Last Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles were 3-3 following a win over the New York Giants, and were in first place in the NFC East. Less than a week later they're back down to third place following a 27-16 primetime loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night Football.
The Panthers took the lead early and never looked back. And while the Eagles were able to make some big plays, sloppy performances by other Eagles prevented Philadelphia from getting the win.
Let's take a look at who helped keep the game close, and who has fans wondering "what if":
Nolan Carroll II: Much like DeMeco Ryans' interception in the first quarter of last week's game against the Giants, Carroll's pick in the red zone helped stop the bleeding early. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't enough. Still, Carroll continued his strong play this week. He led the team with nine tackles, including six solo, and helped limit Cam Newton to under 200 yards passing.
Malcolm Jenkins: Speaking of Carroll - remember his interception against the Jets? Jenkins had a pretty similar play this week against the Panthers. Jenkins continues to show up every week, and this week he gets bonus points for mocking Newton's Superman celebration:
Ryan Mathews: In an offense that also features DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles, Mathews has proven himself to be the best runner on this Eagles team. He was given a criminally low nine carries on Sunday, but he made them count - he had 97 yards and a touchdown, including a 63-yard run for a score.
Mathews continues to show a nice combination of speed, burst and power that allows him to run through tackles and make people miss in the open field. The former Chargers first round pick needs the ball more.
Sam Bradford: In a season of lackluster performances, Sunday night was among the worst. He finished the day 26-of-46 for 205 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The last time Bradford went a game without a touchdown? December 2nd, 2012.
As we'll get into shortly, it wasn't all his fault. He was without All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for a lot of the game, and the receivers were dropping passes left and right. But in general Bradford looked uncomfortable in the pocket and seemed too quick to check the ball down to his running backs in the flat. It's fair to wonder how much longer Bradford can continue to play like this and still keep his job.
Receivers' hands: Wide receivers are supposed to take the "next step" in their sophomore seasons. But through seven games, that hasn't quite been the case for Jordan Matthews or Josh Huff, both of whom appear to be struggling mightily with the mental side of things.
Matthews had several drops in the game, including a pass that should've been caught but was instead intercepted by Colin Jones. Matthews was supposed to emerge as the Eagles' go-to receiver this year, but his inconsistency has been troubling. But in fairness to Matthews, he was far from the only culprit. Josh Huff, Zach Ertz and Miles Austin all dropped catchable balls. And it wasn't just the outside world that noticed:
An Eagle entering the locker room after game yelled: "Catch the f'n football." #Eagles— John Clark CSN (@JClarkCSN) October 26, 2015
If the Eagles want to start winning games on offense again, the drops simply must stop. And while Matthews is the most noticeable culprit, he's far from the only one.
Run defense: The last time the Eagles gave up over 200 yards on the ground was Week 4 of last season. For the last season and a half, Philly's run defense has been terrific. This week was likely a hiccup, but it came at an inopportune time.
Without DeMeco Ryans in the middle, Jonathan Stewart was able to rush for 125 yards on 24 carries, and Mike Tolbert and Newton were able to barrel their way through the defensive line for a few big runs. The run defense certainly didn't lose the game for the Eagles, but Sunday night was a disappointing performance from the team's best group.