Mental breakdowns early and penalties late haunted the defense as the Panthers left Lincoln Financial Field with a 30-22 win on Monday night.
The Panthers raced out to a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter after Cam Newton tossed two of the easiest touchdown passes a quarterback could make. Carolina's 72-yard opening drive concluded with tight end Gary Barnidge catching his first career touchdown pass, a 24-yard strike from Newton. Barnidge ran down the left seam and became open as Newton used his eyes to force free safety Kurt Coleman into the middle of the field.
On the Panthers' second drive, cornerback Brandon Boykin lined up over wide receiver Brandon LaFell in the slot. Boykin blitzed from Newton's left side. Free safety Kurt Coleman came in from Newton's right side. Strong safety Nate Allen appeared to shade towards Coleman's side, but no one accounted for LaFell who caught the ball at the Eagles' 22-yard line and darted in untouched for the 43-yard score.
"It was two broken coverages. It shouldn't happen. It shouldn't happen at all," head coach Andy Reid said. "That's my responsibility from a coaching standpoint to make sure we get the guys coached up right, and then that they do their jobs. That really falls on my shoulders."
Newton finished 18-of-28 for 306 yards with the two passing touchdowns for a 125.0 rating. The 6-5, 245-pound Newton also hurt the Eagles with his legs. Newton was the Panthers' leading rusher with 52 yards and another two touchdowns.
The Eagles settled down and did not allow a point in the rest of the first half. However, on the opening drive of the second half, Newton connected with wide receiver Louis Murphy on a 55-yard pass despite coverage from Coleman and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. On that same drive, Newton converted a third-and-12 with a 17-yard scramble before scoring on a 1-yard run.
After Graham Gano gave the Panthers a 24-22 lead in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard field goal, Newton would add the insurance. The Eagles committed penalties on three straight plays, one was declined, and Carolina had the ball at the Eagles' 6-yard line. Two plays later, Newton scored from 2 yards out to seal the game.
The Eagles had one last chance, but Boykin fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Carolina was able to grind out the final 4:29 thanks to a pair of third-down conversions.
"It's depressing," said Todd Bowles, who has yet to win since his promotion to defensive coordinator on October 16. "It's not about me, it's about the team. We're just trying to win ballgames and for that not to happen and for us to lose as many games as we did on the road, it's inexcusable, it's unacceptable, it's disheartening and I feel like how everyone else feels. It's a tough situation."
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