All or Nothing, Ep. 8: Burn the Ships

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George Bremer, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.
·5 min read
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Feb. 27—Carson Wentz is the Indianapolis Colts' new quarterback, but the move can't become official until March 17. In the meantime, CNHI Sports Indiana thought it might be beneficial to take a look back at Wentz's recent past to see if there are any clues for his future. The fifth season of Amazon Prime's "All or Nothing" series chronicled the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles. This eight-part series will recap those eight episodes with an eye on nuggets of interest to Indy.

EPISODE VIII: BURN THE SHIPS

January 2020 seems so long ago, but it must seem even more distant in Philadelphia.

The new year begins with celebration for the Eagles. A four-game winning streak puts the team in the playoffs for the third straight year, and despite a raft of injuries — 10 players are on injured reserve — there's optimism the team can make a run.

Much of that centers around Carson Wentz, who has reclaimed his place as the face of the franchise with a red-hot finish. He's praised by fans and media alike for his ability to win games and keep the offense moving with a cast of undrafted players and practice squad call-ups.

No one could imagine some 13 months later he'd be landing on a private jet in Indianapolis as the new quarterback for the Colts. Or that head coach Doug Pederson would be fired. Or that both of those things would come on the heels of a disastrous 4-11-1 season that brought an inglorious end to this era in franchise history.

At the start of this episode, however, the focus is simply on evening the score with the rival Dallas Cowboys. A blowout loss in Texas earlier in the season put the Eagles on the chase in the NFC East for two months.

Individual players including injured wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Zach Ertz speak to the team during the week, and the message is clear. The season rides on beating the Cowboys, and no other result will be acceptable.

In keeping with Philadelphia's theme for the 2019 season, nothing comes easily.

Wentz throws high and late on an early seam route to Ertz, and a hard hit causes an incompletion. It also helps to force the Eagles to kick a field goal instead of having first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

As Ertz returns to the huddle, Wentz is apologetic.

"You good 8-6?" the quarterback asks. "My bad."

Ertz most definitely is not good. He fights to stay in the game but later is determined to have cracked ribs and a lacerated kidney.

Wentz throws a touchdown to tight end Dallas Goedert with four minutes left in the first quarter, and the Eagles hold on to a 10-6 lead at the half.

Then, with six seconds left in the third quarter, Wentz completes a touchdown drive that seals Philadelphia's 17-9 victory. For good measure, rookie running back Miles Sanders busts off a long run on the final drive that allows the Eagles to run out the clock.

"Good job, kid," Wentz says. "I'm so proud of you."

All that stands between the Eagles and the playoffs are the 3-12 New York Giants.

During the practice week, Wentz and his Audience of One Foundation host a Christmas party for local youth. The event includes a speech by the quarterback from a stage, after which he takes informal questions from some of the kids.

In a quintessential Philadelphia moment, one of the kids approaches Wentz with a pointed query: "What happened with so many fumbles this year?"

Wentz can only laugh.

"I gotta protect the ball, man," he says. "I gotta protect the ball."

He has more immediate worries. Ertz's injuries sideline him against the Giants, and Sanders is lost to an ankle injury after carrying the ball nine times for 52 yards.

Because the season was evidently built on an ancient burial ground, right guard Brandon Brooks also goes down with a separated shoulder on a PAT.

The game is tied 17-17 in the third quarter, but star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox recovers a fumble and returns it to the Giants' 1-yard line and folk hero Boston Scott again makes a star turn as the Eagles score the final 17 points and clinch the division crown.

It's jarring now to listen to the radio clips proclaiming Wentz an "elite NFL QB" and to listen to the excitement for his first playoff start.

That game against the Seattle Seahawks is a short one for the quarterback. On his ninth snap, he's sacked and takes a helmet-to-helmet blow to the back of the head from defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Wentz is diagnosed with a concussion and misses the rest of the game.

Seattle wins 17-9, ending the star-crossed season.

The rest of the episode is devoted to players talking optimistically about the future. They fought through an injury-riddled campaign and came up just a little short in the playoffs.

There's a belief a healthy roster will get the franchise back on top in 2020. As we all know, reality is far different.

The last shot of Wentz in the series sees the quarterback walking out the stadium wearing a green Fly Eagles Fly sweatshirt.

A little more than a year later, he'll be flying out of Philadelphia for good.