Instant analysis: Eagles make firm statement and overcome the odds in hard-fought TNF win

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Whew, that was a rollercoaster. The Philadelphia Eagles are officially at the top of the NFC’s pecking order…at least until Sunday. The 5-1 Eagles can now breathe a little, with 11 days rest and a chance to prepare for what lies ahead. Here’s some quick hits after tonight’s huge win.

 

Linebacker depth came up huge:
Let’s start with something that has to be applauded. The Eagles lost Jordan Hicks at halftime and then lost Nigel Bradham for a portion of the game later on. As Carolina tried to rally a comeback, the Eagles were left with Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Najee Goode. Kendricks led the team in tackles.

Despite missing not only two starters and leaders, but two of the most prolific cover linebackers in the league, the Eagles kept the Carolina backfield quiet. Sure, superman Cam escaped for 71 yards overall, but they only allowed N I N E rushing yards to running backs…which all things considered is beyond impressive.

 

Cornerbacks become Cam’s kryptonite:
Cam Newton has thrown three interceptions in each meeting between these two teams since 2014. Robinson, Mills and Douglas all received a share of the prize as they picked off the Panthers quarterback for another trio of interceptions. it would have been a quartet if not for a phantom PI call, but we’ll get to those later.

The Panthers offense is so dangerous and explosive, that limiting them to 239 receiving yards and a touchdown along with three picks has to be regarded as a huge curve in development for this group. Young, hungry and confident, Douglas and Mills didn’t let up throughout the game or let the officials phase them. The pair were aggressive in their tackles and flourished at the point of the catch. A strong day for the Eagles corners.

 

A learning curve for Wentz:
There are some plays that Wentz will want back after tonight. That 3rd down slant just outside of the two minute warning that fell incomplete will haunt him or a while, with visions of Agholor wide open to his opposite side. Sailed passes and minor mistakes aside, Wentz once again came through in the clutch. Which given how often he was being clanged into and brought to the ground, is worthy of noting.

The Eagles quarterback completed 16/30 passes for 222 yards and 3 scores. Not only that, but Wentz spread the ball around like never before.

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Despite all the pressure and constant hurries, he didn’t turn the ball over once. Surgical throws and some hearty rushes left fans with their hearts in their mouths, but the passion and sheer will to win shined through tonight in the young buck of North Dakota State.

 

Missing Lane:
The Eagles offensive line leaked pressure throughout the game. The Panthers knew how valuable Lane Johnson was to the Eagles and threw everything including the Kitchen Sink and its foundations at the offensive front. Surprisingly, of the 8 QB hits, only two came in the second half…and Wentz was never brought down after the interval.

It’s no coincidence that Luke Kuechly didn’t return after halftime, but Halapoulivaati Vaitai learned to swim in some frisky waters on Thursday Night. The backfield amassed 101 rushing yards for ANOTHER game and Wentz was able to sustain drives and make beautiful throws down the field, looking a lot less unsettled than he did in the first half.

 

Resilience:
This team was banged up. This team was fatigued. This team was on the road. This team was facing a 4-1 NFC giant. This team suffered a slew of atrocious officiating. This team lost HUGE leaders on Defense. This team won. No matter what happened, the Eagles never gave up. They never stopped fighting. Every play, every tackle, every hit, every setback, they never gave up. That’s what makes this Eagles team so different from year’s past. You cannot underestimate the sheer determination that the Eagles showed tonight, a true vindication of their claim to the NFC throne.

 

Let’s talk about the officiating:
Okay and now to the Elephant in the room. Carolina were flagged once on Thursday night and only once…for a total of one yard. The Eagles on the other hand, were flagged 10 times for 126 yards. There’s no excuses. The officiating was horrific. Pete Morelli’s favorite movie must be Magnum P.I, put it that way. While many of the penalties can be regarded as phantom however, the Panthers appeared to get away with everything under the Sun…yet the Eagles still closed out the game, and that is the best way to silence the noise.

Nigel Bradham is the real MVP:
The MVP of this game? There’s no other answer than Nigel Bradham. A huge pass deflection at the start of the game set the tone for some stunning tackles, big hits, another pass defensed and a total of 10 tackles. ALL of this, despite actually missing some crucial snaps during the second half due to what appeared to be a stinger injury.

Bradham is a true Jim Schwartz protoype and was always around the ball. This may be his most memorable and most efficient game as an Eagle, carrying an attitude that was reflected by the entire team.

 

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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