- The Washington Times
Sunday, September 25, 2022

LANDOVER — Carson Wentz will get most of the blame for Sunday’s dreadful performance.

And rightfully so.

Wentz is a veteran quarterback, being paid $28.2 million this season, playing at home in a key NFC East game. He was simply “not good enough,” as the quarterback put it after the 24-8 loss that dropped the Washington Commanders to 1-2.  

But it wasn’t just Wentz. The offensive line, which got beat repeatedly by Philadelphia’s dominant front four, wasn’t good enough either. You can’t allow nine sacks without a porous offensive line. 

“We didn’t have time,” coach Ron Rivera said. “[Wentz] had some guys open, but we didn’t have time. And that’s unfortunate.”

A majority of the sacks featured breakdowns or just poor play on the offensive line. Right guard Trai Turner was bull rushed by Fletcher Cox for the second takedown of the game in the first quarter. One player later, Philadelphia’s Javon Hargrave overpowered left guard Andrew Norwell to bring down Wentz. In the fourth quarter, right tackle Sam Cosmi was beat by Brandon Graham around the edge for the seventh. And center Wes Schweitzer struggled multiple times with bull rushes and stunts, with one leading to the ninth and final sack. 

“There was a lot of pressure early. Carson couldn’t get his feet set,” left tackle Charles Leno Jr. said. “That’s on me, that’s on the offensive line.”

Turner and Norwell are both in their first seasons with Washington, while Schweitzer started his first game of the year at center in place of the injured Chase Roullier. 

“It’s been a bit of a challenge, but they’ll continue to work at it,” Rivera said about the chemistry up front. “They’ll get better at it. I believe they’ll come together.”

Some of the sacks, though, were undoubtedly on Wentz — whose reputation as a gunslinger who won’t let any play die without a fight has the obvious downside of making mistakes. Wentz was the most-sacked quarterback with 50 in 2020 (his final season in Philadelphia) despite starting just 12 games.  

On the fourth takedown, for example, Wentz was given a clean pocket, but he held onto the ball instead and drifted to his right — right into the arms of pass rusher Haason Reddick. The eighth sack was on Wentz as well for not getting rid of the ball, even if it was a fourth-and-22 play that had little hope anyway. Wentz also lost a fumble in the second quarter while trying to evade the rush without protecting the ball with both hands.

Both Wentz and Rivera agree that a “combination” of factors contributed to the sacks. But Wentz still fell on the sword during his press conference after the game. 

“It’s not the [offensive] line. I’ve got to be better,” Wentz said. “I have to get rid of the ball in a lot of those situations, find a check down and move on, different things like that. Hats off to their [defensive] line and their front, it’s a good front. But I’ve got to do better and help our guys out.”

If there’s a silver lining in a nine-sack game, it’s that the offensive line play improved slightly in the second half. Six of the nine occurred in the first half, and the offense at least showed a semblance of life during the final 30 minutes. Washington’s lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Antonio Gibson.

The 40 yards Wentz took for sacks in the first half were more than his 24 passing yards, meaning the Commanders’ passing attack accounted for -16 yards in two quarters of football. 

“I think they did a better job in the second half, trying to make adjustments,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said about the offensive line. “But when you’re going up against a front four like that, you know they’re going to pose challenges.”

Oh, wait. There’s another bright side. 

Wentz avoided taking a 10th takedown during garbage time, including multiple scrambles to evade hungry Eagles defenders. Had the Commanders had allowed a 10th, it would have tied the franchise record for most in a game. Wentz would have tied John Beck, who was thrown down 10 times in a loss to Buffalo in 2011.

At least the nine-sack loss wasn’t a record-breaker. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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