PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — The overall tableau is a little tough to fathom when the blemished were all added up. There were the 10 penalties for 126 yards. There was a Zach Ertz missed block in the game’s last minutes that could have spelled disaster. There was an interception that slipped through the hands of Rasul Douglas near the end. There was a big missing piece in the middle, when linebacker Jordan Hicks was lost at halftime to an ankle injury. And there two opportunities the Eagles allowed Cam Newton and an explosive offense to win the game in the last 2:43.
The Eagles didn’t play well overall against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night—and still won, 28-23.
The Eagles now sit at 5-1, the best record in the NFC.
The difference came on the defensive side, forcing Newton into throwing three interceptions with constant pressure up front, and the toughness of Carson Wentz, who was pounded, yet completed 16 of 30 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns—two to Ertz and one to Nelson Agholor.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returned to the lineup and it showed, bending the Panthers’ offensive line back the whole night.
“He’s so dominating in there pushing the pocket, he’s another leader in the team that you lean on and he battled through his injury,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson talking about Cox. “He was playing. There was no way I could sit him tonight.”
Pederson said the Eagles’ success, considering how banged the Eagles have been, especially on defense, was not a surprise.
“Because I’ve seen what this team has worked through,” Pederson said. “It’s always been the next-man-up mentality. These guys have proven it time and time again. They put themselves in a very good position.”
Wentz took a beating in the first half. Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, starting in place of the injured Lane Johnson, who was out under the NFL’s concussion protocol. “Big V” had his problems. He got blown out by veteran Julius Peppers on the Eagles’ first possession, which caused a fumble. In the second quarter, Big V blew a second-quarter sack by Thomas Davis, when he took the inside defender and he should have been protecting the edge. It’s something that right guard Brandon Brooks quickly brought up to him after the play.
Still, Wentz kept getting back up.
“You don’t think about it,” Wentz said. “I look at the Surface, figure out why I got hit, whether it was a protection issue, and go fix it. And go keep playing ball. It’s football. You’re going to get hit, you just keep plugging along.”
Carolina did some different things that the Eagles weren’t prepared for, namely blitzing.
“They did some different things that we hadn’t seen yet,” Wentz said. “On a short week, that’s tough. Hat’s off to them, they did some good things. We did a better job in the second half and got some things cleaned up.”
And that’s the frightening part of this victory.
The Eagles played well enough to win—and showed signs that they could play even better.
“It feels great, honestly,” Wentz said. “That was a hard fought win, on the road, on a short week, on primetime TV, so to come out of it 5-1 and know we’re home the next couple of weeks, that’s big for us.”