PHILADELPHIA – Carson Wentz has been a spectator in the last two seasons when the Eagles contested the playoffs. He had a knee injury when Philadelphia won his first Super Bowl against the Patriots after the 2017 season. And he had a back injury a year ago when the Eagles rose to the division playoffs before losing to the Saints.
Playoff appearances, even Super Bowl victories, are somewhat hollow for injured players who don't really participate. Wentz watched how his successor Nick Foles was the Eagles quarterback in his last two postseason appearances – including Super Bowl LII, in which he was called MVP.
Now Wentz has a chance to experience what it feels like when he makes his first youth start on Sunday against the Seahawks in an NFC wildcard game in the first round at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I'm just grateful to be healthy and to be with these guys and be in the field right now," said Wentz this week. "I've been on the edge of the field for these games in recent years, so I'm pretty excited for the opportunity."
The playoffs are different. Everyone will tell you. The speed of the game increases, as does the pressure and increased expectations. It can be a disturbing experience for a quarterback to make their first start in the playoffs, but Eagle head coach Doug Pederson doesn't want Wentz to be overplayed.
"In Carson's case, he no longer has to focus on leading this team and continuing to do the things that have made him successful on the track," said Pederson. "I don't want to burden him or put pressure on him anymore. It's a one-and-do mentality. But I want him to play freely."
It is fitting that the Eagles play the Seahawks to see who will advance to the NFC division round. The Seahawks, who put in a wildcard spot with an 11: 5 record, defeated the Eagles 17: 9 at Linc on November 24th. In this game, Wentz was responsible for four of the Eagles' five throws, two interceptions and two of to lose three fiddles.
The loss fell to 5-6 Philadelphia on the way to 5-7. But they would win their last four games to end 9-7 and win NFC East.
"We did some things, OK. It was just the sales, ”said Wentz of the loss. "You can't do that against a good opponent with a good defense. We have to take care of football."
In some ways, this loss seems to have been a lifetime ago. The Eagles defeated the Giants in overtime, then the Redskins, Cowboys and the Giants again to claim the division title. Wentz threw seven touchdown passes and no interceptions in these four games, which strengthened his confidence in the postseason.
"Everyone feels the sense of urgency," said Wentz. "But I don't think anything will change. We know what we have to do offensively. We have to take care of football. We have to stay on the field and put points on the board."
This last part was difficult to get against the playoff-tested Seahawks. The Eagles have only averaged 12.4 points per game in their last five meetings with Seattle.
"It is due to our lack of execution," said Pederson. "We have to make sure the boys are focused this week. Everyone will be excited. Seattle will be excited. We have to deal with this excitement. "
The Eagles have been in playoff mode for four weeks and must win every game to win the championship. Seattle, who has lost three of the last four games, has taken note of it.
"They did well and played like a championship team," said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. “Put the four games together to win [the NFC East] shows their leadership down from the coaches is really strong. I watched admirably how they got stuck and ended the year great. You have overcome enormous opportunities. It's a big survival challenge for both teams. "