 2 1/2-game lead over Washington but also hold the primary tiebreaker: head-to-head.

They aren't even halfway through their schedule, and a season has a way of twisting and turning. Neither Peters nor middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (ankle) was able to leave the field under his own power. Those are two key players who, if lost for a long stretch, could have a major impact.

But great quarterback play is becoming more constant. With his four-TD performance Monday night, Wentz became the second player in franchise history with at least three passing touchdowns in three straight games, per ESPN Stats & Information. The most recent Eagle to accomplish that was Bobby Thomason in 1953.

Earlier this week, Washington coach Jay Gruden said he is "very upset" that Wentz ended up in the NFC East. He added that Wentz has "progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen, really."

Gruden seemed to understand what's becoming clearer by the outing: Wentz is turning into a serious force in the NFL. His Eagles are riding high along with him.