Sherrod Martin was an unlikely hero tonight. Who would have imagined that?
After newly signed kicker Graham Gano botched a PAT in the 4th quarter, leaving it a one-score game at 30-22, Martin punched the ball out of Brandon Boykin’s hands when backup TE Gary Barnidge recovered it for the Panthers.
The Panthers moved the ball and stayed in-bounds to keep the clock moving, aided by another of many Eagles penalties on the night. They had 3 consecutive offside penalties hopping around earlier and this one was defensive holding…giving the Panthers the automatic first down. They sealed it on a short bootleg pass to Mike Tolbert for another first down as made sure not to be pushed out of bounds.
At 260+ pounds, not many guys even in the NFL do much “pushing” on Mike Tolbert.
Newton had 2 TD passes early, to the same TE Gary Barnidge and again to Brandon LaFell on what appeared to be the same pass route with the same blown coverage over the middle. Newton drew the safety off with a pump-fake to the right side, causing the safety to drift to that area, then hit his target coming up the left seam.
Cam also ran for 2 short TDs, marking the first time in his career he’s passed for 2 TD and run for 2 in the same game. He also hit the 300 yard mark with 306 on 18 for 28 passing. Importantly, he did not turn the ball over. The Eagles had 3 fumbles lost, taking them to a league-worst -20 on the takeovers table. No wonder they’ve faded this season after starting with two single-point wins.
The loss marked the Eagles’ seventh consecutive loss as their franchise is possibly one of very few in even more turmoil than the Panthers.
Overall, the blocking looked solid. The offensive line finally seemed to play as a unit with a common goal in mind while not blowing many blocks or making mental mistakes. Cam had time to throw all night long and held on to the ball for the final 4+ minutes after getting that turnover on the kickoff return. In fact, that’s exactly what Cam said in a post-game interview: 11 guys working for a common goal.
This is clearly the best 60 minutes the Panthers have played this season on offense. Eagles RB Bryce Brown had a huge night with 178 yards on 19 carries and a pair of his own TDs to keep the Eagles in the game. They had only 119 yards passing from their rookie QB.
They’ve got work to do still with their run defense and I’m not sure how much of what I saw was bad Philly defense but for the moment I’ll just savor a much appreciated win.