The first Philadelphia Eagles primetime matchup this season was most likely predicted to be their least important or difficult. With a primetime schedule that also included matchups at Seattle, at Dallas and home against Washington and Oakland, the Week Six Thursday night matchup against a Carolina Panthers team that finished 6-10 in 2016 should have been much easier. Either way, it was a short week for both teams which is never easy to do.
The Eagles handled their business, stood tall at the end of the game and defeated the Panthers 28-23.
Coming into the matchup both teams were 4-1 and first place in their respective divisions. The Eagles were coming off a convincing 34-7 home victory over the Arizona Cardinals last week. The Panthers defeated the Detroit Lions on the road 27-24.
There were many things that stood out for Philly tonight, both good and bad, but in the end, they got out of Charlotte with the victory. Here are the three biggest takeaways for the Eagles in their win over the Panthers.
Week Six Philadelphia Eagles Takeaways
The Eagles Run Defense is Stout
The Panthers finished with 80 rushing yards on 25 carries. While that’s certainly not a great rushing day, it shouldn’t make the opposing defense stout against the run, right? Not when you look at the numbers closer.
Cam Newton accounted for 71 of those 80 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown run. Rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel had an end around run for eight yards in the first half. Those 79 yards were a landslide better than the production Carolina got from their running backs tonight. Rookie back Christian McCaffrey finished with a minimal four carries for just eight yards. Fozzy Whittaker had just one carry for negative three yards before he left with an injury. Their usual starter Jonathan Stewart went eight carries for negative four yards.
Do the math: one rushing yard on 13 carries from running backs. ONE. The Eagles defense was flying behind the line of scrimmage all night, creating havoc up the middle and on the outside and closing all gaps for Panthers backs. The success of the run defense was also successful because it forced the Panthers to abandon the run early in the second half when they realized the run was ineffective and the score deficit had grown.
Chalk this game as an A++ for the Eagles run defense. Outstanding all around.
Nigel Bradham Came to Play
One name that usually gets forgotten is linebacker Nigel Bradham. Bradham is the second outside linebacker who led the Birds in tackles last season and came over with Jim Schwartz from Buffalo a couple seasons ago. He has been pretty good during his time in Philly, has managed to stay on the field and naturally fits well in Schwartz’s defense.
Tonight might have been his best game in an Eagles uniform thus far. He finished with ten tackles, seven solo, one tackle for loss on a huge run stuff play and two passes defended. He made a key third down diving tackle to save a first down in the second half as well, laying his body on the line. He even sustained an injury on the very play and returned later in the half to make plays.
Hicks left late in the game with an ankle injury and Bradham continued to step up, making big plays on the Panthers final two drives that led to a Jalen Mills interception on the first drive and a turnover on downs the second drive to seal the game.
Bradham stepped up for the defense tonight, played with great energy and passion and helped will the Eagle defense to seal the game at the end. Schwartz had to have loved what he saw.
The Eagles Have the Best Record in the NFC
With the win tonight, it moved the Eagles to 5-1 which puts them at the top of the NFC standings. Taking out the Panthers puts them at least tied for the best record in the NFC after this week (depending what happens to the 4-1 Green Bay Packers).
Certainly, it’s a start that few Philly fans expected heading into the season, but they sure will take it.