Panthers get rematch with Eagles
The Carolina Panthers had a chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles last season at home but couldn't get it done, and on Sunday they will get a rematch on the road, where they are 0-2 this season.
The eventual Super Bowl champions defeated the Panthers 28-23 lastseason, thanks to intercepting three of quarterback Cam Newton's passes and turning them into points on short fields.
Newton knows it won't be any easier this season, even though the Eagles are off to a 3-3 start and sit one-half game behind the NFL East-leading Washington Redskins. Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz was still recovering from a torn ACL and did not play at the start of the season.
"I think they're better than they were last year," Newton said. "Just the depth that they have and the explosiveness on the defensive side of the football is something we will have to tame. Those guys get after the quarterback, get after the running game -- those are all things that we try to pride ourselves on doing."
The Panthers, who are 3-2 and one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South following a 23-17 loss to the Redskins, would like to get back at the Eagles. However, the road not been good to them.
Carolina is 0-2 away from home this season and 1-4 all-time in regular-season games in Philadelphia, although they beat the Eagles in the 2003 NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson knows all that means absolutely nothing.
"The entire game (last season) came down basically to the last series or two," Pederson said. "I know Carolina had an opportunity there to win it late, and (we were) fortunate again to make a couple of plays down the stretch and pull out a victory, but I think we're gonna see the same things this Sunday."
With outstanding quarterbacks on both teams, it might be a matter of if one team can slow the other down.
Wentz, who missed the first two games this season, has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for nearly 1,192 yards, with eight touchdowns and one interception.
"He looks like the same guy, if not better," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "And the crazy thing is, he still runs and moves and does whatever he can to make things work. He plays to a full tilt.
"We turned the ball over twice against them last year in the red zone, so we've just got to be able to protect the football and play our game."
Wentz passed for 222 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers last season, even though he absorbed sacks by linebacker Thomas Davis, cornerback James Bradberry and defensive end Julius Peppers.
Rivera said it's difficult to completely stop a quarterback like Wentz, but that the key is to constantly pressure him, shut down the Eagles' running game, and consistently put Philadelphia in third-and-long situations.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles will try to keep Newton in the pocket and prevent him from making big plays with both his arm and legs.
The Eagles have allowed the fifth-fewest points per game in the NFL this season, but they are not getting the takeaways they had on their way to the Super Bowl last year.
Philadelphia has only four interceptions in six games (compared to seven for the Panthers in five games), while forcing only three fumbles -- far off the numbers of last year.
The Eagles will try to turn that around against Newton, who has thrown three interceptions in the last two weeks.
"He's been able to just take care of the ball, and that's probably been the biggest thing," said Pederson, crediting at least some of that to the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
"From a quarterback's position, it's just don't be reckless, don't be careless. Be smart with the football. Know when you've got to pull it down and run it, and know when you have to throw it away, and that's what you're seeing."
With quarterbacks like Wentz and Newton on the field, it might come down to which team has the ball last.
Updated October 17, 2018