By Kevin McGuire
The Philadelphia Eagles improved to 7-2 with a dominating 45-21 victory over the visiting Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field Monday night. Mark Sanchez was confident from start to finish in his first start for the Eagles and the defense was all over Cam Newton from start to finish. With little to complain about from Monday night’s victory, there are plenty of high marks to spread around.READ MORE: Philadelphia Police Searching For Suspect Who Stole Car With 6-Year-Old Girl In Backseat
Making his first start with the Philadelphia Eagles, and for the first time in a while, Mark Sanchez was locked in and fully capable of running the Eagles offense against the Panthers. Sanchez complete 20 of 37 pass attempts for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Chip Kelly clearly put plenty of faith in Sanchez leading the offense on the field. Nothing was scaled back for Sanchez, which was good to see. To be fair, Carolina’s defense has not been having a terrific season. Grade: A
Philadelphia was four-for-four inside the red zone with four touchdowns, which is always a terrific result in any game. The Eagles also protected the football, not losing it once to the Carolina defense. A total of 365 offensive yards and five of 15 on third down conversion attempts may not look great, but there was plenty to smile about for the Eagles. The offensive line protected Sanchez well (just one sack allowed for a loss of four yards), and the receivers stepped up to lead the way. Rookie Jordan Matthews turned in 138 yards and two touchdowns, and Brent Celek added 116 yards and had a touchdown pulled off the board following a video replay review. The Eagles did not get much out of the running game, although the offense was moving the ball consistently through the air. LeSean McCoy had just 19 rushing yards on 12 attempts, but he did score a short touchdown. Grade: A-
DefenseREAD MORE: North Philadelphia Community Welcomes Home 3-Year-Old Boy After Hit-And-Run That Also Killed Mother
This win was fueled by a feisty Philadelphia defense having its way against a struggling Carolina offense. The Eagles used Connor Barwin as a spy on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the defense sacked Newton nine times. Barwin had 3.5 sacks and Brandon Graham had 1.5 as the Eagles defensive line was pushing through the offensive line all night long. Bradley Fletcher picked off one Newton pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown before halftime, giving the Eagles a commanding 31-7 lead at the time. There were a couple of late sloppy plays by the Eagles, but the game was well beyond being decided for any of those plays to matter much. Grade: A+
Darren Sproles continued to prove his value to the Eagles with another punt return for a touchdown. Sproles returned a punt 65 yards in the first quarter to give the Eagles a 17-7 lead. The rout was on from there. Sproles ended the night with 20 more punt return yards in addition to his 65-yard touchdown. Kicker Cody Parkey was not asked to do much Monday night, but he came through with a 39-yard field goal to open the scoring in the game, continuing to prove dependable as a kicker can be. Punter Donnie Jones also had a good night when asked to punt, pinning three punts inside the 20-yard line and averaging 43.3 yards per punt. Grade: A
Short Week To Prepare For Packers
The Eagles remain undefeated at home in Lincoln Financial Field after improving to 5-0 this season Monday night. That home field advantage is what the Eagles are playing for in the postseason. At 7-2, the Eagles remain in first place in the NFC East and are clearly in the running for the top seed in the NFC, but next week is going to be a significant test. The Eagles will look to keep all of this momentum going next week when they travel to Green Bay to take on a Packers team coming off an even bigger blowout on Sunday night. A short week will leave little time to enjoy this win.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.