EAGLES: 3-4 AFTER LOSING WINNABLE GAME TO PANTHERS 27-16

Malcolm Jenkins’ diving interception of a Cam Newton pass just before halftime was his first of the year. But he’s made plenty of plays, showing impressive range in the back of the Philly secondary.

By Jack Ryan

In a sense the Eagles are lucky to have survived last night’s game in Carolina.

Yes, they lost 27-16 to fall to 3-4, a game behind the New York Giants, who lead the NFC East.

But the way the game started it looked like blowout city.

And the way it ended allowed the Eagles to spend their bye week healing All World left tackle Jason Peters and getting ready for the Cowboys on Nov. 8.

The Panthers ran for 204 yards and passed for 190, clearly willing to grind out a game. They would be foolish to pass too much, because they don’t have many good receivers. The best of the lot, Ted Ginn, is sometimes a 50-50 proposition to catch it when it hits him in his hands. But Ginn also had a 43-yard rush mixed in, and caught a few balls in stride, so it’s OK.

And with an improved offensive line (left tackle Michael Oher has been a steal for them), the Panthers are back to playing the kind of football that works best for them. With eighth-year Jonathan Stewart running like he’s always seemed capable of (24 carries for 125 yards) and fullback Mike Tolbert scoring twice and quarterback Cam Newton a constant threat to break a big play (even on a night when he throws three picks), the Panthers might just bring the running game back.

It’s not the kind of thing that will create big ratings, or convince skeptics.

But they are 6-0, and that can’t be completely accidental, or explained away by strength of schedule.

• The Eagles gave DeMarco Murray the big contract, but they have to give Ryan Mathews more carries.

It wasn’t just the 63-yard touchdown hurts in the third quarter, but Mathews looked like the more decisive runner of the pair throughout the night.

The former Chargers back finished with six carries for 97 yards (16.2 yards per attempt, 6.8 without the big one). Murray had 18 carries for 65 yards (3.6). It’s not that Murray doesn’t have quick-strike ability, but the Eagles’ ground game has been slow to develop, and Mathews offers the kind of burst they need.

And if he’s running more, their receivers aren’t dropping passes.

• At some point, the NFL has to change the way they vote for Pro Bowl, if only so Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis can get some recognition.

Davis and the rest of the 4-3 linebackers in the league are handicapped by not having outrageous sack totals like their 3-4 counterparts, and constantly miss out on the all-star game as a result.

But Davis has been impressive on the field for years, after coming back from three torn ACLs and popping his own finger back into place mid-play last week.

In the first half, he made an open-field tackle of Eagles running back Darren Sproles, the kind Sproles has left people in the dust on for years. But Davis stayed square and made the play, one of the few guys who can move in space as fluidly as Sproles. It was as representative of his skill as last week’s self-surgery was of his toughness.

• Speaking of players who don’t get the appropriate recognition, but may soon, add Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins to the list.

His diving interception of a Newton pass just before halftime was his first of the year. But he’s made plenty of plays, showing impressive range in the back of the Philly secondary.

 

• It was a rough night for Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis, but not for the usual reason.

He missed a 50-yard field goal, but that is going to happen from time to time.

He also kicked off out of bounds, giving the Panthers the ball on the 40, and they’d go onto score a touchdown on that possession. The Eagles can’t afford to give up free yardage, especially against a team willing to play field-position and clock-control themselves.

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