Hits on Carson Wentz have fans wincing, but Eagles' defense sets up 10-10 halftime draw

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz gets stopped by Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry during the first-quarter on Thursday, October 12, 2017 in Charlotte, NC.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thursday night NFL games tend to be sloppy, with teams unable to do the normal prep work, and still sore from the previous weekend. So it was in the first half of the Eagles’ visit to Carolina, in which time expired with the score tied, 10-10,

The loss of right tackle Lane Johnson to a concussion was felt early. The Eagles’ offense was rolling on the opening drive, picking up a couple first downs, but then 37-year old Julius Peppers swept around Halapoulivaati Vaitai and hit Carson Wentz just as he drew the ball back to pass. Wentz fumbled and Kawaan Short recovered for the Panthers. The Eagles had scored on four of five previous opening drives this season.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returned from his calf injury and made the tackle on the first Carolina snap. The Eagles got the ball back after a punt and drove 53 yards for a 50-yard Jake Elliott field goal and a 3-0 lead. At that point, they had 102 total yards to Carolina’s 1 yard.

The Panthers drove 54 yards in nine plays for the tying 39-yard field goal, though, helped by a pass interference penalty that must have been on Jalen Mills but was announced against Corey Graham.

The Panthers kept getting excellent blitz pressure on Wentz, sacking him three times before halftime, and a punt return after a bad Eagles offensive sequence set them up at the Birds’ 43, from which they needed just four plays to score the game’s first touchdown. Cam Newton dazzled defenders on a 16-yard run.

But Cox got a big hit on Newton the next time the Eagles had the ball. The pass blooped into the hands of Rasul Douglas, and the Birds had the ball at Carolina’s 12. Seven plays later, Wentz found Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone, and it was 10-10. That was the only first-half catch for the Eagles’ leading receiver.

Wentz was 8 for 15 for 92 yards in the first half. LeGarrette Blount ran nine times for 39 yards.

Newton completed 13 of 20 for 102 yards and the pick, but a sack split between Brandon Graham and Cox in the final two minutes of the half took the Panthers out of field goal range.

Kelvin Benjamin hurt the Birds with five first-half catches for 48 yards.

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