CHARLOTTE, N.C. –** A frustrating Sunday night at Bank of America Stadium ended with the Eagles losing 27-16 to Carolina, a defeat that dropped the Eagles to 3-4 heading into their bye week. It was a physical, nasty game, as expected. The Eagles did not help themselves with some mistakes that came back to haunt them.
Some observations ...
- A couple of gaffes on special teams were costly. Najee Goode was penalized for head-butting on a punt that Carolina had called a fair catch on, costing the Eagles 15 yards and giving Carolina reasonable field position on its first possession, at the Panthers 28-yard line. Carolina then drove 72 yards on four plays to take a 7-0 lead. And after Caleb Sturgis nailed a 52-yard field goal, he kicked off out of bounds, giving Carolina possession at its 40-yard line. The Panthers drove 60 yards for a touchdown to take a 14-3 lead into the second quarter. Sturgis' miss of a 50-yard field goal, just a tad wide left, with the Eagles trailing 21-16 early in the fourth quarter was also a sore point for the kicking game.
- On the drive after Sturgis kicked the ball out of bounds, the Panthers went right after Marcus Smith on the edge. They ran a reverse to wide receiver Ted Ginn, and as Smith gave up containment by running down the line of scrimmage, Ginn headed up the sideline for 43 yards to put the Panthers deep in Eagles territory.
- Drops continued to plague the Eagles. They had three in the first half – Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff and Darren Sproles – and it kept the offense from having any continuity. A Sproles drop on first-and-10 from the Carolina 11-yard line cost the Eagles at least 5-7 yards on a big play late in the second quarter. Huff couldn't handle a third-and-4 throw over the middle that would have resulted in a first down. Matthews couldn't hang on to a third-and-9 throw early in the quarter that would have kept a drive alive. Huff had a big drop midway through the third quarter in the back of the end zone with the score 21-13 Carolina. A catch there and the Eagles score six points with a PAT or two-point conversion attempt on the way. Instead, Sturgis kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-16. Tight end Zach Ertz added to the frustrating night with a drop on a third-down pass and then Miles Austin had a drop on the final offensive play for the Eagles. That's a total of six drops on the night. Matthews could have had a catch on a second-possession pass that was intercepted, so depending on how you look at it the drop total could be 7.
- Two big defensive takeaways helped the Eagles stay in the game in the first half. After a Sam Bradford throw was a bit behind Matthews and intercepted on the Eagles' second drive, cornerback Nolan Carroll stripped a pass away from Ginn at the Philadelphia 6-yard line to preserve a 7-0 score. And late in the first half, safety Malcolm Jenkins made a spectacular sideline interception that led to a Sturgis field goal to bring the Eagles to within 14-6 at the half.
- Carolina had a lot of success with Newton finding Ginn running a slant against Carroll. Ginn caught five passes for 59 yards, much of that yardage coming on the slant route.
- Big sequence early in the fourth quarter. An Eagles drive stalled in Carolina territory and Sturgis missed his 50-yard field goal attempt. Carolina was penalized on first down, but came right back on the next snap to gain 20 yards on a Newton pass to wide receiver Devin Funchess, the key play on a 43-yard drive that helped Carolina kick a field goal to take a 24-16 lead with 8:59 remaining. Huge turnaround.
- The defense took the football away three times, but the Eagles turned those takeaways into only six points. Through six games, the Eagles had 16 takeaways leading to 54 points, second best in the NFL.
- The red zone was not kind to the Eagles, who had two trips inside Carolina's 20-yard line but came away with just two Sturgis field goals.
- Quarterback Sam Bradford threw 42 passes and gained just 180 yards in the passing game until the final drive of the game when the Eagles trailed by 11 points with less than a minute to play. The longest play in the passing game was a 24-yard completion to Ertz.
- Ryan Mathews had six rushing attempts for 97 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown run. DeMarco Murray had 18 rushing attempts and gained 65 yards.
- Linebacker Mychal Kendricks had seven total tackles and a sack in his return from a hamstring injury. DeMeco Ryans did not play because of a hamstring injury.
- Matt Tobin replaced Jason Peters at left tackle when Peters went out with a back injury in the first half and Tobin had trouble late against pass-rush end Jared Allen, who had a pair of sacks.
- The Eagles gave up a whopping 204 rushing yards on 33 attempts. "That is just unacceptable," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We pride ourselves on stopping the run and we didn't do it tonight."
The Eagles traveled to North Carolina in Week 7 to face the undefeated Panthers. View the full gallery here...