By the time an errant snap went over Jalen Hurts’s head and bounced through the end zone late in the second quarter today, the Eagles had run the ball just four times. Hurts had 35 yards passing. The Eagles trailed the Panthers 15-3, and the Eagles’ three points had come after a defender returned an interception to the Carolina 10.
Yet in this play was one of the most important moments of the game: Hurts was able to bat the ball out of the back of the end zone. Instead of recovering for a touchdown and a possible 20-3 lead, the Panthers were only up 12. After the Eagles defense forced a punt, Hurts threw for 39 yards on a drive that ended in a field goal. It was 15-6 at halftime.
The game’s next big moment, late in the third quarter, was a decision. Facing fourth-and-7 at the Eagles’ 40, Panthers coach Matt Rhule lined up for a 57-yard field goal. Instead of the FG attempt, kicker Zane Gonzalez punted it into the end zone. A fourth-and-7 at the 40 is no-man’s-land—there’s no great decision there. The punt was only cowardish. Yet here’s what happened: The Panthers netted just 20 yards on the punt, and the Eagles were past the 40 in about 90 seconds. They scored on that drive in six plays. Suddenly they were down two. It was a game.
It was not the best game. The two biggest moments, to me, were a guy knocking the ball out of the end zone and a coach deciding to punt. I suppose the Eagles’ special teams added a third: With four minutes to play, T.J. Edwards blocked a Panthers punt. Hurts ran for a two-yard touchdown, his second score, four plays later. Philly basically sealed the 21-18 win with Steven Nelson’s pick on the next possession. The Eagles, who looked dead in the water at multiple points in this game, are 2-3.
But yeeeeeesh. The Eagles’ offense is not very good. The first-half gameplan involved almost no rushing attempts. That could be fine if the Eagles had anything resembling a downfield passing game. Almost every throw in the first half was short. ESPN reported the Eagles went 6-for-6 on screens in the first half for minus-2 yards. The Eagles would’ve been better off spiking it.
And though they came back to win, this led to hilarious statistics like Quez Watkins catching three passes for 48 yards with a long catch of 54 yards. Miles Sanders caught five balls for six yards. Sanders finally ripped off some nice runs this game, then inexplicably went out of bounds twice while the Eagles were trying to ice the clock. Once on a free play, Hurts just threw the ball away; the next play he missed a wide-open receiver.
The defense has been gashed quite a bit this year, but they’ve also played San Francisco, Dallas, and Kansas City. Carolina is Carolina. The Eagles sacked Panthers QB Sam Darnold three times and picked him off three times, too—two by Darius Slay. Of course the man who wants to attack rest, Nick Sirianni, has an idea about what the game was: “That was the definition of a team win. That was the definition of Dawg Mentality.” (Yes, this is how it’s spelled.)
Meanwhile, the Panthers lost their second straight to a team from the NFC East. They stopped the Eagles basically all game and lost. They really should’ve gone for it on that fourth down, I guess.