SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When quarterback Carson Wentz arrived in Los Angeles in early November, he spoke about how the NFL "has a way of humbling everybody."
Up until that point, it had been 10 months since he was in an NFL locker room. He admitted he's not a very patient person, so it was a difficult wait.
He wanted to help in any way he could, even in a backup role, and spent extra time with quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator Zac Robinson after practice. If the starter, Matthew Stafford, walked through all of the plays with Robinson, Wentz wanted to as well.
On Sunday, Carson Wentz got his reward for that hard work over the last several weeks: Getting the start while Stafford rested and helping lead the Rams to a 21-20 road win over the 49ers at Levi's Stadium.
"It was fun. It was a lot of fun," Wentz said. "It's been over a year for me since I got game action and it's been a weird year and season for me, but I had a lot of fun out there. It was fun to get to win, especially. But just playing with these guys, some of the guys I've been taking practice reps with on scout team, different faces out there. We all had a lot of fun and getting the win was even nicer."
As Wentz mentioned, he last started in an NFL game on January 1, 2023, in what would be his final appearance for the Washington Commanders.
The circumstances in this start were much different – in a good way.
When Wentz made that start for Washington, it had already been eliminated from playoff contention for two weeks. On Sunday, he was starting for a Los Angeles team that clinched a playoff spot the week before, but effectively needed a win in order to keep control of the No. 6 seed.
Wentz delivered in the most critical moment of the game, scoring what ended up as the game-winning touchdown run and 2-point conversion – via a completion to wide receiver Tutu Atwell – in a 21-20 Rams win.
He completed 17 of 24 pass attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns overall, and while he also threw an interception, it came from a ball that deflected off of the intended receiver's hands.
He also finished as the Rams' leading rusher with 17 carries for 56 yards in addition to that score on the QB draw. Those 17 rushing attempts were the most by a Rams quarterback since 1950.
Collectively, it earned him a game ball postgame from head coach Sean McVay.
"It felt like football again," Wentz said of the feeling of winning in a rivalry game. "For starters, I've barely been here, so to feel the sense of the rivalry is different. That's a good football team over there and we'll see if we run into each other again. It was fun to go down there and not only get the touchdown, but then get the two point conversion and see the defense get some stops like that. It was big. We knew we were playing some backups there. It's a different type of ball game, but anytime you come away with a win in this league, it's a good time."
McVay said they did some different things operationally, in terms of Wentz going off of a wristband and having offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur call the plays, but was pleased with how both handled that.
"I thought Carson Wentz made a bunch of plays with his legs, obviously made some big plays with his arm," McVay said.
Wentz will resume his backup role this week as the Rams prepare for their playoff opener, but he'll still have the same attitude as when he first signed with L.A. And he'll continue to enjoy this new journey he's grateful for.
"Absolutely," Wentz said. "It was a weird year being at home and all those things, but not only just to be a part of this team, but a winning culture. To just see how it's done here, it's a very different system for me. There's a lot of different things. It's a really young team, which has brought a lot of the joy back in the game because we got guys that are just having so much fun out there. A lot of these rookies, you can just see the joy that they play this game with. Sometimes when you get older and you become a veteran, it can just be kind of monotonous. Seeing the joy that these guys are playing with and their energy has really revitalized the game a little bit. I'm just seeing it from a different lens. It's been fun and I'm thankful that I've been here."