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Constructive on Carson: Wentz impressive again in win over Panthers

Eagles win in gritty battle of one-loss teams on Thursday Night Football

By: Jesse Larch, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Eagles played in primetime for the first time this season and earned a hard fought victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium by a score of 28-23 on Thursday Night Football.

The night did not start off well for the Eagles who turned over the ball on their first drive. Future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers blew past Halapoulivaati Vaitai and put a hit on Carson Wentz just before Wentz was able to move his arm forward. 

The Eagles defense played equally stout defense, and forced the Panthers to punt on their first possession to make up for the offense's mistake. 

 The Eagles would be the first to strike, driving down the field and setting up a Jake Elliott field goal attempt. The 50-yard kick was Elliott's ninth consecutive make after starting out the season poorly. The Eagles took an early 3-0 lead. 

The Panthers tied it up on their next possession with a 39-yard field goal from Graham Gano just before the end of the first quarter. 

The Panthers first possession of the second quarter was set up by a great return by rookie first round pick Christian McCaffrey, who brought the ball into Eagles' territory. 

Cam Newton threw for two first downs before taking it himself 16-yards to the end zone, giving the Panthers 10-3 lead. 

The Eagles shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with penalties in the first half that killed multiple drives. They nearly had another turnover when Kenjon Barner muffed a punt deep in his own territory. Patrick Robinson did a great job to beat the Carolina gunner to the loose ball and save what would have been a catastrophic turnover. 

Speaking of catastrophic turnovers, the Eagles would force the Panthers into one of their own. With the Panthers pinned deep in their own zone the returning Fletcher Cox collapsed the pocket and got a hand on Newton, forcing him into an errant pass. Rasul Douglas caught the floating ball for his second interception of his rookie season and placed the Eagles offense at the Carolina 12-yard line. 

The Eagles knocked on Carolina's door with tough runs by LeGarrette Blount and a scramble by Wentz that saw him lower his shoulder and try to bully his way into the endzone. Ultimately Wentz found Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone to tie the game up 10-10. 

The Panthers had a little over 2-and-a-half minutes left in the first half, but the Eagles defense would not give them an inch. The Panthers clawed and scratched their way into Graham Gano's field goal range. Fletcher Cox would then sack Newton to push them out of the position they worked so hard to get to, and send the game into a 10-10 tie at halftime. 

The Eagles defense continued to punish Newton early in the third quarter. The Panthers had the first possession of the half and the Eagles would force another Newton turnover. Newton threw a screen to Jonathan Stewart and Stewart had the ball slide out of his arm and into the waiting hands of Patrick Robinson. 

The Eagles' offense would takeover inside the Panthers 20 and Wentz would quickly find Ertz for the pair's second touchdown of the night on a 17-yard bullet. On the extra point the Panthers were called for an illegal formation and the referee falsely assessed a five-yard penalty for the ensuing kickoff. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson walked onto the field and corrected the referee in emphatic fashion. The referee failed to ask Pederson if he wished to accept or decline the call. Pederson accepted the penalty and opted to go for the two-point conversion from the one yard line.

LeGarrette Blount would take it in to give the Eagles an 18-10 lead following the two-point conversion and some great awareness by Pederson. 

On the ensuing drive Newton threw another interception as Rodney McLeod went airborne to grab a Newton pass. The Play was negated by a Jalen Mills pass interference call that placed the Panthers near the Eagles 30-yard line. 

The Panthers threatened, and worked their way inside the Eagles five-yard line, but the defense made another stand. Rasul Douglas made a great effort to knock a ball away from Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone. On 3rd and goal Nigel Bradham saved a touchdown by reading the play beautifully and stopping McCaffrey short of the end zone. 

Graham Gano would hit a 20-yard field goal to make it an 18-13 game.  

The Eagles would answer with a 48-yard field goal on the next drive from Jake Elliott to give the Eagles a 21-13 lead. 

Not to be outdone, Gano would hit a 47-yarder to bring the panthers within five on the next Carolina possession. 

The Panthers defense continued to dial up pressure as they had all night with the Eagles deep in their own end. Facing a long third down Wentz stood tall in the pocket and found Mack Hollins for a big conversion, 

On the very next play Wentz stretched the field to hit Alshon Jeffery in stride for a 37-yard pickup. Shortly after the big gain Wentz hit Nelson Agholor on a quick slant and a good run after the catch that led to a 24-yard Eagles touchdown. The Eagles would hold a 28-16 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

The Panthers knew they had to act quickly to stay in the game and Cam Newton led a nice drive down the field to make sure Carolina had a shot to win. 

Newton moved the chains with his arm and his legs. Newton nearly ran in for another touchdown when he was forced out on the one-yard line after stretching out for the pylon. Newton was laboring his non-throwing shoulder, but remained in the game. On the next play Newton fired a dart to McCaffrey for a one-yard touchdown, trimming the Eagles lead to five points with 8:04 remaining in regulation. 

The Eagles were forced into a three-and-out and left 5:49 on the clock for Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense.

The Panthers were challenged by the Eagles defense on the deciding drive at every turn. Eagles 2017 first round pick Derek Barnett came up with his first career sack to force a 3rd & 17. Newton responded by finding Christian McCaffrey for 16 yards to set up a vital 4th & 1. 

The Eagles could not get the stop and the Newton found McCaffrey again to keep the game alive. 

On the next play Newton went deep but the interception fell through Rasul Douglas's hands on a play that would have effectively ended the game. 

Newton would give the Eagles defense another chance plays later when Newton threw an errant pass facing pressure and Jalen Mills got under it to come up with huge interception. 

The Panthers defense would keep hope alive after forcing another three-and-out and an Eagles punt. 

On a night where both defenses shined The Eagles got the last laugh. 

The Eagles forced Carolina into a 3rd & 1 when Nigel Bradham - who had his best game of the season by far - tipped a pass at the line that was headed to Ed Dickson for a first down. 

On 4th & 1 with the game on the line. Newton could not connect with McCaffrey - who had 10 receptions in the game. The Eagles would line up in victory formation and take a knee to close out the game.

Carson Wentz completed 16 of 30 passes while facing heavy pressure all night long from the Panthers defense. He threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. It is the first time in Wentz's career that he has had back-to-back games with three passing touchdowns. Last week was his first time ever throwing for three touchdowns. 

Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor both had 4 receptions to lead the Eagles. Jeffery's 71 yards was the most of any Eagles receiver on the night, and he was robbed by some catches and yards by poor officiating. This was the glimpse of greatness we had been waiting to see from the big free agent signing. 

LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 14 carries and 67 yards. 

Cam Newton completed 28 passes on 52 attempts for 239 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. The Panthers running backs combined for nine yards on the ground. 

The Eagles overcame a huge penalty disparity en route to the victory. The Eagles had 10 penalties for 126 yards versus one penalty for one yard from the Panthers. 

The Eagles move to 5-1 on the season and 3-1 on the road. The Eagles will play again next Monday night against the Washington Redskins. 

The Eagles next three games will be at home where they are yet to lose this season. 

The K-Lot Podcast is presented by SportsTalkPhilly.com and can be downloaded on SoundCloud and iTunes.

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