Panthers 21, Eagles 17: Three great quarters and an epic collapse


When he finished getting dressed, Carson Wentz sat at his locker staring at the floor by himself for a few minutes.

“Extremely frustrated about this game,” he said later. “Really, just praying just to ease my mind and ease my heart going forward.”

Wentz was disconsolate, and you can’t blame him.

After a brilliant start, he endured a miserable finish, and the Eagles for only the third time in franchise history blew a 17-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

Much of the blame will go to the defense, and deservedly so.

But Wentz, with a fresh set of downs inside the Panthers’ 25-yard-line and 71 seconds left, responded with an almost unbelievably bad stretch of plays.

And this time, there was no miracle comeback. Only a 21-17 loss to the Panthers, a 3-4 record, back-to-back home losses, an eight-hour flight to London in a few days, and Wentz alone staring at the floor.

“Really, offensively, we have to look hard in the mirror — myself included — and late in games we’ve got to be better,” Wentz said. “That’s just not a way for us to finish a game. I thought we were moving the ball well early, kind of did some things well that we know we’re capable of, and it just seemed we let off the gas as an offense and stopped making plays.”

Even after the Panthers scored 21 points in 10½ minutes to turn a 17-0 deficit into a 21-17 lead, a 48-yard pass interference call on Panthers cornerback James Bradberry covering Alshon Jeffery gave the Eagles a 1st-and-10 on the Carolina 22 with 71 seconds left.

It’s the kind of game the Eagles would have pulled out last year with either Wentz or Nick Foles at the helm.

Not this time.

1st-and-10: Wentz and Zach Ertz had a miscommunication and Eric Reid appeared to pick off Wentz’s pass at the 4-yard-line, although the INT call was reversed. “That was just a miscommunication between Zach and me,” Wentz said. We’ve got to get that ironed out.”

2nd-and-10: Wendell Smallwood ran eight yards up the middle, giving the Eagles 3rd-and-2 on the Panthers’ 14-yard-line.

3rd-and-2: Wentz threw into the end zone, where Jeffery was blanketed in double coverage: “I was just trying to give him a shot to make a play,” Wentz said. “I’ve got to get the ball higher if I’m going to do that. I have to see the tape — there might have been another guy open. … I just tried to force one in there that I probably shouldn’t have.”

4th-and-2: With the game on the line, Wentz couldn’t even get a pass off. He was sacked by Julius Peppers and fumbled, ending the game. “I saw Alshon open across the middle late and as I stepped up and tried to make the throw I got hit and the ball came out.”

What’s so crazy is that Wentz was having the game of a lifetime before that ugly final series.

“When you’re on the field at the end like that with a shot and the ball’s in your hand, it’s frustrating,” he said.

Wentz finished 30-for-37 for 310 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Over the past month, he’s become only the 11th quarterback in NFL history with four straight games of 275 yards, 65 percent completion percentage, two or more TDs and no interceptions.

His numbers for the year are insane: 71 percent, 10 TDs, 1 INT, 108.1 passer rating.

But with the game on the line … he was terrible.

“Very disappointing,” he said. “We had chances to win there at the end. Offensively, we had chances to seal the deal with the two drives before and we didn’t do it.”

The Eagles’ last three drives netted 22 yards of offense.

For the sake of comparison, the Panthers’ last three drives netted 236 yards of offense.

Wentz’s stats are unprecedented.

But he’s won only two of five starts since returning from his ACL injury.

“We’re at make-or-break time, almost,” he said. “It’s hard to say exactly what it’s going to take. We know what we can do, we do it here. We just have to put it all together.

“We put high expectations on ourselves to go out, and my approach will never change, win or lose.”

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