Extra Points: Eagles Snap Losing Streak with Comeback
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina - That must've been some halftime speech by Eagles coach Nick Sirianni.
There's no other way to explain the comeback that produced a 21-18 victory over Carolina.
The large contingent of Birds fans at Bank of America Stadium had very little to cheer about in the first 30 minutes. Their loudest applause was reserved for a shirtless guy in an Eagles hat who sprinted out of the stands in the second quarter, then plopped onto the turf and waited for the security crew to escort him off.
At the time, he was the Eagles' leading rusher.
The Eagles trailed 15-6 and were making me wonder why I made the three-and-a-half hour drive up from Myrtle Beach Sunday morning. It was 75 degrees and sunny, perfect conditions for teeing it up at Arrowhead, Man O' War, Tidewater or one of the other 90-plus golf courses in the Grand Strand.
Instead, it was the Eagles' fans who were teed off.
But they left the stadium in a much better mood, thanks to an Eagles' defense which rebounded from back-to-back horrible outings to dominate the Panthers. They played nothing like the bend-and-also-break unit that surrendered 83 points in the last two games.
They forced three turnovers, posted three sacks and allowed just two first downs in Carolina's last 11 third-down plays.
You know things are going right when Ryan Kerrigan makes a tackle and Fletcher Cox earns a sack, neither of which happened in the first four games of the season.
It helped they were playing against Panthers Sam Darnold, who showed why the Jets gave up on him by throwing three interceptions, including two to cornerback Darius Slay.
Special teams also deserves credit for the win.
Place-kicker Jake Elliott ended the first half by booming a 58-yard field goal. It was the third-longest in franchise history, trailing his 61-yarder against the Giants in 2017 and Tony Franklin's 59-yarder at Dallas in 1979. Linebacker T.J. Edwards provided the game's pivotal play. The Eagles trailed 18-13 when he stormed up the middle to block a punt. It was the team's first blocked punt since Kamu Grugier-Hill had one against the Giants in 2017.
That helped set up the go-ahead touchdown, which quarterback Jalen Hurts scored with a 6-yard touchdown with 2:38 left. Hurts also scrambled away from a pass rush to hit wide receiver DeVonta Smith for the two-point conversion.
Hurts was inconsistent much of the game, but he was good in the clutch, which is the sign of a leader. He found wide receiver Quez Watkins behind Carolina's defense and fired a 53-yard strike to set up his 1-yard sneak that cut the deficit to 15-13. After Edwards' block, he hit tight end Dallas Goedert for a 20-yarder that led to his second TD.
I still have my doubts about Siranni, however.
His first-half game plan was brutal. Their first eight possessions ended with five punts, two field goals and botched play that the Eagles were fortunate to have end with a safety instead of a Panthers touchdown. Center Jason Kelce's shotgun snap sailed two feet over Hurts' head and rolled into the end zone. Several Panthers defenders had a chance to fall on the ball for a TD, but couldn't corral it before it squirted across the end line.
But more concerning is the lack of discipline, which is a reflection of the head coach and his staff.
The Eagles had a TD waved off for the fourth time in the last two games because of a penalty. This time, it was wide receiver Greg Ward committing offensive pass interference on Hurts' 2-yard pass to Smith in the first quarter. The also had their weekly illegal man downfield penalty when right tackle Jordan Mailata ventured about 10 yards over the line of scrimmage.
On the bright side, no one stepped out of bounds before catching a touchdown pass.
Defense, special teams and some timely plays down the stretch helped make up for the boo boos this time. But the Eagles can't keep committing the same mistakes each week and expect to be successful.
Motivational halftime speeches are great, but if the Eagles don't start playing better and smarter, Sirianni could become the first one-and-done head coach in franchise history.
Then he'll have plenty of time to play golf on Sundays.