Philadelphia's defense kept pressure on Cam Newton all night long, making sure he never got comfortable in the pocket like he did as the Carolina offense took off over the last couple weeks. Fletcher Cox (more on him later), rookie Derek Barnett, and especially, linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham were simply all over the field all night long. The Philadelphia front seven overwhelmingly won its battle with the Panthers' offensive line, and it made all the difference in the world.
But it wasn't just the defense that won this one for the Eagles. The offense did its part, winning the scoring and yardage battles despite losing time of possession. Carson Wentz didn't get off to a great start, but he rebounded quickly and finished with a line that showcased his combination of efficiency and explosiveness: 16 of 30 for 222 yards, three touchdowns (his second career three-TD game, after he got his first last week), and most importantly, no interceptions.
LeGarrette Blount ran well, ticking off early-down yardage. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor picked up key first downs. Rookie Mack Hollins had two timely catches. Zach Ertz found the end zone twice. All the things the Eagles did to make Wentz's job easier paid off in a big way, and it led to a win over a quality opponent.
Here are a few more things to know about Philly's 28-23 win.
Carson Wentz is making the leap
The focus of one of ourwas whether or not this year's version of the Eagles is "for real." Last year's vintage started 3-0 behind a strong defense and better-than-expected play from Carson Wentz, but promptly fell apart after a Week 4 bye.
One of the points in favor of this year's team being legit was Wentz's improved play in the first five games of 2017. That continued on Thursday night. Wentz was running for his life for half the evening, but he managed to repeatedly escape pressure and make several under throws under duress. He found Zach Ertz for two scores, the second of which was just a gorgeous throw.
He made a beautiful sideline toss to Alshon Jeffery late in the third quarter, spotting one-on-one coverage and hitting him perfectly in stride to set up a touchdown to Nelson Agholor later in the drive.
Wentz – as has become his custom this season – was also able to do damage on third down, completing 5 of 10 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. He was terrific.
A tale of two run games
Cam Newton finished the game with 11 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, a play on which he just destroyed the Eagles
He should've had another touchdown later on, but the refs called him out of bounds inside the 1-yard line. This play should have been called a touchdown on replay review, but was not.
No matter, Cam threw a touchdown to Christian McCaffrey on the next play.
Speaking of McCaffrey: While the Eagles were gashed on the ground by Newton, the front seven completely shut down the Panthers' trio of running backs on all of their carries. CMC, Jonathan Stewart, and Fozzy Whitaker (who left the game with an injury) combined to carry the ball 13 times for a total of 1 yard. It was ugly.
Return of Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox returned from a two-game absence and was straight up dominant, especially in the first half. He ate Trai Turner's lunch, and Trai Turner is awesome.
Here's a close-up of that play courtesy of our own Will Brinson.
Wooooo yeah. Cox ended the night with two QB hits, a pass defensed, half a sack, and several other plays where he affected Cam Newton's throws. He's back.
Cam cools down (through the air)
Cam Newton came into this game red hot, having completed 48 of 62 passes for 671 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception (and rushing for 44 yards and another score) over his last two games, wins over the Patriots and Lions on the road. He cooled down considerably in this one, though, finishing just 28 of 52 for 239 yards, one touchdown, and three picks.
Neither of the first two picks was necessarily his fault, with the first coming on a play where he was hit as making the throw, and the second coming on a play where Jonathan Stewart dropped the ball into Rasul Douglas' hands, but he also had a pick taken off the board by a pass interference penalty, another that went through the hands of Douglas late in the game, and he missed high and wide with several other throws. It was a rough night throwing the ball, for the most part.
No Lane, big problems (at least early)
Playing without right tackle Lane Johnson, Philadelphia had a ton of problems protecting Carson Wentz, particularly early in the game. Julius Peppers dropped Wentz on the first drive of the night, forcing a fumble that led to three points on the 150th sack of his career.
Barner got destroyed in blitz pickup twice on that drive. Three sacks, six QB hits on Wentz so far.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) October 13, 2017
Things settled down as the night went along, but it was a bit scary for the Eagles early on.
Bad break for Kuechly
The Panthers got some really bad news not just for this game, but potentially for the rest of their season when star linebacker Luke Kuechly left the field in the second quarter. It wasn't initially clear what was wrong (Ron Rivera didn't even know when asked about it heading into the locker room at halftime), but Tracy Wolfson later reported that Kuechly was being evaluated for a concussion.
Horrible news for Luke Keuchly, who has been sidelined by concussions much in recent years— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 13, 2017
The Panthers later confirmed that Kuechly is in the concussion protocol
Luke Kuechly is out for the game and in the concussion protocol.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 13, 2017
Kuechly missed three games in 2015 and six games in 2016 due to concussions, and could be in for another long absence if he suffered one again. It's a terrible break for both team and player, especially because Kuechly looked to be fully recovered and back to his old self early on this season.
Had some scouts I really trust raving this week about Luke Kuechly. Playing at an MVP level again. Being attended to by doctors now— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 13, 2017
The Panthers obviously don't have a player that can replace Kuechly in the middle of their defense, but they do have the good fortune of having 10 days for him to recover before they play their next game. One would expect him to be out longer than that given his extensive history of head injuries, but the longer wait does provide some level of hope. More important than getting him back on the field ASAP, however, is making sure he is fully recovered before he ever returns.
In Week 7, the 4-2 Panthers travel to Chicago to face the Bears at 1 p.m. ET, while the 5-1 Eagles host division rival Washington on Monday night.