First and 10: Eagles Escape Carolina with Another Win
(973espn.com) — Carson Wentz threw three touchdown passes and Cam Newton tossed three interceptions as the Eagles invaded Charlotte on a short week and escaped with a 28-23 statement win to improve to 5-1 on the season.
Wentz threw two scoring passes to Zach Ertz and another to Nelson Agholor while a defense that got back Fletcher Cox but lost Jordan Hicks in-game forced Newton into a 28-for-52 performance for just 239 yards and a 48.5 passer rating.
Newton was more effective as a runner, carrying it 11 times for 71 yards and a TD but Jim Schwartz's defense held the Carolina running backs to 1 yard on 13 attempts.
What kept the Panthers in it was a significant disparity in penalties called by Pete Morelli and his crew. The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards while Carolina was tagged only once for one yard.
Wentz finished 16-for-30 for 222 yards and has a stellar 110.7 passer rating while adding 25 more yards on the ground. LeGarrette Blount led the rushing attack with 67 yards on 14 carries while Alshon Jeffery had four catches for 71 yards.
AND 10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:
-Cox was spectacular in his return after missing two games with a calf injury. The big man pushed Trai Turner into Cam Newton's lap and tipped a Newton pass resulting in a Rasul Douglas interception deep in Carolina territory, which set up the first Eagles' touchdown of the night. He also finished with one-half sack.
-Both teams lost their star middle linebackers as Luke Kuechly was forced from the game with a concussion after Brandon Brooks leveled him with a great pull block. Jordan Hicks, meanwhile, was forced from the lineup with an ankle injury and was replaced by Joe Walker in the base while Mychal Kendricks joined Nigel Bradham in the nickel. Kendricks was spectacular with the added work and was all over the football field with 15 tackles. Bradham, meanwhile, wasn't far behind with an active performance that included 10 tackles.
-Patrick Robinson's magical season continued as the veteran corner saved Kenjon Barner on a muffed punt by jumping on the football and later set up an Eagles' TD by taking advantage of a Jonathan Stewart flub on a perfectly thrown screen pass. The Eagles' other INTs came from the rookie Douglas and second-year man Jalen Mills.
-Jim Schwartz ended up using the same cornerback setup as last week with Robinson and Mills starting with the base defense and then Robinson kicking inside in the nickel while Douglas replaced him on outside.
-The volume wasn't there for Zach Ertz but the efficacy in the red zone was. The rangy tight end's only two receptions of the night were TDs converting the big turnovers deep in Carolina territory.
-Philadelphia came in as the top third-down team in football and the Panthers were second. Both weren't early as good as usual but the Eagles finished with the advantage converting 36 percent of their opportunities while Carolina's normal success rate (50 percent) was cut in half with a 4-for-16 effort.
-Eagles kicker Jake Elliott has now banged through 10 straight field goals and had another from 50 on Thursday thanks to a great hold by Donnie Jones. As solid as Caleb Sturgis was before his hip flexor injury, it's hard to imagine the Eagles giving up on the big leg of Elliott.
-Halapoulivaati Vaitai held up well in the second half against the Cardinals when Lane Johnson was forced from the game with a concussion, This time around Carolina understood that Johnson wouldn't be there and was able to game plan for with Vaitai in mind. The Eagles were moving the ball early with tempo until Carolina brought veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers in who schooled Vaitai en route to a strip sack. The plan from there was overload blitzes on Vaitai's side and Wentz took too many hits but the second-year player did play better as the game progressed.
-With no Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood out for a second straight game, Philadelphia had some serious pass protection issues when it came to blitz pickups with both Blount and Barner struggling at times.
-Credit Doug Pederson for going for two after Carolina was flagged on an extra point. Morelli wanted to assess the penalty on the kickoff but the Eagles coach reminded the ref it was his choice and Blount took it in a from a yard out in an offset-shotgun look to extend Philadelphia's lead to 18-10 at the time.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen