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Morning Roundup: Secondary soars as resilient Eagles rebound with win

CB Steven Nelson seals the win with this fourth-quarter interception.

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Cornerback Steven Nelson registered his first interception as a Philadelphia Eagle and it was a big one! Nelson's pick came on the Panthers' final drive as the Eagles protected a 21-18 lead.

Secondary soars as CB Darius Slay shines with two interceptions

The defense's stellar performance began in the first quarter when cornerback Darius Slay intercepted Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold and returned it 19 yards to the Carolina 10-yard line.

"I made the play that was coming to me that needed to be made," said Slay, which set up a 30-yard field goal for Jake Elliott and tied the game 3-3 in the first quarter.

The 6-0, 190-pound cornerback made his case as to why he is referred to as "Big Play Slay." Slay did not only have the one interception, but he picked off Darnold again in the third quarter. This was Slay's third career game with multiple interceptions and now he has 22 for his career.

"I'm going to compete. Whatever you need me to do, I'm gonna do whatever at my highest ability and I'm going to do it for the team," Slay said.

It was a busy and exciting week for Slay as he welcomed a baby boy, Desmond, earlier this week. After both interceptions Slay celebrated by rocking the football like a baby. Slay said he wasn't able to get many reps in during the week, so he was relying a lot on his teammates.

"All the DB guys, I told them 'I'm gonna need everyone today,"' explained Slay. "I leaned on those guys. We cover each other, and I appreciate them for having my back out there and putting me in position to make the plays that I made."

The main thing Slay wanted to focus on was making sure the offense got the ball enough, so they could put points on the board.

"My mindset was we know they got a great defense, but you got to get the ball to number one (Jalen Hurts) a lot to help them out because they got a great defense over there," said Slay.

"A great job of the dawg mentality of our defensive players and our defensive staff. They played a great game, they had three turnovers," said Head Coach Nick Sirianni. "They just came together and played a great game."

Arguably the best performance by the defense so far this season, Slay's teammate in the secondary Steven Nelson recorded an interception in the fourth quarter. Putting the icing on the cake to all but secure the win, Nelson read the play and picked off Darnold's pass intended for wide receiver Robby Anderson with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

"I feel like that's how it happens," Nelson said of the defense's three takeaways on Sunday. "It's just one of those things, you can't really time or put a timetable on it. They just occur."

This was the first time the Eagles have produced three interceptions in one game since picking off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan three times in 2019. The Eagles' defense really showed they won't back down from a fight.

"I think that we proved that we're a tough team that can fight back through anything," Nelson said. "It's still early. We're still ironing out some kinks. We came and got the victory today." – Jillian Oddo

Resilient Eagles lift each other up through adversity

The Eagles amassed only 88 yards of offense in the first half. The Eagles then uncharacteristically turned the ball over on back-to-back plays – a fumble by DeVonta Smith followed by a Jalen Hurts interception on the ensuing drive – in the third quarter. Through the struggles, the Eagles' offensive coaches made sure to keep the players focused, knowing that the way the defense was playing was going to provide a chance to rebound.

"We got to have each other's back through everything. Today, we had each other's backs. It was a complete team win. That's the beauty of the sport," said Hurts after his first career comeback win. "It's all adversity. It's all perseverance. You saw the ability to overcome. I've said it before. I believe in this football team. I believe in these coaches. I believe in everybody here. We have everything we need. We just need to continue to grow. The process doesn't change for us."

It all came together at a pivotal moment late in the third quarter. On third-and-10, Hurts unleashed a bomb to wide receiver Quez Watkins on a corner route for a 53-yard gain to the Carolina 10-yard line. Head Coach Nick Sirianni said that the play "breathed new life into the offense." Hurts went to Smith on the next play in the end zone and the rookie drew a pass interference penalty on cornerback Donte Jackson, the player who knocked the ball loose from Smith earlier. Hurts punched the ball in on the next play with a QB sneak for the touchdown.

"'This was our game. We were never out of the game,'" Smith said of Hurts' message to the team on the sideline. "Defense playing great, so that was the whole thing, just helping the defense out because they're doing everything they can for us, so let's do something for them."

Hurts added his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon with 2:38 left in the game and tacked on the two-point conversion when he escaped pressure and threw a precision pass in the back of the end zone to Smith. After his first 100-yard outing last week, Smith paced the Eagles once again with seven catches on eight targets for 77 yards.

"We just had to keep lifting each other up, keep pushing and that's what we did, so it feels good to be back on the winning side," said Smith, who was offered plenty of encouragement from his teammates after his fumble.

The Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak, but don't have much time to cherish the win. After the flight back from Charlotte, the Eagles instantly start preparations for Thursday night's showdown against the 4-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We didn't play to our standard today offensively, but it was enough," Hurts said. "We're going to go back to Philly with this win, probably not enjoy it for 24 hours, maybe 12 since we got a short week, and get back to work. We got a big one on Thursday night." – Chris McPherson

What a homecoming for DT Javon Hargrave

A native of Salisbury, North Carolina, just a 45-minute drive from Charlotte, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave put on a show in his homecoming Sunday against the Panthers.

Hargrave continued his red-hot start to the 2021 campaign with his sixth sack of the year in the 21-18 win over Carolina. He leads all NFL defensive tackles and is tied for fourth among all NFL players. In five games, Hargrave is just a half-sack shy of tying his single-season personal mark. Hargrave is just the fifth NFL defensive tackle since 2000 to record at least six sacks in the first five games of the season.

"It was great with a sack and a win. It was definitely a great time to be back home," said Hargrave, who finished with three tackles, one for loss, two QB hits, and the sack.

Hargrave helped set the tone on the Panthers' opening drive as his hustle helped force quarterback Sam Darnold to throw the ball away on third down as Carolina settled for a field goal. On the sack early in the second quarter, Hargrave took advantage of the one-on-one matchup with left guard Dennis Daley, but it was because the offensive line slid the protection to make sure fellow defensive tackle Fletcher Cox didn't wreck the play.

"It's never just me. We got great guys on our D-line. Everybody can win up front," Hargrave said. "It just makes everybody's job easier when everybody can win their one-on-ones."

Hargrave remained relentless throughout the win. In the third quarter, Hargrave's pressure on Darnold forced an incomplete pass to tight end Tommy Tremble to get the defense off the field. On the next possession, the offense kicked it into high gear thanks to a 53-yard pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to wide receiver Quez Watkins. The Eagles took control from there and left North Carolina with their second win of the year.

"We definitely needed this win heading into a short week," Hargrave said of the upcoming Thursday night matchup with Tampa Bay. "We just want to pick up on this next week." – Chris McPherson

T.J. Edwards delivers special block

With four minutes remaining in the game, the Panthers lined up to punt with the ball at their own 46-yard line. The Eagles figured they'd have to march down the field for a potential go-ahead touchdown, trailing 18-13, but at least they had an opportunity.

Then, the Eagles' punt return unit noticed something. The film study during the week of preparation led by Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay unearthed a potential block opportunity if the Panthers presented a certain look. The Eagles saw the alignment they wanted and attacked. Linebacker Shaun Bradley helped free T.J. Edwards, who dashed up the middle and slammed Joseph Charlton's offering into the ground. Bradley made sure that the Panthers couldn't recover and downed the ball at the Panthers' 27-yard line.

"It just worked out perfectly," Edwards said. "It was just like how we drew it up."

The offense capitalized on the great field position as quarterback Jalen Hurts scored on a 6-yard touchdown run for the go-ahead score in the 21-18 win.

"It's just the ultimate team sport, right?" Edwards said. "You need everybody to be at their best at all times and you know one side's not (doing) as well, the other's got to pick them up. It's going to happen other ways during other games. It was the ultimate team win. It felt great today."

Edwards said after the game that he never blocked a punt before at any level, but it wasn't his first career big play on special teams. He forced a fumble on a return in the home opener against Los Angeles last season. He also chipped in four tackles on defense Sunday.

"I think we all wanted to come in and put our best foot forward," Edwards said. "I know the past couple of weeks has not been to our standard. When you get a bunch of guys who are working toward a common goal and want to do anything they can to help improve this team, you know good things are gonna happen. We've got the right leadership, the right guys in this room. It just goes to show what hard work and keeping your mind on the right things can do for you and I thought we played well today." – Chris McPherson

Jordan Mailata returns from injury to help O-line

After missing two games with a knee injury, tackle Jordan Mailata returned to action Sunday, but at a new position.

With Andre Dillard playing well at left tackle, the Eagles moved Mailata to right tackle and slid Jack Driscoll to right guard. It was only Mailata's second career start on the right side.

"You guys from Philly know me. Whatever the team wants me to do they think that's best, I'll do it," Mailata said.

In a game where points and yards were hard to come by, the Eagles outgained the Panthers 273-267 after the offense surged in the final two quarters with 15 points to only three for Carolina.

"It was a good outing for the boys to show what kind of character this team has," Mailata said. "I'm super proud of the defense and the offense for fighting until the end of the game."

It wasn't all smooth sailing for Mailata, who wore a brace on his right leg. The Australian surrendered back-to-back sacks to edge rusher Haason Reddick in the third quarter.

"There were some reps where I was late off the ball," Mailata said. "I just got to look at the film and be really hard on myself the next couple days."

The Eagles preach a "next play mentality" to not allow setbacks to create problems later in the game, and Mailata's performance epitomized that. After that third-quarter drive, the Eagles scored 15 points and iced the clock with two first downs on the final drive of the game.

"We just kept fighting to the end," he said. "That's one thing coach coaches us, perseverance, grit. What kind of character do you want this team to have? It's that next play mentality, that next man up mentality. And I think we're going to be just fine." – Chris McPherson

The Eagles grabbed the victory in Carolina on Sunday. Take a look at this bundle of photos from the win, presented by GEICO!

Extra Points

• Jake Elliott connected on a 58-yard field goal to cut the deficit, 15-6, at the end of the second quarter. His 58-yard FG was the third longest in Eagles history, trailing only his 61-yard FG on September 24, 2017 vs. N.Y. Giants and Tony Franklin's 59-yard FG in 1979 at Dallas. Including playoffs, Elliott owns the second-most 50+ yard FGs (12) in team history, behind David Akers (16, 1999-2010).

"It felt good. We had a lot of confidence going out there. Rick (Lovato, long snapper) threw a perfect ball back, Arryn (Siposs, holder) got it down and just little momentum change going into halftime," Elliott said as he walked off the field in front of a huge outpouring of love from the tens of thousands of Eagles fans supporting their team. "It was one of those wins where everyone contributed. It's huge for us. We just kept fighting."

• Wide receiver Quez Watkins leads the NFL with an average of 20.5 yards per catch.

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