Eagles

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Birds are for real. 

And after Thursday night, they're the best team in the NFC. 

The Eagles went on the road on a short week and took down a very good Panthers team led by a former MVP in a hostile Bank of America Stadium. They won, 28-23, and sent a bunch of Panthers fans home upset. 

Through six games, this is clearly the best win of the season so far for the Eagles. 

With the win, the Eagles are 5-1 and have the best record in the NFC. The Panthers fell to 4-2. 

Carson Wentz started off Thursday night a little shaky but really dialed in during the second half to help the Eagles come away with a W (see 10 observations)

And the Eagles' defense gave up some points but still did its job. Jim Schwartz's unit stopped the Panthers twice late in the fourth quarter when the home team had a chance to drive down the field and win. The last stop came on a 4th-and-1 from near midfield. 

Turning point 
Patrick Robinson's interception came off a tipped ball. He was somehow able to pull the ball in and give the Eagles the ball on the Panthers' 17-yard line. Wentz hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown and then the Eagles converted a two-point conversion to go up by eight. They never trailed again. 

Key stat
The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards, while the Panthers were hit with one flag for one yard. The 126 penalty yards are the most the Eagles have had in a game since 2007. But they overcame it (see Gunn's bullet points).

This was the first time in NFL history one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had less than nine. 

Offensive stud
Wentz started off slow but ended up heating up in the second half some and did enough for the Eagles to win (see report card).

Ertz didn't have a volume game but got two more touchdowns and has tied his career high of four. And he's done it in the first six weeks of the season. 

Offensive dud
The Eagles need to get Lane Johnson back. While Halapoulivaati Vaitai settled down, he gave up an early sack to Julius Peppers and just simply isn't as good. 

Kenjon Barner also didn't have a very good game when he did get chances. 

Defensive stud
Fletcher Cox was back after missing two games and was a beast (see story). He's just clearly the Eagles' best defensive player and is an absolute game-wrecker. 

Nigel Bradham also had a nice game. He had a huge pass breakup and tackle for loss in the first half and continued his assault on the Panthers in the second (see story)

Robinson also had a few big plays, including his second-half INT. 

Defensive dud
Rasul Douglas was beaten on Newton's rushing touchdown and dropped what should have been an interception late in the fourth quarter (see rookie report).

Key plays
• The Eagles stopped the Panthers on a 4th-and-1 near midfield inside two minutes left to play to seal the win. 

• Newton and the Panthers were driving when the Eagles brought pressure and Newton sailed a ball. Jalen Mills came down with it. 

• The Eagles were called for a huge unnecessary roughness against Derek Barnett in the fourth quarter. There was a delay of game against the Panthers but Barnett came in and decked Newton. Apparently there either wasn't a whistle or he didn't hear it. 

The Panthers kept their drive alive and Newton hit Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown to cut into the Eagles' lead, 28-23. 

• Wentz found Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard touchdown across the middle to put the Eagles up, 28-16. Wentz made a couple beautiful plays on the drive to keep it going. 

• The Eagles and Panthers swapped a pair of field goals to make the score 21-16 in the third. 

• After Mills was flagged for a big defensive pass interference, the Eagles’ defense let the Panthers get down to its 5-yard line but held up and the Panthers settled for a 20-yard field goal to cut into the lead, 18-13. 

• Robinson made a spectacular interception on a third down to give the Eagles the ball on the Carolina 17-yard line. A few plays later, Wentz hit Ertz for a 17-yard touchdown to take a lead. 

After an illegal formation on the Panthers on an extra point, Doug Pederson decided to go for a two-point conversion and LeGarrette Blount punched it in to give the Eagles an 18-10 lead. 

• Cox and Brandon Graham met at the quarterback to bring down Newton for a seven-yard loss. That pretty much thwarted the Panthers' final drive of the first half and sent the game into the second half tied, 10-10. 

• After the Eagles got the ball on the Panthers' 12-yard line, they took seven plays and nearly four minutes, but finally got a touchdown to tie the game, 10-10, when Wentz hit Ertz in the back of the end zone. 

• Cox absolutely imposed his will on a third down in the second quarter. He put his man on roller skates, got a QB hit on Newton and forced the ball to flutter in the air. Douglas was there to pull it down for his second-career INT. It gave the Eagles the ball on the Panthers' 12-yard line. 

• Newton had a brilliant 16-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to put the Panthers up, 10-3. The play fake worked and then Newton got Douglas all turned around. 

• Jordan Hicks had a big run stuff on 3rd-and-2 that forced the Panthers to kick a 39-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3, instead of picking up the first down and possibly the lead. 

• Wentz hit Trey Burton for a third-down conversion on the Eagles' second drive of the game and Jake Elliott hit a 50-yard field goal to put the Eagles up, 3-0. It was Elliott's ninth straight make. 

• Peppers went around Vaitai to pick up a strip sack on the first drive of the game. Not a good start for "Big V" as Wentz fumbled the ball away. The Eagles' defense forced a quick three-and-out to pick up the offense. 

Injuries
Hicks left the game with an ankle injury and didn't return for the second half. He had an ankle injury earlier this season; he left the Giants game at halftime. Joe Walker took over at the middle linebacker spot. 

Bradham left the game in the third quarter after making a tackle but returned later in the third. Graham (shoulder) left briefly, too, but also returned. 

Chris Maragos (knee) left the game late.

Johnson (concussion) and Wendell Smallwood (knee) both missed Thursday's game. They'll have some extra days to heal thanks to playing on Thursday night. 

Up next
The Eagles have a long layoff before hosting Washington on Monday Night Football on Oct. 23 at the Linc.

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

With Hall of Fame induction nearing, Brian Dawkins realizes he's just like you

Brian Dawkins always had a symbiotic relationship with Eagles fans.

He loved them, they loved him, and there isn’t a single Eagle in the last 50 years who was as universally adored as Dawkins.

Try to find an Eagles fan that didn’t like him. You can’t do it.

In 18 days, Dawkins will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and on Tuesday he talked about the Eagles fans who cheered for him about every autumn Sunday from 1996 through 2008.

"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I believe if a Philadelphia Eagles fan had a chance to play, if all of a sudden they woke up and they woke up in the team hotel and they knew the game plan and they had knowledge of the system, athletic ability to run and to jump and they played the position that I played, the safety position, I believe the majority of them, if not all of them, would play the game the way that I played it,” Dawkins said.

“They would dance, they would be having a good time … and they would go out and enjoy the opportunity to be on the football field and show it and not be afraid to show their emotions, to play with passion and give everything that they have because that would be the only chance that they would ever get to play the game of football, and that’s how I played.

“I played with a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to have a good time, I danced, I celebrated after plays, I celebrated with my teammates, and they saw that.”

Everybody loves Dawkins. Not just because of his boundless ability, production in big games and peerless leadership, but because he connected on such a deep level with Eagles fans.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and you could tell he felt every loss just as profoundly as even the most rabid Eagles fan.

“It was genuine,” he said. “I was a genuine player when it came to, I’m going to give everything that I have, I’m not going to make excuses for anything. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the burden upon myself. Even if it’s not my fault, it’s going to be my fault. I’m going to take it away from my teammates and put it on myself.

“I’m never going to make excuses. I’m going to try my best and never make those mistakes [again] that I made in the game. And I believe that they saw that, they recognized that, and the feeling is mutual.

“I love Eagles fans. Yeah, they’re crazy. They’re twisted in some ways. But I love them, because I am. There are a lot of parts of me that are twisted in a lot of different ways. That’s why I did some of the crazy stuff on the field that I did. So like, we fit. Like hand in glove, we fit.”

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Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

Eagles 2018 training camp battles: Nickel cornerback

As we get near the start of the Eagles’ 2018 training camp, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the key position battles to watch this summer. 

Today we’ll look at slot cornerback. 

Names to know

Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, De'Vante Bausby, Malcolm Jenkins

What to watch

This should be interesting during training camp. The Eagles need to find a solid replacement after losing Patrick Robinson in free agency this offseason. Robinson, the veteran journeyman, was having a terrible training camp last summer before he was moved into the slot following the Ronald Darby trade. But once he got into that nickel corner spot, he thrived and went on to have a tremendous year. Losing him is big, but the Eagles actually have depth at the CB position, a departure from training camps in previous years. 

The Eagles have a few options in the slot. The only corner who hasn’t had time inside is Rasul Douglas; the team isn’t going to put him there. Even Darby took some reps inside during the spring. But Darby is likely going to stay outside too. 

That leaves Mills, Jones and Bausby battling for the spot. It appears that Mills is probably going to be a starter, but there’s a decent chance that he could line up at outside corner in the Eagles’ base package and move inside in nickel. That’s a lot to ask, but he has been in the defense for two years now and would be able to handle that extended responsibility. 

Jones is really talented and it would make sense to find a way to get last year’s second-round pick (who would have been a first-rounder without an Achilles tear) on the field. That will either come outside in the nickel package or inside. Jones took some reps there this spring and looked good. Ultimately, the team will want to make him a starter, but for now, it can bring him along slowly with a lot of depth at corner. 

Bausby is a name you might not be as familiar with. But after spending last year on the practice squad, he turned some heads this spring. He and D.J. Killings are long shots to win this spot, but Bausby isn’t a long shot to make the roster. I just can’t see Bausby keeping a talented player like Jones off the field, no matter how much the coaching staff likes him. 

The last possibility is to move Jenkins into the slot, which the team will do with certain bigger receivers and tight ends. But it seems very unlikely he’ll take over that role full-time, especially with more depth at corner than safety. 

Prediction

I think the three guys who will be on the field are Mills, Darby and Jones. The real question is how this manifests itself. If I were Jim Schwartz, I would start Mills and Darby and then slide Mills inside in the nickel package, leaving the second-year player to play at his strength position outside. I think Schwartz isn’t going to take my advice on this, though. I think it’s slightly more likely that Mills and Darby stay outside and Jones plays inside when the Eagles use their nickel package. 

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