Wentz, Eagles have right stuff to defeat Panthers
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Philadelphia Eagles had the right ingredients for a road victory against one of the NFL’s hottest teams.
“The offense helps us at times, and we help them out at times,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long said. “You need that on the road.”
It added up to a 28-23 victory against the Carolina Panthers in a matchup of NFC division leaders Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.
Carson Wentz threw three touchdown passes as Philadelphia (5-1) won its fourth game in a row and became the NFC’s first five-game winner.
“We didn’t work as hard as we did to win (only) five games,” Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins said, pointing out that this is just the beginning.
The Eagles intercepted Carolina quarterback Cam Newton three times.
Wentz was 16 of 30 for 222 yards and no interceptions.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers (4-2) needed to go 69 yards in 2:03 without a timeout. They reached the Philadelphia 48 before a failed fourth-and-1 pass.
Trailing by five earlier, Carolina regained possession at its 23-yard line with 5:49 left. Courtesy of a fourth-down pickup, the Panthers reached the Philadelphia 41. Three plays later, Jalen Mills intercepted Newton’s pass with 3:06 to play, but the Eagles ended up punting again.
“I was trying to read the quarterback’s eyes,” Mills said. “He was throwing the ball high all game.”
Philadelphia scored on two drives of less than 20 yards after Carolina turnovers, then drove 75 yards with Wentz throwing 24 yards to Nelson Agholor on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Eagles’ lead grew to 28-16.
“My evaluation is that we didn’t have the ingredients to win,” Newton said. “Turning over the ball as many times as we did, giving them layups for scores.”
The Panthers scored with 8:04 remaining on Newton’s 1-yard pass to running back Christian McCaffrey.
Eagles rookie receiver Mack Hollins made a third-down catch for 20 yards on the team’s last touchdown drive.
“It was a got-to-have-it moment,” Hollins said. “Not every game is going to be a game you run away from opponents.”
Newton finished 28 of 52 for 239 yards with one touchdown pass.
“They were switching some coverages and I have to do better,” Newton said.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera, whose team was coming off consecutive road victories, said the outcome could have been different based on a few plays.
“We had some opportunities and unfortunately we didn’t capitalize,” he said. “You can’t kick field goals and beat good teams.”
Patrick Robinson’s interception of a pass that running back Jonathan Stewart dropped gave Philadelphia the ball at the Panthers 17-yard line less than a minute into the second half.
Two plays later, tight end Zach Ertz caught a 17-yard touchdown pass. A Carolina penalty on the extra-point kick resulted in the Eagles going for a two-point conversion, with LeGarrette Blount running in for an 18-10 lead.
A 20-yard field goal by Graham Gano less than three minutes later cut the Panthers’ deficit to 18-13.
Jake Elliott’s 48-yard field goal boosted the lead to 21-13 before Gano’s 46-yard boot cut the gap to five points again.
The Panthers lost linebacker Luke Kuechly, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, in the second quarter. He was placed in the concussion protocol.
Newton ran 16 yards untouched for a touchdown, giving Carolina a 10-3 lead with 10:34 left in the second quarter.
Rasul Douglas’ interception of a pass that Newton threw while he was being hit set up the Eagles at the Carolina 12-yard line. It took seven plays — including a fourth-down conversion — for Philadelphia to score, with Wentz hitting Ertz on a 1-yard pass play.
Philadelphia outgained the Panthers 123-28 in the first quarter, but the Eagles’ advantage for the game was just 310-305.
The Eagles opened the scoring on Elliott’s 50-yard field goal. Gano tied it later in the first quarter with a 39-yarder.
The Eagles drove into Carolina territory on the game’s first possession, but were thwarted by Wentz’s fumble. It marked only the second game this year Philadelphia didn’t score on its opening possession.
NOTES: Eagles RT Halapoulivaati Vaitai drew the start because OT Lane Johnson missed the game after he was placed in the concussion protocol with an injury sustained Sunday against San Francisco. ... Panthers DE Julius Peppers notched a first-quarter sack, becoming the fifth player in NFL history with 150 career sacks. ... Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker left in the first quarter with an injured right ankle. ... Carolina DT Vernon Butler was activated for the game after he was inactive Sunday at Detroit. ... This was Carolina’s lone home contest during a five-game stretch. ... The Panthers visit Chicago on Oct. 22. ... The Eagles won’t play again until they host Washington on Oct. 23.