By Peter Gleason
When the history of the 2018 Eagles season is written, this game will stand out as a remarkably wrong fork in the road.
The Birds won last week, easily, smashing the Giants on Thursday Night Football.
And yesterday, at the Linc, with a 3-3 record trending toward 4-3, the Eagles blew a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter and lost to the Carolina Panthers 21-17.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had 208 passing yards in the first half, and had run the score up to 17-0 through three quarters, at one point completing 15 consecutive passes.
But Cam Newton, who struggled against the Eagles rush, engineered two touchdown drives, and got some help from his defense, which forced consecutive punts.
That turn of events set up the Panthers with the ball, down three points, with just under two minutes left in the game.
Newton quickly threw three incomplete passes, but on 4th-and-10 the Panthers went for it, and a thrilling 35-yard catch-and-run by Torrey Smith kept them alive.
Newton then relied on his two favorite targets, with a pair of short passes to Christian McCaffrey getting Carolina into the red zone, setting up Newton’s go-ahead 1-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen.
Having looked incapable of moving the ball for three quarters, Newton finished the day having completed 25 of 39 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
The game had been contentious from the start thanks to the ongoing animosity between Eric Reid, a safety for the Panthers, and Malcolm Jenkins, a safety for the Eagles. Reid, who has knelt during the national anthem for the last three seasons to protest social injustice — he was the first player to kneel alongside Colin Kaepernick when they were both in San Francisco —has been critical of Jenkins’ approach to protesting. That animosity spilled onto the field when Reid confronted Jenkins following the coin toss.
Once the game began, Reid continued to be aggressive; at one point he tackled Wentz well after he had handed the ball off to a running back. When Zach Ertz, the Eagles tight end, tried to defend his quarterback, Reid slammed him to the turf as well.
The defending Super Bowl champions took Reid’s shots mostly in stride with Wentz completing 30 of 37 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Most of the damage was done with throws to Ertz, who had nine catches for 138 yards, while Wentz’s touchdowns went to Alshon Jeffery and Dallas Goedert. If there was a flaw it was a lack of balance, with Philadelphia managing just 58 rushing yards.
But the Philly offense mysteriously disappeared as the Panthers fought back, and Wentz fumbled the ball away on a fourth down attempt in the red zone in the game’s final minute. The Eagles recovered the ball but turned the ball over on downs, handing Carolina the win.