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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The picture began to look clearer. It started to take form almost two months into the season. The Eagles looked like they wiped out the touches of messiness, and it appeared the 2018 Eagles had finally arrived.
They did — at least for three quarters.
Then the Eagles did something historic. They blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and Carson Wentz went to pieces in the final minute of a 21-17 loss to the visiting Carolina Panthers, who scored three successive touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a brisk Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles drop to 3-4, while Carolina improved to 4-2 and may have helped themselves down the line in the playoff picture — if the Eagles even make the playoffs.
With 31 seconds to play, and the Eagles at the Carolina 14, Wentz went numb — after almost throwing an interception two plays earlier — and was strip-sacked by Kyle Love and that was it.
It wasted an effort by Wentz, who had at one time completed 15-straight passes and finished 30-for-37 for 310 yards and two TDs. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert combined to catch 13 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffery caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Eagles had shut down Cam Newton and what looked like a predictable Panthers’ offense. In the first half, the Eagles held Newton and the Panthers to five net yards passing, thanks to two Eagles’ sacks for minus-19 yards. Entering the game, the Panthers had given up only eight sacks all season, yet surrendered two in the first half against the Eagles.
Then the fourth quarter began, and Carolina scored on successive drives of 80, 87 and 69 yards — and the Eagles had no answers.
The rest of the Eagles’ schedule now suddenly looks daunting. Big dates come at New Orleans on Nov. 18 and at the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 16. Other than that, the Eagles have five dates against their NFC East rivals, who don’t appear that frightening at all, and games against listing Jacksonville, which pulled Blake Bortles against Houston, and the Texans in late December.
It took a little time, but the Eagles team everyone expected to see finally arrived.
For three quarters.
Wentz going 30-for-37 for 310 yards and two TDs.
Wentz going 4-for-4 for 68 yards, leading to the Eagles’ 7-0 lead on a Wentz-to-Jeffery 11-yard TD pass with 11:39 left in the half.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins swatting away a pass from Newton intended for Torrey Smith at the Carolina 26 with 2:08 left in the first quarter. Jenkins later batted down a Newton pass with 1:45 left in the game.
Defensive tackle Michael Bennett’s 8-yard sack on 2nd-and-10 at the Carolina 41 with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. Bennett later forced Newton into an intentional grounding penalty on the Panthers’ first second-half drive.
Jeffery’s 14-yard reception on fourth-and-5 at the Carolina 39 with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
Rookie tight end Goedert’s 21-yard reception on 1st-and-25 with 4:18 left in the first quarter, which came after a critical 15-yard chop-block penalty called on Jason Peters, which actually should have been called on Goedert.
Kicker Jake Elliott’s 46-yard field goal with 6:36 left in the first half that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
The Eagles’ first-half defense holding Carolina to 83 yards of total offense and 0-for-4 on third-down conversions, while not allowing the Panthers into the red zone.
Defensive end Brandon Graham’s 11-yard sack when the Panthers had the ball at the Eagles’ 37 with 4:07 to play in the half.
The Eagles holding the Panthers to 5 net yards passing in the first half, thanks to two sacks for minus-19 yards.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks taking down Christian McCaffrey for a seven-yard loss at the Eagles’ 33 with 10:15 left in the third quarter.
Guard Brandon Brooks getting called for holding wiping out Wendell Smallwood’s 51-yard gain on a screen with 1:00 left in the half.
Wentz falling apart at the end.
The Eagles failing to shut down the Panthers on 4th-and-10 at the Carolina 31, when Newton completed a 35-yard pass to Torrey Smith with Bennett wrapped around Newton’s legs with 1:55 to play. The drive led to the Panthers going ahead.
Cornerback Ronald Darby losing Devin Funchess on Newton’s 18-yard, fourth-quarter TD toss with 4:13 left in the game.
Elliott missing a 36-yard field with 2:46 left in the first quarter. It’s a kick that needs to be made, even in an October game.
Left tackle Peters’ chop-block penalty on the Eagles’ second drive, and called later for a false start on second-and-13 at the Carolina 35 with 8:26 left in the half.