DETROIT — An interception on his final pass notwithstanding, it was another outstanding day for Philadelphia Eagles rookie Carson Wentz, who mostly delivered throws in tight windows when had to and seemed to raise his game when things looked darkest in a 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Wentz was 25 of 33 for 238 yards and pair of touchdowns. He was flawless in his decision-making until that one final pass, in which he lofted a bomb deep down the field intended for Nelson Agholor that was intercepted by Darius Slay to seal the win.
But even that wasn't necessarily a poor decision, just a poor throw that may have made it look like a poor decision. Wentz delivered the pass on the first play after the Lions went ahead by a point. A minute and 28 seconds remained — plenty of time to get into field-goal range with multiple shorter plays instead of one.
"It was something that we had seen from them out of the first half at the end from the two-minute drives, one of the coverages," Wentz said. "So it was kind of an alert I had breaking the huddle. You always want to get the drive started on the right foot, especially in those situations, but the coverage kind of dictated that and we didn't make the play. They made a great play and that's how it worked."
Wentz underthrew Agholor, who tried to make an over-the-shoulder catch with Slay basically draped all over him.
Slay won the battle, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson has confidence that Wentz will win the war, which is why he has entrusted his rookie to make improvisations like that in the first place.
"[The play call was] not necessarily designed for that, but the opportunity was there," Pederson said. "Detroit did a nice job defending the actual first and second progression on the play, and then you're hoping maybe you get the pass-interference or penalty at that point or an incomplete pass. It's worth a shot."
Wentz already has developed such a rapport with his receivers, particularly Jordan Matthews, that he wouldn't hesitate to do it over again in the same situation.
And if he fails again, he's likely get the same endorsement from Pederson.
Wentz moved to 1,007 passing yards after just four games. That was good enough to pass Donovan McNabb for fourth place on the Eagles all-time rookie passing yardage list. With seven passing touchdowns, he's just one short of tying McNabb for the team rookie record in that category too.
Wentz's 25 completions were the third-highest total by an Eagles rookie, and his passer rating has exceeded 100 in three of four games this season.
"Quite honestly, kind of glad he got the interception out of the way," Pederson said. "There's so much build-up on that, but we throw the football the way we do and he's played great, really, in these four games and he stood in there again tonight and made some tough throws, especially on third down. Led our football team. He did a great job."
A curious personnel decision by the Eagles may have been largely responsible for the team falling behind by so much so early on Sunday.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham, who had been a staple in the team's nickel coverage for three straight games, was pulled off the field in favor of Mychal Kendricks on passing downs for much of the first half, in which Lions quarterback Matt Stafford completed 11 of 15 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
In the second half, after they went back to using Bradham in the nickel, Stafford completed just eight passes for 58 yards and no TDs.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who makes those personnel decisions, does not talk after games. But Pederson said the decision to give Kendricks more snaps had nothing to do with discipline for Bradham being arrested for the second time in four months last week after he was found trying to go through security at the Miami airport with a loaded gun.
"No, not at all," Pederson said. "Definitely wanted to get [Stephen] Tulloch some more reps tonight early in the game and then keep Nigel and Jordan [Hicks] fresh and healthy as the game went on."
That thinking seemed to backfire a bit.
Bradham clearly was uncomfortable when asked to discuss it after the game.
"I don't know," he said. "I mean, I just try to make plays when I can."
WR Josh Huff became the fifth Eagle to catch a TD pass this season. … Fletcher Cox came through with his 26th career sack, which ties him for 19th on the team's all-time list. He has four sacks this season and eight in his last eight games. … DT Bennie Logan had a sack in back-to-back games for the first time since his rookie season in 2013, and DE Vinny Curry, who often lined up inside on passing downs, picked up his first sack of the season. … The Eagles' defense held the Lions to just three points, 45 yards and four first downs in the second half. It has not allowed any second-half touchdowns this season.