REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES

REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Statistically, Jake Delhomme had a pretty good day completing 18 of 29 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. But for the second straight week, the Panthers allowed Delhomme to get blindsided on a blitz, resulting in a key turnover that led to an Eagles touchdown. Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad both played well for the Panthers, combining for 11 receptions for 159 yards and two scores. Carolina's pass offense, however, failed when they needed it the most - on their final chance to take the lead with just over six minutes to play.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The running game certainly wasn't Carolina's big problem on Sunday. Stephen Davis ran for 115 yards on 23 carries, a 5-yard average. However, the Panthers seemed to get away from the running game too early. Davis carried only five times in the season half. With just over six minutes to play and the Panthers trailing 22-16, offensive coordinator Dan Henning elected to call three consecutive passing plays, all resulting in incompletions. The Panthers had plenty of time to move the ball on the ground against a weak Eagles run defense. The Panthers punted the ball away and never got it back until 25 seconds remained on the clock. By then, they needed two scores to win. The Panthers might struggle running the ball next week against Atlanta if two of their tight ends (Kris Mangum and Mike Seidman) don't play.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Panthers held Donovan McNabb to 182 yards passing, picked him off once and sacked him three times. McNabb did throw a key touchdown pass to James Thrash late in the game and Carolina's defense couldn't get off the field in the final six minutes, allowing a crucial field goal that sealed the Eagles' win. For the second straight week the Panthers allowed a key third-down completion to a tight end allowing valuable time to elapse off the clock. The play also allowed the Eagles to move into field goal range where David Akers converted to make it a two-possession game. This time it was Mike Minter in coverage.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Panthers allowed the Eagles to run for 124 yards on 28 carries. Brian Westbrook, showing surprising quickness, did most of the damage carrying 12 times for 64 yards. This wasn't one of Carolina's better efforts against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- John Kasay missed three field goals and an extra point and those 10 points turned out to be the difference in the game. Carolina's coverage teams aren't what they were with Jarrod Cooper. On the positive side, the Panthers did recover an Eagles fumble on a punt after a solid hit by Nick Goings. Steve Smith nearly had a kickoff return for a touchdown, but was knocked out of bounds by kicker David Akers.

COACHING: C-minus -- You have to question the strategy of throwing three straight times late in the fourth quarter when the Panthers were down by six points. That might have been a good time to try to wear down the Eagles with a heavy dose of Stephen Davis, even though the Panthers had success throwing on the previous series. John Fox suggested Monday the reason the Panthers didn't is because they were without two blocking tight ends and their running game wasn't as successful in the second half. The Panthers really need to work on their red zone offense and the defense has to find a way to get off the field in the fourth quarter. Still, it's hard to blame the coaching staff when your kicker misses three field goals and an extra point. If the season ended today, the Panthers would be the third seed in the NFC playoffs and would not get a first-round bye. Carolina's next four games come against teams with a combined record of 13-35. Can John Fox get this team to regroup?


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