It was not in the cards for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon as they allowed the Carolina Panthers to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, losing 21-17 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles played great on both sides of the ball for the first three quarters as the defense got immense pressure on quarterback Cam Newton and made running back Christian McCaffrey a non-factor.
However, that was not the case in the final quarter as Philly’s defensive pressure was non-existent and Newton made them pay continuously.
Along those same lines, Philly’s offense was clicking on all cylinders for three quarters with all three running backs making an impact, the offensive line keeping quarterback Carson Wentz clean in the pocket, and Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz working the Panthers’ secondary.
But in the fourth quarter, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went away from the running game and decided to air out, which did not help to keep the chains moving. Simply put, the Eagles lost this game, more so than Carolina won it.
With the loss, the Eagles are now 3-4 on the season and will head across the pond to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
Here are three takeaways from the Eagles’ demoralizing loss against Newton and Carolina:
1. The defense has a fourth-quarter meltdown
Heading into this matchup, Philly’s defense knew that they had to keep Newton under wraps if they wanted to win. In last season’s contest, the Eagles made Newton a one-man show, which led to him throwing three interceptions.
Philly did a great job containing Newton for a majority of the game on Sunday and held the Panthers to 29 yards of total offense on their first three drives.
But when it counted the most, Newton showed why he is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
The veteran quarterback completed 16-of-22 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Newton finished the game with 269 passing yards, no turnovers, and 49 rushing yards.
In fact, Newton’s 49 rushing yards led the Panthers on the ground and the defense still could not get the job done.
Outside of the stats, the defense also did not do a good job of execution in the red zone. On Curtis Samuel’s 14-yard touchdown run, defensive end Brandon Graham lost contain on the edge, allowing the speedy wide receiver to reach the end zone.
Then on Devin Funchess’ 18-yard touchdown reception later in the fourth quarter, cornerback Ronald Darby got caught looking in the backfield and fell down, giving him a free pass.
This is now the second time this season that the defense has fallen flat on their face down the stretch.
If the Eagles replicate this type of performance next week against Jacksonville, then they will easily be out of the playoffs.
2. Alshon Jeffery proves again that he is a No. 1 WR
Earlier this month, there were discussions happening on the interwebs about Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and if he is a No. 1 wide receiver. Some said that Jeffery isn’t a top-tier wide receiver based on stats and his impact, but on Sunday, he once again proved the naysayers wrong.
The 6-foot-3 veteran wide receiver had a field day against the Panthers’ secondary, specifically against cornerback James Bradberry. Jeffery put a nasty double move on Bradberry inside the red zone, putting the Eagles on the board first with an 11-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
With that touchdown, it gave Jeffery seven touchdowns in his last six games. The 28-year-old finished with seven receptions ( 10 targets) for 88 yards.
Jeffery is an absolute playmaker who opens up things for other players on the field and will be looked upon to help keep the chains moving.
3. Pederson pulls an Andy Reid
For the first three quarters, head coach Doug Pederson and the rest of the offensive coaching staff made it an emphasis to run the ball. Undrafted Josh Adams had a couple of nice runs in between the tackles, while Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement were running hard.
However, in the final frame, Pederson went away from the running game and transformed into Andy Reid Jr.
He kept on dialing up passing plays in obvious running downs and on their final drive the Eagles got hurt by going to the well too much.
Wentz almost threw an interception to end the game, but it was overturned by officials. But on third and fourth downs with two yards to go, Pederson refused to run the ball. Instead, he opted to go into a spread formation inside the red zone.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Eagles called 14 plays, but 13 of them were for passes. This is not a recipe to win football games at any level and it must get fixed asap.