Stacking up one impressive performance after another, Carson Wentz is streaking out to a comfortable lead in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. Wentz tossed a pair of touchdowns en route to his first 300-yard performance, leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a 34-3 laugher over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here's what we learned:
- After using the undermanned defenses of the Browns and Bears to springboard into the national spotlight, Wentz was expected to face a litmus test against the Steelers, a perennial AFC contender. Wentz promptly delivered Pittsburgh's most lopsided loss in nearly three decades. Wentz drew comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger all week, including coach Doug Pederson's note that his rookie boasts Roethlisbergian downfield vision when the play breaks down. That attribute was perfectly encapsulated when Wentz escaped pressure to float a perfect pass toward Darren Sproles for a 73-yard touchdown. The play captured Wentz at his finest, showcasing his pocket presence, athleticism, vision and feathery touch.
It's not unusual for talented but inexperienced quarterbacks to mix highlight-reel plays with mind-numbing miscues. What makes Wentz special is that he has generated the big plays without the drive-killing errors. He became the first rookie in NFL history without an interception in the first 100 pass attempts to begin a career. It's hard to find a more efficient quarterbacking performance than Wentz's Sunday line which generated a 74.2 completion rate and 125.9 passer rating at 9.7 yards per attempt. That's not including a dropped 41-yard touchdown from Dorial Green-Beckham and a perfectly thrown sideline bomb that Jordan Matthews nearly corralled on the last throw of Wentz's afternoon.
- Wentz's scorching start has obscured the boffo effort by Jim Schwartz in his first year as Eagles defensive boss. After entering the game second only to Seattle in Football Outsiders' defensive metrics, Philadelphia shut down one of the league's most explosive offensive attacks.
Led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and emerging edge rusher Brandon Graham, the front seven pushed the pocket all afternoon, stifling the Steelers' prolific ground game and putting consistent heat on Roethlisberger. With two more sacks on Sunday, Cox now has seven in his last seven games. Safety Malcolm Jenkins pitched in with a fine all-around effort that included three passes defensed.
- As impressive as Roethlisberger's receivers were in the season-opening victory over the Redskins, they have been underwhelming since. Markus Wheaton dropped three passes in his season debut Sunday, while slot receiver Eli Rogers was suffered a toe injury that kept him out for the final two quarters. Sammie Coates continues to benefit from Roethlisberger's status as the best deep passer in football, but is a far cry from Martavis Bryant as the second fiddle to Antonio Brown. All Pro tailback Le'Veon Bell is returning from suspension just in time to add a playmaking spark in home games versus the Chiefs and Jets the next two weeks.
- The NFC East spotlight shines on Dallas' offensive line, but Philadelphia's has been the division's top unit thus far. Even with Ryan Mathews nursing an ankle injury, the Eagles reeled off seven runs of 10 or more yards, led by fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood. The front line also kept Wentz's jersey clean, giving him time to scan his second and third reads all afternoon.
- Sproles gave the Steelers' pass defense fits, turning screen passes and a broken play into a difference-making performance. One of the underappreciated four-down backs of the past decade, Sproles bypassed Herschel Walker to enter the top 10 in career all-purpose yards (18,192). He's in the company of a host of Hall of Fame running backs and wide receivers: