CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Carolina Panthers wanted to show a national audience that their undefeated start wasn’t a fluke.
They did it with solid special teams that consistently gave Philadelphia a long field, a solid defense that forced the Eagles to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns and a rushing attack led by Jonathan Stewart.
The overall performance won’t draw rave reviews in terms of style points, but the Panthers got what they wanted in terms of national respect.
What it means: The Panthers stayed ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (6-1) in the NFC South and got through the first two of what looked to be a killer stretch of four games against Seattle, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Green Bay with two wins. They also picked up another key victory against another potential NFC playoff contender, should it come down to head-to-head for a tiebreaker to make the playoffs.
One reason to be excited: Without Newton contributing huge yards, the Panthers' running game is starting to gain momentum. A week after gaining 78 yards on 20 carries at Seattle, Stewart had 125 yards on 24 carries. The more pressure the Panthers can take off Newton as a runner, the better.
One reason to panic: The Panthers gave up more than 100 yards rushing (177) for the third time in six games. The foundation of this defense is stopping the run. When this unit struggled in a seven-game non-winning streak last season, gap control was an issue.
Fantasy watch: Ted Ginn Jr. might be worth a pickup in the coming weeks. He is easily Carolina’s top wide receiver, and he caught five passes for 59 yards in this one. He also had a 43-yard run on a reverse. With teams focusing so much on tight end Greg Olsen, Ginn will likely get one-on-one coverage.
Ouch: Defensive end Mario Addison went to the locker room holding his right shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. The team’s best pass-rushing end (he had a sack in the first half) left the team thin at end. Charles Johnson has been on injured reserve with a designation to return in time for a Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas.
What were they thinking? Make that what was Newton thinking when he didn’t throw the ball out of bounds while scrambling late in the first half? He was picked off, which allowed the Eagles to score a field goal just before halftime. Were it not for cornerback Josh Norman's knocking down a pass in the end zone, the mistake would have cost the Panthers a touchdown.
New nickname: After fullback Mike Tolbert bounced off several tacklers to score on a 2-yard pass, I referred to his nickname, "Bowling Ball." A Twitter follower asked that I push for him to be called "Round Mound of Uptown." You're welcome.