The Carolina Panthers put up 23 points, but they had to scratch and claw for every yard they gained, and if not for the constant aid given to them by Pete Morelli’s one-sided crew of officials, they may not have put up more than 17 on the Birds tonight.
The officiating in this game really was that bad. I’m normally not one to complain about the calls officials make, but tonight’s game was an exception. The Eagles were flagged 10 times for 126 yards, while the Panthers had only one flag thrown against them the entire night. How does such a distorted ratio like that happen? This was one of the most one-sided crew of officials I’ve ever seen.
Jalen Mills was hit with two very weak pass interference penalties, both of which extended drives that led to 10 Carolina points, one of which wiped out a Rodney McLeod interception. The calls against Mills were questionable at-best, and Carolina defenders that pulled similar stunts on the other side of the field weren’t flagged.
Fortunately, Mills and the Eagles defense kept battling throughout the night, and a great number of things did break their way. The defense created three turnovers, with Mills, Patrick Robinson, and Rasul Douglas all coming down with interceptions on Cam Newton. The interceptions from Douglas and Robinson set the offense up with short fields, which they were successfully able to convert into touchdowns. The Mills interception came late in the game, killing a drive where Carolina was threatening to take the lead.
The run defense continues to be superb. Carolina running backs were held to just 11 yards on 14 carries. Jonathan Steward and Fozzy Whitaker finished with -3 and -4 rushing yards on the night. The stout run defense forced the Panthers to ask Cam Newton to do too much, with the quarterback dropping back for 52 pass attempts on the night, which is usually a formula for a loss.
The Eagles’ defensive performance tonight was one of the strongest in recent memory.
It’s the kind of effort that would have made the late Jim Johnson proud.
When you see Fletcher Cox fighting through injury to come back and make an impact, when you Nigel Bradham go all-out to sell-out his body to stop a ball carrier short of a first down, when you see Jalen Mills keep battling through terrible officiating and come down with a late interception…these are just character plays all around, the kind you see made by winning football teams.
The defense has been performing at a high level over the last two games, and they still haven’t hit their peak yet. Jordan Hicks and Fletcher Cox aren’t yet 100%, and Ronald Darby has yet to join the fray as well. Even better days may be ahead.
Wentz Survives Ferocious Carolina Rush, Continues To Shine
Carson Wentz’s star continues to grow as well.
Wentz was put into a tough spot tonight. On the road against a quality defense, missing his starting right tackle in Lane Johnson, Wentz was under pressure from Julius Peppers and the Carolina pass rush most of the night. He took a pounding in this game, sacked three times, and hit regularly not just in the passing game, but also took some shots on some of his carries as well.
And Wentz didn’t let the physical assault rattle him. He kept his composure, and delivered some big throws throughout the night. His best moment came on a third-and-16 late in the game. Facing a long-third down after Carolina had just kicked a field goal to make it 21-16, Wentz took the snap, immediately was under pressure, bought some time with his legs, and kept his eyes downfield to hit rookie Mack Hollins for a 20-yard strike to convert the first down.
On the next play, Wentz struck again, hitting Alshon Jeffery for 37 yards to get the team into Carolina territory. Several plays later, Wentz finished the drive by hitting Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard touchdown.
You have to be thrilled with how Wentz is developing. With 13 touchdowns and three interceptions through six games, he’s on pace for a ratio over 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions for the season. Not bad for a second-year guy!
- I did not like Doug Pederson’s decision to go for a two-point conversion in the second half. I know it was successful and worked out fine, but I’m not at all sure that the risk is worth the reward there. You’re walking a very fine line at that point if you fail. In fact, if the Eagles don’t score the two-point conversion, its a 26-23 game in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers only have to play for the field goal instead of the touchdown. I don’t mind Doug being aggressive, but this call I wasn’t on board with.
- Zach Ertz caught just two passes tonight, but boy did he make them count, scoring touchdowns on both plays.
- And now the bad: Why is Ertz in the game for any kind of meaningful blocking situation? In the fourth quarter with the Eagles trying to close out the game, Ertz missed him man, and Blount was stuffed for a 4-yard loss, setting up a longer third down, and eventually giving the Panthers one last chance to drive the field.
- LeGarrette Blount continues to shine by the way, picking up 67 yards on 14 carries, and also running the ball in on the team’s two-point conversion. Blount has been getting a steady diet of 12-14 carries over the last four games, and he’s been very effective with them.
- Alshon Jeffery was a little more involved this week, catching four passes for 71 yards. Wentz took a couple shots to Jeffery throughout the game, narrowly missing on a couple of them.
- Four grabs for 55 yards for Nelson Agholor. Even I have to admit that he’s been very effective in the slot role. Nobody’s missing Jordan Matthews, are they?
- Mack Hollins caught two passes for 38 yards, and took a good amount of snaps away from Torrey Smith in the second half of the game.
- Smith had just one reception for six yards.
- Wendell Smallwood was down again for this game with a knee injury, and Kenjon Barner and Corey Clement played minor roles in the offense, picking up a combined 9 yards on seven carries.
- It wasn’t a great night for Barner, who nearly cost the Eagles by muffing a punt in the first half, and also dropped a pass from Wentz on a third and five that he could have taken for a first down.
- Mychal Kendricks led the team with a career-high 15 tackles, 10 solo. Kendricks was asked to log a ton of snaps tonight with Hicks knocked out of the game and Nigel Bradham also banged up.
- Joe Walker and Najee Goode each saw extended action as well, and both guys held up well.
- Vinny Curry hasn’t gotten the sack numbers we’d like him to have, but he’s improved considerably against the run.
- Derek Barnett and Justin Hamilton combined for a big sack late in the fourth quarter to put the Panthers in a third and 17 situation.
- Once again, I’ve really got to talk a lot about how surprising Patrick Robinson has been. Robinson made two huge, game-changing plays for this team tonight. The first came on special teams in the first half, where Robinson was quick to react to Kenjon Barner’s muff and fall on the football. This likely saved a touchdown in favor of the Panthers. Then in the third quarter, Robinson came down with a very difficult interception on a tipped ball to set up the Birds with a short field to go up 18-10. So at the end of the day, Robinson swung the game 15 points, taking seven away from the Panthers, and setting up an opportunity for eight for the Eagles. It’s amazing how far Robinson has come from being the whipping boy at training camp this past August.
- The one thing that really stands out about this defense is how strong their depth is from top to bottom. The first team defensive line is nasty with Curry, Cox, Jernigan, and Graham, but the second team guys have been making a ton of plays themselves. Chris Long, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett all contributed to this win. Justin Hamilton as well, and the team still has Steven Means, Destiny Vaeao, and Elijah Qualls that didn’t even play.
- Another week of perfection for Jake Elliot, who drilled both of his field goal attempts, one of which came from 50 yards.
Raise your hand if you had the Eagles at 5-1.
These six weeks have been incredibly satisfying so far. The Eagles have come out of the gates roaring, and have seized control of not only the NFC East, but have also put themselves in the conversation among the top teams in the Conference. Not only are the Eagles in sole possession of the East, but they’re undefeated in the NFC, and now own the tiebreaker over the 4-2 Panthers.
Doug Pederson, crazy two-point conversion and 4th and eight decisions aside, really has done a tremendous job. He has to be right up there in the early Coach of the Year conversation. The Eagles have only lost to the undefeated Chiefs, and they’ve won three of their five victories on the road. That’s a hell of a start.
If the season ended today, the Eagles would have home field advantage in the playoffs. It’s been almost a decade since Eagles fans have been able to flirt with that possibility. Sadly enough, its been over a decade since the last home playoff win at Lincoln Financial Field. Maybe that changes this year.
Oh, and things aren’t getting any better for the Dallas Cowboys, who now have likely lost Ezekial Elliot to the NFL’s six-game suspension, meaning that the star running back will be unavailable when the Eagles and Cowboys meet in Week 10.
The Birds now have a week and a half to rest up and begin a three-game home stretch that starts with Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins.
It can’t come soon enough.
Denny Basens is the editor of GCobb.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DennyBasens