CHARLOTTE - Down 15-3 and looking woefully ineffectual offensively, the Eagles roared back with 18 of the final 21 points in the game to win a 21-18 decision at Bank of America Stadium.
It was hardly an aesthetic game but Jonathan Gannon’s much-maligned defense kept Philadelphia in the game (2-3) until the big plays came in the form of a 53-yard hookup between Jalen Hurts and Quez Watkins and a few nice keeper runs on RPOs by Hurts.
It was the three sacks and three interceptions from the defense that tortured Sam Darnold into a terrible performance. The Panthers QB completed just 21 of 37 passes for 177 yards and a dismal 44.5 passer rating.
The Eagles’ defense - The Chicken Littles in Philadelphia were warned that the Kansas City offense is different. For that matter so is Dallas, consecutive weeks that skewed the perception of what Gannon is doing.
The Panthers’ pedestrian offense was the market correction Philadelphia needed and was held to 267 total yards while Philadelphia generated three sacks, eight QB hurries, six tackles for loss, and three interceptions, two by Darius Slay.
When Darnold did make throws it was under duress and while the run defense is never going to be great with this linebacking group it was better.
The tweaks made were more T.J. Edwards and Davion Taylor in run-stopping situations, more traveling by Slay, and some added aggression with the blitz but that had more to do with the opposing QB not being Patrick Mahomes or Dak Prescott.
"Great job of just the dawg mentality of our defensive players and our defensive staff," Head coach Nick Sirianni said. "They played a great game. We had three turnovers and (three sacks), all on third down. They just came together and played a great game. It is. That’s what this league is about.
"You’re not going to play your best game every week. It’s about starting again, and starting again, and starting again. That’s dawg mentality. That’s going to be the same message this week."
Darius Slay and Fletcher Cox - A lot was made when the Eagles’ star defenders at least intimated that their use in certain schemes was curious. Both answered in a big way with Slay’s first INT being one of his best as he bated Darnold and fell off into coverage before making a leaping pick. Cox, meanwhile, recorded his first sack of the season and protection is still being slid to his side, enabling Javon Hargrave to do some impressive things.
Jalen Hurts’ Heart: Hurts didn’t play that well, but he kept his head down and pushed forward ultimately making enough plays to win the football game. Hurts success is not conventional but the only stat that really matters in the NFL is wins and losses.
"I always say never get too high, never get too low," he said. "Whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, you have a Dawg Mentality and you flush it out, leave it and move on. It’s all adversity and it’s perseverance and it’s all the ability to overcome. I’ve said it, I believe in this football team, I believe in these coaches, I believe in everybody here. We have everything we need."
DeVonta Smith: Smith’s separation is something else when compared to the rest of the Eagles’ receivers. He did fumble after one reception but seven receptions in eight targets on a day where the QB wasn’t all that accurate is impressive.
Davion Taylor - Taylor is finally healthy after his calf issues and his playing time was amped up. The first test went well and Gannon might decide his athleticism should keep him on the field more and more.
Eagles' Special Teams - There were some issues with Jalen Reagor's kick returns early but Jake Elliott's 58-yard field goal to lead into intermission and T.J. Edwards' blocked punt in which he was sprung by fellow LB Shawn Bradley.
"It was something that we worked all week," Edwards said. "We knew if we got a certain look from them, if they blocked it a certain way, we could switch it and go to a different kind of rush. It worked out perfectly. Shaun Bradley picked a hip and I was free. It was just how we drew it up."
Nick Sirianni’s RPO-based offense - Against the uber-aggressive Panthers defense, the bubble screens and swing passes never had a chance. From there you have to adjust and go over the top to at least put that idea in the mind of the defense. By the time the coach did that, it would have been too late against a better team or if the defense wasn't performing at the level they did.
Subtlety on rub routes- For the second consecutive week the Eagles had a TD taken off the board for OPI on a rub route in the red zone. The joke around the NFL is that the offense calls those things rubs and the defense pick routes. Everyone uses them and they are hard to defend but it was J.J. Arcega-Whiteside last week and Greg Ward this week and considering SIrianni’s background as a receivers coach, it’s troubling that the Eagles are so overt when running rub routes.
Zach Ertz didn't it perfectly in the middle of the field enabling a pass to Kelly Gainwell for a first down. Maybe that should be running on a loop at the NovaCare Complex.
Miles Sanders awareness - As the Eagles were trying to force Carolina to burn its timeouts late and seal things Sanders inexplicably ran out of bounds twice saving the Panthers from calling timeouts. It didn’t matter but it sure was dumb.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.