They had no business in winning, but somehow, someway, the Philadelphia Eagles limited a litany of mistakes to defeat the Carolina Panthers down in Raleigh 21-18 to improve to 2-3 on the season.
The Eagles trailed by as many as 12 in the second half all while loose play resulted in more costly penalties and a pair of turnovers.
But with the Eagles defense intercepting Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold three times — Darius Slay nabbing two of them — a pair of Jalen Hurts rushing touchdowns sparked the vital comeback.
The latter of those two scores came with 2:38 to go in the fourth quarter on a run-option keeper to deliver the Eagles their first lead of the day; a remarkable turnaround considering just how bad things went in the first half.
While the Eagles’ offense went three-and-out twice to start the game while going down by a field goal, they were gifted a huge chance to erase the deficit when Slay picked Darnold off deep in Panthers territory and returned it down to the 10-yard-line.
That’s when the penalty bug cropped back up.
After working down to the 2-yard-line, the Eagles went for it on 4th-&-Goal, which was converted when Hurts hit DeVonta Smith for a touchdown. But it was nullified when Greg Ward was called for offensive pass interference — setting a pick on the short slant to get Smith open.
It was deja vu all over again as Jake Elliott’s 30-yard-field goal tied the game; all while visions of the Eagles getting three touchdowns wiped off the board by penalties last week against the Chiefs remained fresh in the minds of many.
Rather than facing a three-point deficit, the Eagles were down a touchdown with 3:09 to go in the first after the Panthers found their groove. Darnold hit Tommy Tremble for a five-yard touchdown to cap off a nine-play, 62-yard drive.
For most of the afternoon, a one-touchdown deficit seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb for an Eagles offense that accrued just two first downs in the first 25 minutes of play while shying away from the ground game once again. Sanders had just three rush attempts in the opening 30 minutes of play compared to 24 pass attempts by Hurts.
But the hole grew only deeper for the Eagles after a 16-yard punt gave the Panthers possession on the Philadelphia 40-yard-line. Within two plays, they were in the red zone when Alex Singleton was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on DJ Moore, who gave himself up on a four-yard loss of a rush.
The 15-yard gain put Carolina in field-goal position, which is what they picked up with 2:45 to go before the break — which still allowed time for more Eagles ineptitude to bleed through.
Just 10 seconds later, with the ball of the 16-yard-line, Jason Kelce’s snap sailed over the head of Hurts, who chased the ball down in the end zone, fumbled with it as Panthers defenders had a chance to recover it for a touchdown, and then swatted it out of the end zone to limit the damage to a safety.
The Eagles pulled three back as the first half expired when Elliott hit a 58-yard field goal following three quick completions by Hurts for 39 yards.
But Eagles issues only continued into the second half when Smith fumbled after reeling in an 11-yard reception to move deeper into Carolina territory.
The Panthers punted it away but Hurts followed it up by getting picked off by Donte Jackson — who forced the fumble on Smith — on the Eagles’ very next offensive play.
Luckily for the Birds, Darnold airmailed a second interception to Slay to ensure Carolina couldn’t take advantage of the Eagles’ woes.
Finally, out of nowhere, Hurts and the offense pieced together an 80-yard drive sparked by a 53-yard hook-up with Quez Watkins. It ended with Hurts running it in from a yard out to bring the Eagles to within two with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
The Panthers took 6:39 off the clock on their next drive but only came away with a field goal as the Eagles defense remained stingy — including a stretch in which they held Carolina to just 1-for-9 on third-down conversions.
Comeback hopes took a hit with 5:38 to go when they turned it over on downs, but special teams came up big on the ensuing Panthers drive when the host’s punt was blocked to give the Eagles the ball at the Carolina 27-yard-line.
A 20-yard reception to Goedert brought the ball down to the 6-yard-line before Hurts kept it on the read option to walk in and give the Eagles the lead 2:38 to go. The ensuing two-point conversion to Smith was completed, putting them up three.
It would be good enough to escape Raleigh with a win as Darnold looked to the left sideline on a 2nd-&-20, but his pass for Robby Anderson was undercut by Steven Nelson, who picked it and secured the Eagles’ victory.