Last Sunday, Cam Newton lead the charge in the fourth quarter down 17 points to come from behind and defeat the stunned Eagles 21-17. At the start of the final quarter, the Eagles were dominating Newton and the Carolina offense by shutting them out in the first three quarters.
Yet, inexcusably, the Birds defense fell apart, letting Newton throw all over them with two touchdown passes and setting the record for the biggest comeback in Panthers history. Eagles Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox said after the game that it was the worst loss of his career. He followed by saying, “We was up 17-0 at some point and they came back and kicked our a–.” This is an all-time choke job by the defending super bowl champs, as they now sit at 3-4 in the NFC. Up by three possessions with home field advantage, you shouldn’t blow this game.
There’s plenty of blame to go around but most of it sits in the hands of the coaching staff. First, the defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz who refused to adjust in the final quarter. How do you hold the lowly Panthers passing offense to only 49 passing yards in the first three quarters, then all of a sudden let up 201 yards in the final 15 minutes? The inability of Newton and their offense to throw the football downfield should prompt the Eagles cornerbacks to play more press man then sag of their wide receivers by 10 yards, giving them easy pass receptions. Yet again, Schwartz doesn’t adjust, and the Eagles’ secondary gets toasted.
Next, Doug Pederson and the incapability of the Eagles’ offense to run the clock and secure the win. Leading up to the meltdown, Carson Wentz was having a career day. He was completing his passes at a high clip, finishing the day going 30/37, 310 passing yards and two touchdown passes.
The problem with this offense is being able to run the football at a high rate. The lead running back, Wendell Smallwood, ran nine times for 32 yards and rookie Josh Adams ran four times for 17 yards. The Eagles are seriously missing their lead rushers from last year, Jay Ajayi (IR) and LeGarrette Blount (FA), to get extra yards to ice games. GM Howie Roseman may have to look outside the organization to solve this problem by acquiring Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell, or a familiar face in Philly LeSean McCoy. If the Eagles want a real shot at making the postseason as well as defend their crown, adding a key contributor at the deadline is a must.
Finally, Carson Wentz has to be held to some blame for this game. Yes, statically speaking he played very well, but the “franchise guy” has to show up when it matters the most. In the fourth quarter, down by four with seconds remaining, the Eagles had the ball inside the Carolina 25-yard line after a long pass interference call on the Panthers. Wentz had four opportunities to punch it in and all would be forgotten about the blown lead.
On first down, Wentz sailed a pass over the head of TE Zach Ertz that is nearly intercepted by safety Eric Reid. It was initially ruled a game ending interception, but the refs ruled it incomplete because the ball hit the ground. New life for Wentz as for second down, he handed it off to RB Wendell Smallwood who took it for eight yards to get it into Carolina’s 15-yard line; a play which set up an easier third and fourth down opportunity for the Philly offense. On the next play, Wentz made a horrible decision by throwing into double coverage for WR Alshon Jeffery and almost getting picked again. During that play, RB Wendell Smallwood was wide open in the flat to Wentz’s left that could have to a first down or even maybe a game winning touchdown.
Finally, on fourth down Carson almost hits a wide-open Jeffery in the end zone but the QB is hit strip sacked and it ends up as a turnover on downs ending the incredible comeback for the Panthers.
Again, Carson played great for the first 45 minutes of the game, but the best players need to show up at the most important times and the franchise QB came up short last week.
MY PREDICTION FOR UPCOMING EAGLES vs. JAGS GAME (written before game took place):
For both teams this is a win or go home type of game to salvage their season when both teams came into this year with high hopes. This Eagles defense needs to start fast and force pressure on Bortles which will hopefully lead to turnovers. As for the Eagles offense, they need to find a way to get their running game going vs. the Jags defense who is ranked 27th in rushing yards allowed. I say the Eagles will go into London and defeat the Jaguars handily. Final score: 28-17 Eagles.
Conner Gabe is a second-year student majoring in media and culture and minoring in communications. CG864458@wcupa.edu