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10 winners, 5 losers and one sore loser from the Eagles win over the Panthers

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Celebrate good times

Philadelphia Eagles v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Eagles held on to defeat the Carolina Panthers and Pete Morelli 28-23 (full recap here) on Thursday Night Football. Let’s get to the winners and losers.

WINNERS

The Eagles

If the playoffs started next week, everyone would be stunned, but if they did the Eagles would be the #1 seed. They beat a very good team on the road, along with the officials, and put the Cam Newton comeback to a screeching halt. And you can savor it for a while—they don’t play again until next Monday.

Carson Wentz

It wasn’t his best game, as he sailed some passes under pressure and missed a wide open Nelson Agholor on a key third down. But it was more than good enough in a big and prime time game. For the second straight game he had 3+ passing touchdowns. His blocking struggled early in the game, the run game was inconsistent, and the officials were abysmal and set the Eagles back. But Wentz put the offense on his back, again, and delivered in prime time against a very good team. He outdueled Cam Newton, who entered the game with deserved “back to MVP form” praise for his recent play. Wentz got the job done with his legs, with the deep ball, and everything in between. That’s a hell of a performance.

Doug Pederson

Not a flawless game, but his decision to go for it on fourth down and the decision to go for two were big moments, and he got them right. Short weeks aren’t easy, but just as he has for every game this season, he got his team ready to play.

The defense

Panthers running backs totaled 9 yards on 14 carries. Two of their four running backs finished with negative yardage. Cam Newton was great on the ground, but then Cam Newton is great on the ground. Shutting down everyone else on the ground is the best you can hope for. In the air, they picked off Newton thrice (though one was more of a fumble), and held Carolina to a pathetic 3.9 yards per play.

And yet it was heart burn inducing. With two fourth quarter meltdowns already this season, there was no shame in assuming the worst on the Panthers penultimate drive. But they held. Jim Schwartz called a beautiful blitz and it paid off with an interception, and they held on Carolina’s final drive to seal the win. The Eagles defense sent the Panthers offense back to last year, and if not for an atrocious game by the officials this game should have been a blowout.

Zach Ertz

Ertz entered the season with just 9 career red zone touchdowns in 61 games. His 2 against the Panthers gives him 4 this season alone. The breakout season is definitely upon us.

Fletcher Cox

Welcome back. Cox was a huge factor early on, setting up a touchdown with his tipped pass that was intercepted. Cox’s return was all the more important with Jordan Hicks, Brandon Graham and Nigel Bradham all missing time with injury.

Donnie Jones

What a hold on Jake Elliott’s 50 yard field goal.

Jason Kelce

It’s a good day for an offensive lineman when he gets to spike the ball.

Mychal Kendricks

The Panthers ran 77 plays, so someone is going to rack up some counting stats, and tackles can be misleading, but this was just the second time in his career that Kendricks had double digit solo tackles. Last year he couldn’t get on the field, this year he’s having good game after good game.

Nigel Bradham

His best game of the season, maybe his best game as an Eagle, with a tip that created an interception and a touchdown saving tackle on third down. It’s no coincidence that the Panthers were able to move the ball while he was out.

LOSERS

Pete Morelli

Morelli and his crew are the worst in the NFL and it once again showed. Alshon Jeffery was called for block in the back that he didn’t commit, Corey Graham was called for a penalty that wasn’t committed by Jalen Mills, LeGarrette Blount got 15 yards for doing a nice job blocking, Mills was called for pass interference on an uncatchable ball, there was no pass interference on the deep ball to Jeffery, a facemask on Kenjon Barner, Cam Newton’s dive for a TD not being called a TD… and those are just the ones I bothered to write down.

This is from last year when Morelli called the Eagles-Lions game. And it still applies.

Jeffery Lurie would be justified in raising hell with the league until they promise to never schedule Morelli to officiate Eagles games again. Or for Morelli to retire, because he’s been awful for years.

Ron Rivera

Had he kicked a field goal to end the first half, he probably walks away a winner. Whoops.

The “Carson Wentz is bad without Lane Johnson” narrative

Early the in game it looked like 2016 all over again: no Lane Johnson, no ability to move the ball. But the Eagles adjusted and Carson Wentz went off against a good defense. You can put that narrative to bed, it’s a new year.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

That said, Vaitai was terrible. Like last season the Eagles started the game leaving Vaitai to his own devices and he struggled. And like last season, the team adjusted as the game went on and the right side of the line was no longer a sieve. Vaitai is still a liability.

Kelvin Benjamin’s knee

Ewwwwwwww. It looked like scarabs from The Mummy (the good one with Brendan Frasier) were about to pop out of that.

Sore Losers

The Panthers

Oh boo hoo.