I’m going to start this week’s preview out with a personal story about a big moment in sports, because, as you well know, Carson Wentz is having the biggest sports moment of his young career at 4:25PM on Sunday afternoon in Dallas. Unlike the enormous pressure of the NFL, my story happened ten years ago in a church softball league. A league in which we would draw about 20-30 fans per game on a good night. A league where some teams’ main focus was having fun (my team) and some teams took it way more seriously than church softball should be taken. You get the picture.
As you can imagine, the very serious teams hated losing to teams like mine. We happened to be playing one of these “win at all cost” teams one evening in June 2008, and we were keeping the game close. We were the home team, and when it came time for the bottom of the last inning we were only down by 2 runs. The bases were loaded, but we were also down to our last out. I was on first, and my friend Chris was coming up to bat.
Now I’m not sure if you’ve ever been on a “have fun first” team or not, but it’s always extra fun when you can beat the serious team. Better yet, if you can still have a lot of fun and beat the serious team, I’m convinced it’s the most fun you can have playing amateur athletics. So Chris is making his way up to the plate, and it’s pretty quiet. I’m standing on first, and suddenly I’m starting to really care if we beat these guys or not. We want to win, and Chris knows it. He’s starting to feel the pressure a little bit.
When all of the sudden, to my embarrassment, I hear my own mother’s high-pitched, sing-songy voice pierce the quiet.
“Chris! It’s your big moment!”
No encouragement, no “You can do it!”, no “Let’s go Chris!”, nothing positive at all. Just the strictly factual “It’s your big moment” said as if it were encouragement. Now to this day, I’m not sure why we all found it so funny. Perhaps it was because everyone knew all the pressure was on him and my mother just verbalized it, but Chris and I made eye contact and we burst into laughter. The rest of the team followed suit. Chris had to pause to recompose himself, but in some strange way my mother had lightened the situation. Yes, we all still wanted to win, but somehow the pressure was gone. Chris hit a bases clearing double to right, and we did, in fact, win! The big moment was his. We still joke about it to this day.
I’m sure you’re wondering, how does this church softball story relate to Carson Wentz? Carson has immense pressure on him this week. Everywhere you look, people are saying it’s the biggest game of his career, and it’s true. Carson, I’m sure, is feeling the pressure much like Chris was, only magnified exponentially to a level most of us will never understand. Carson needs to find a way to relax and feel comfortable, and help the team do the same. It’s no secret the Eagles play better when they are loose and having fun. Anytime someone feels comfortable, they are able to do their job better; that doesn’t change in the NFL. Let’s all hope that Carson is able to find a way to relax and shed the enormous pressure that is on him.
Things to Watch For
- A fun Eagles celebration: If you think back to last year, the Eagles thrived when they played loose and had fun. A big part of that was having huge team celebrations after touchdowns and turnovers. There have not been many of them this year. Look for at least one or the Birds season could very well be over.
- Misdirection plays: When the Eagles and Cowboys played each other the first time, the Cowboys rookie linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch, ate the Eagles alive. It was like he knew what plays were being called. The Eagles need to disguise what they are doing and run some misdirection to keep Vander Esch on his heels. Listen for his name. The less you hear it, the better it is for the Eagles.
- Jason “The Clapper” Garrett: Watch to see if Jason Garrett is clapping. When he’s clapping it normally means… Who am I kidding, we all know that he’s just Jerry’s robot who is programmed to clap no matter what. If you see Jason Garrett clapping, it means he’s still alive.
Keys to Victory
- Score Early: I believe I write this every week, but it’s no less important in the biggest game of the year. The Eagles finally scored a first quarter touchdown last week. It was so beautiful and such a rare sight to see this year. That touchdown was the first points they’ve scored in the first quarter since Week 6 against the Giants and only the third game that they scored in the first quarter. In case you forgot, they are about to play their 13th game.
- Protect the Ball: Carson must protect the ball. The interception thrown to Josh Norman at the goal line is unacceptable. Luckily, the Redskins had Mark Sanchez manning the helm for them, so it didn’t come back to bite them. If the Eagles have bad turnovers like that one on Sunday, the Cowboys will beat the Eagles.
- Win the Time of Posession Battle: If the Eagles can control the clock by running the ball, having zero three and outs, and get points from their long drives, they will put themselves in a very good position to keep their season alive.
I’m hoping that Zach Ertz’s mom is at the game on Sunday, and that she is able to tell Carson that it’s his big moment before the game. Carson and Zach will laugh about it, and Carson will rise to the occasion and have the game of his life.
Eagles 36 Cowboys 20