Eagles vs. Panthers: 18 winners, 4 losers, 2 IDKs

by 24USATVOct. 11, 2021, 6 a.m. 19
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The Eagles’ Week 5 victory over the Panthers won’t go down as one of the most enjoyable wins in Philadelphia history. But, hey, the Birds ultimately got the win. Better yet, it’s time for everyone’s favorite postgame activity: winners, losers, and IDKs!

2-3 looks a lot better than 1-4. Especially with a game against the reigning Super Bowl champions coming up on Thursday night. Not to mention a road game to Las Vegas after that.

Make no mistake: the Eagles hardly looked like a playoff team on Sunday. They have no shortage of issues to sort out. But their (unlikely?) postseason hopes are still alive with this win. Same couldn’t reasonably be said if they lost.

Big Play Slay deserves the game balls from this one. Yes, plural, because he picked off not one but two passes. This was the kind of difference-making game everyone has been waiting to see since Philly made the decision to trade for him and pay him like an elite cornerback. After only having one pick in his first 18 games with Philly, No. 2 showed up big with a deuce to help pick up a struggling offense. Would be nice to see some more of this playmaking moving forward. Between this game and the birth of his newborn son, it’s been a great week for Slay.

With his two picks, Slay became the first Eagles defender with a multi-interception game since Jordan Hicks in Week 17 of the 2016 season. He’s the first Eagles cornerback with a multi-interception game since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Week 1 of the 2012 season. Been a minute!

Edwards’ punt block late in the fourth quarter allowed the Eagles to take over at the Panthers’ 27-yard line with 3:53 left in the game. Four plays later, Philly scored the go-ahead touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.

One of the great things about Edwards’ block is that he didn’t recklessly dive at the punter; he was under control. Had he missed the ball, he wouldn’t have been flagged for running in the punter, which would’ve given the Panthers a first down since they were at 4th-and-3. Great discipline and execution by Edwards.

Watkins gave the Eagles a much-needed spark after their offense was dormant all too often in the first half. His 53-yard reception was more than half of the mere 88 yards the Eagles generated in the entire first half. Watkins continues to be a viable big play threat. He was leading the NFL in yards per reception (21.9) entering Week 5. That figure actually dropped on Sunday (down to 20.5) since he had two screen receptions that didn’t go anywhere.

Going to keep banging this drum: Watkins needs more playing time and targets. There’s just no good reason for Jalen Reagor (more on No. 18 later) to be getting more snaps and looks than him. Watkins is actually fast and good.

JG earned his spot in the “Losers” section the past two weeks with the Eagles allowing 40 points in back-to-back games. He had no answers as his defense sat back and got picked apart. Gannon’s now back in the “Winners” column with a more inspired coaching effort. Philadelphia’s defensive coordinator deserves credit for a performance where his unit only surrendered 16 offensive points and 3.8 yards per play. The Eagles generated three takeaways, five tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, and two sacks.

Two outside Eagles cornerbacks with at least one interception each in the same game!? That’s allowed?

Nelson’s pick with 1:57 left remaining essentially sealed the deal in Charlotte.

Fun fact: It was Nelson’s first pick since he intercepted Carson Wentz twice in Pittsburgh last year.

Hargrave had a big sack to turn a 3rd-and-4 into a 4th-and-13 from the Panthers’ 23-yard line, forcing a punt. It was Hargrave’s sixth sack on the season, giving him the most of any defensive tackle EVER in Eagles history through five games. Hargrave also had one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. And one of those hits was very nearly a seventh sack that would’ve given Hargrave a new single-season career high. Pretty decent chance he breaks his personal record on Thursday night.

Howie Roseman has made a lot of mistakes. Too many of them, really. But he absolutely nailed the Hargrave signing. He’s a beast.

Congrats are in order for Cox, who broke his streak of 301 days since his last sack. He also had a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits in this game. Cox rightfully drew a lot of criticism entering this game. The Eagles need their top paid player to perform in order to win games. Sunday’s effort was a case in point.

Smith led the Eagles in receiving by catching seven of his eight targets for 77 yards. Four of those seven resulted in first downs. 68% of Smith’s catches this season have resulted in either moving the chains or scoring points. The rookie also drew a pass interferene penalty to set up 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line (Jalen Hurts QB sneak for the touchdown) and shook free to catch the two-point conversion that gave Philly their three-point lead late in the game. Smith is evidently a good football player. #analysis

Maddox is low key having a nice year with his return to the slot. He’s allowed just a 75.2 passer rating when targeted and Pro Football Focus had him ranked 41st out of 110 cornerbacks (Sidney ‘should of kept’ Jones down at No. 108, by the way) entering Week 5. Maddox had a crucial pass breakup while in recovery to prevent a touchdown to Robby Anderson. He also logged a quarterback hit. Maddox could be a candidate for an in-season extension considering he’s in a contract year. Could be smart to lock up a quality nickel corner at the right price.

One sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. Sweat’s first game with at least one full sack since Week 13 of last season.

No egregiously dumb penalty this week! Progress! Logged two quarterback hits and played through an apparent rib injury.

Avery finished tied for second in total tackles with eight. His tackle for loss forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal (their final score of the game) to give Carolina an 18 to 15 lead over Philly. Avery has looked solid in his transition to linebacker. They don’t play identical roles but he’s warranting more playing time than Eric Wilson, who saw a decreased role this week.

Taylor, like Avery, warrants more playing time. He made some good open field tackles and looked fast.

It took until Week 5 but he finally logged his first stat of the season! Of course, it was a gift of a tackle for loss where the running back got tripped up and was on the ground to be downed. But, hey, it counts!

Elliott went 2/2 from field goal range with makes from 58 and 30. His 58-yarder was actually the third-longest in Eagles history. He’s 5/6 on field goals this year with his sole miss coming on a blocked kick by Javon Kinlaw in Week 2. He’s 10/10 on his extra points. Elliott was also flawless in training camp outside of one bad practice. Encouraging rebound following the worst season of his career in 2020.

Siposs did shank a punt that only went 16 yards after he seemingly felt pressure from an oncoming rusher. Despite this, he still finished the game with a swell 46.0 average on six punts. In part because he had an awesome 64-yard bomb that bounced back toward the sideline and out of bounds at the 5-yard line. Siposs has proven himself to be the Eagles’ franchise punter.

Feels only fair to show some love to the Eagles’ special teams coordinator after good efforts from the kicker, the punter, the punt block team, and the punt return team.

Last week’s Eagles offensive output against the Chiefs was qualified by Kansas City having an absolutely dreadful defense. This week’s defensive display must be qualified by the Eagles going up against a bad quarterback. Philly deserves credit for pressuring him often, of course. But there were a number of throws that Darnold inexplicably left on the field. He stunk. I never bought the Panthers trading for him was a good move. It’s clear Carolina really wanted Deshaun Watson and made a panic move to get Darnold once the former became less easily attainable.

Some players struggle in a way where they’re merely invisible. Others struggle in a way where they’re actively harming the team. When he wasn’t at his best in 2017, Nelson Agholor often fit in that latter category. As does Reagor.

Reagor had a terrible series to open the game. He ran the opening kickoff out of the end zone despite starting from three yards deep and only got to the 22. OK, so missing out on three yards wasn’t the biggest deal, but it immediately got worse from there. He dropped the first pass of the game and then committed a holding penalty before the Eagles punted.

Reagor had another ill-advised kick return out of the end zone that started the Eagles are the 16-yard line instead of the 25. That nine yards absolutely made a difference when Jason Kelce snapped a ball too high for Hurts to handle. Instead of the Eagles having a chance to punt, they took a safety that was so close to instead being a Panthers touchdown.

Reagor had another really bad moment when he got BODIED by A.J. Bouye on a screen play to Quez Watkins. Like, what is this effort?

This play isn’t just one cherry-picked loafing moment. Reagor has previously showed signs of disinterest. It was an issue raised about him coming out of TCU.

Reagor finished the game with just three receptions for 24 yards, giving him 17 receptions for 140 yards (8.2 average) and one touchdown on the season. The 2020 first-round pick is clearly not warranting the playing time and targets he’s getting at the expense of a superior player, like Watkins.

One positive: Reagor did have a 22-yard punt return. He took advantage of great blocking from the punt return team that left him a lot of open room to run.

DON’T RUN OUT OF BOUNDS WHEN THE EAGLES ARE TRYING TO KILL THE CLOCK AT THE END OF THE GAME!

To do it once was dumb. To do it twice?! Simply unconscionable. The Eagles clearly thought as much, too, by pulling him for Kenny Gainwell at the end.

It didn’t end up costing the Eagles the win ... but it could have been a lot more damaging than it was.

G-Ward’s offensive pass interference penalty wiped DeVonta Smith’s touchdown off the board. The fourth Eagles TD negated by a penalty in the past two weeks. Ward clearly didn’t sell the pick and it cost Philly four points. Feels especially bad for the most veteran member of the WR room to make that mistake.

Yet another gameplan that made you one go ... “WTF?!” Again, the Eagles only generated 88 yards of offense and six points in the first half. And they started one of their eight first half possessions from the Panthers’ 10-yard line. It’s not like Carolina has a pathetic defense. Even so, the offense plainly lacked creativity. The plan seemed to be to throw everything way short and hope someone made a play. No aggressive shots, no taking advantage of the quarterback’s mobility, no leaning on the run with the passing game not being productive.

In the moment, it didn’t feel like Shamus Clancy’s recent assertion that Sirianni could be a one-and-done head coach was so far-fetched.

The offense clearly found some more answers in the second half. Sirianni deserves some level of credit for those adjustments. On the whole, though, Sirianni hasn’t done a ton of inspire confidence that he’s definitely the right guy to lead this team to future greatness.

I debated putting Hurts in the “Winners” section since he, you know, ultimately helped the Eagles win. After consultation with some trusty Eagles experts, however, Hurts landed in this category.

The passing numbers sure weren’t pretty. Hurts completed just 59.4 of his attempts for 5.4 yards per attempt (gross), zero touchdowns, one interception, and a 62.7 passer rating. Hurts struggled with issues that were hardly new to him. His inaccuracy resulted in too many big plays being left on the field. Plus a big play for the other team with Donte Jackson intercepting a really bad overthrow.

Opportunity cost is a real thing. Player evaluation can’t just be a results-oriented activity. The process is entirely relevant. Hurts was really bad on Sunday and the Eagles trailed for most of the game because of that very fact.

An elite quarterback doesn’t only put up 21 points and 228 yards of offense in a game where their defense generates three turnovers and their special teams unit blocks a punt.

That being said, Hurts obviously did come up big for the Eagles in the clutch. He led the offense to the go-ahead touchdown after getting the ball at the Panthers’ 27-yard line. Hurts’ mobility came in handy on plays where he made correct reads on the defense crashing down on the running back instead of respecting his legs.

Hurts deserves credit for composure. Not every quarterback can deliver in the clutch; there were concerns about Carson Wentz’s ability to do that in the past. There’s also something to be said for both Sirianni and Hurts how the team battled for them and didn’t merely pack it in after a bad start.

All that said, there’s a case to be made this win for the Eagles was something of a Pyrrhic victory. The Eagles’ 2021 season isn’t about winning at all costs. It’s also about evaluating key pieces, such as Sirianni and Hurts, to see if they’re long-term building blocks. This win didn’t really move the needle in favor of those guys being foundational pieces. Both of them still have much to prove.

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