Charlotte, NC (CBS) — Looks like the previous two weeks were a mirage after all. The enigmatic Eagles reappeared and that was compounded by what is a strong dose of reality Sunday night against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The Eagles discovered what they’re capable of against a good team. What’s more, the Eagles found out something that they may not be willing to accept—they’re a mediocre team.
They blew numerous chances in a 27-16 setback.
The Eagles now drop to 3-4, while Carolina moves to 6-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Panthers seem destined for the playoffs with their old-school, grind-it-out style, and the Eagles are in a nebulous state of not knowing where they’re going and how good they are.
Early in the third quarter, the Eagles looked sunk. They were lethargic, been bulldozed around the field and trailed 21-6, after Mike Tolbert ran through five Eagles for a touchdown. In the first half, the Panthers averaged 7.9 yards per play—118 on the ground. The Eagles just couldn’t stop human bowling ball Jonathan Stewart, who led all rushers with 125 yards on 24 carries.
Again, it was the defense that kept the Eagles in it. An early Nolan Carroll interception prevented the game from getting out of hand early. Interceptions by Malcolm Jenkins and Byron Maxwell led to a pair of Caleb Sturgis field goals.
Sam Bradford looked lost. It’s seven games into the season and there has not been a flicker of the Sam Bradford that was the No. 1 draft pick and NFL Rookie of the Year. Bradford finished 26-for-46, for 205 yards and an interception. Drops didn’t help. On the Eagles’ most important drive, Zach Ertz and Miles Austin both missed catchable passes. No one could get open. The receivers couldn’t get any separation.
Cam Newton wasn’t anything special, either. He completed 14 of 24 for 197 yards, but the Eagles couldn’t do anything with the three interceptions Newton threw.
Coach Chip Kelly didn’t help himself. His play calling lacked imagination and daring.
“The drops obviously hurt big time,” Kelly said. “We missed an opportunity to win a football game with self-inflicted wounds, with the drops, penalties, and we had a drive going and we get a hold. You look at the drops and the penalties and you can’t do that against a good football team. We have to clean up the drops and penalties.”