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October 12, 2017

First half observations: Eagles 10, Panthers 10

It wasn't always pretty, but the Philadelphia Eagles are locked in a tight ballgame with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Carson Wentz took one too many hits

The Good

•  Carson Wentz has been absolute money on third down so far this season, and the trend didn't stop in Charlotte, Thursday night games be damned. On the game's first series, Wentz hooked up with his buddy Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard gain, making the conversion look easy.

He fired another strike on the next series, converting another third down with some assistance from Trey Burton.

Noticing a common theme here? Wentz had his biggest throw of the half on another third down, and he made this one count for six points to Zach Ertz.

Ultimately, you'd hope the Eagles could convert bigger plays on first and second down so Wentz wouldn't be in position to make lots of third down plays. Still, it must be damn nice to have a quarterback who rises to the challenge.

•  It's not often the holder on a kick gets any sort of attention, but how about the job done by Donnie Jones on Jake Elliott's first made field goal of the night? Jones grabbed hold of a snap that was headed wide right and got it down in just the right spot for his kicker to boot it through from 50 yards.

•  We haven't seen the Eagles go into up-tempo mode too often, mostly because ball control has been a foundational part of the offense. Time of possession has been their calling card, a stark departure from the Chip Kelly years.

So it was a nice change of pace, literally and figuratively, to see the Eagles mix in some no-huddle offense in the first half. It probably had something to do with compensating for the absence of Lane Johnson; if the Eagles weren't going to be able to outclass the Panthers on both sides of the line, they could make it difficult for Carolina's defensive line to make substitutions, ensuring their guys were going against fatigued defensive ends.

•  After a big week last week, Kenjon Barner almost pissed away the goodwill he built up with a botched punt return. Luckily, Patrick Robinson popped up in the right place at the right time, and the Eagles averted a crisis.

That's a heck of a play from a guy who keeps making plays right when his team needs them most. Barner owes Robinson a case of beer for saving his behind.

• Welcome back, Fletcher Cox. In his first game back from injury, the big fella made his presence felt in the interior, bullying Carolina's D-line so badly that he forced a lame-duck throw from Cam Newton. Rasul Douglas took care of the rest.

He had another huge play late in the first half, sacking Newton and pulling the Panthers out of field goal range in the process.

The Bad

•  Lane Johnson's absence was a big key heading into the game, and from the jump, it was clear how much he'd be missed. Julius Peppers manhandled Big V on the first series, earning a strip of Carson Wentz and killing a promising first drive right as it was getting going.

That's not going to get it done, my guy. Things got even worse as the game wore on, and during one sequence in the second quarter, Wentz got swallowed up by a Carolina blitz, and Eagles fans had to watch his arm bend in a manner they'd rather not ever see again.

If the Eagles want to get a big road win, they need to be better up front, plain and simple.

•  Timmy Jernigan, who has been one of the team's best and most important defensive players, was hurt about halfway through the second quarter. You would have been hard-pressed to find that out through the broadcast, who used the time when Jernigan was down on the field to talk about Tony Romo's last touchdown against the Eagles.

Romo is a good analyst. I don't care about his career during the game, and neither do the people watching at home. Focus on the game.

The Ugly

•  I tend not to get involved in debates about officiating because generally good and bad calls balance out over the course of a season. Pete Morelli's crew did the Eagles absolutely no favors, however, and the officiating disparity was brutal in the first half.

I doubt Carolina somehow played a perfect quarter completely within the rules because at the pace an NFL game moves at, you can easily commit a couple penalties on a single series by total accident. LeGarrette Blount was penalized for unnecessary roughness for what looked like a good block, only to get suplexed later in the half after the whistle. Want to guess whether it was flagged or not?

•  The officials aren't responsible for protecting Carson Wentz. Eagles fans are gravely concerned about the beatdown Carolina was handing their franchise QB in the first half, and offensive line play may end up deciding the game.