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Big Mo: How the Eagles blocked the Panthers path to victory in Week 5

Carolina produced one of the most frustrating win percentage charts in recent memory in this stinker.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. In Week 5 Carolina squandered a 15-3 lead with another poor second half showing.

Behold the worst of all win probability charts!

ESPN

The Panthers came into this game as the favorites, jumped out to a commanding early lead, and had the win percentage heavily on their side...right up until it mattered most. Carolina had an 83% win percentage with 3:09 left in the game. About one minute later Philly had a 90% win percentage, then put the game away. The chart below can be summed up in two words: squandered opportunity.

Here are the biggest plays that led to the Panthers losing a very winnable game.

First quarter 4:36 - Panthers 3, Eagles 3

DJ’s catch sets up a Tremble touchdown (70% to 85% win percentage): With the score tied 3-3 late in the first quarter, the Panthers faced third-and-7 from the Philadelphia 20. DJ Moore came up with a clutch 14-yard gain to extend the drive deep into the red zone. Three plays later Tommy Tremble hauled in a touchdown pass for a 10-3 Panthers lead and a formidable 85% win percentage.

Second quarter 5:58 - Panthers 10, Eagles 3

Robinson “alters” punt, sets up field goal (79% to 92%): The Eagles punted from their own 24 yard line in the second quarter when Kenny Robinson broke through the line and nearly blocked the kick. While he didn’t make contact with the ball, he altered Arryn Siposs’ motion and Philly’s punter shanked the ball out of bounds at the Philadelphia 40. Carolina’s offense capitalized with a field goal to go up 13-3. Then, as luck would have it, on the Eagles next play from scrimmage the snap flew over Jalen Hurts’ head and out of the back of the end zone for two free Panthers points. Carolina now led 15-3 and had a 92% win percentage.

Third quarter 0:38 - Panthers 15, Eagles 6

Watkins gets 53 on 3rd-and-10 (91% to 61%): Carolina was firmly in control with a 91% win percentage late in the third quarter. The Panthers defense forced the Eagles into a long third-and-10 from their own 37. Forcing a punt here would have been huge for Carolina to salt away a victory. But instead of forcing a punt, Carolina gave up a 53 yard bomb to Quez Watkins down to the Carolina 10 yard line. Watkins turned Sam Franklin around on his route and was wide open. Philly scored on the next play to cut Carolina’s lead to 15-13.

Fourth quarter 4:04 - Panthers 18, Eagles 13

Robby’s drop leads to Eagles blocking a punt (83% to 10%): Yep, you read that right. In a sequence of just a few plays the Panthers win percentage dropped from 83% to 10%. It all started on third-and-3 from the Carolina 46 with 4:04 left in the game when Robby Anderson dropped a very catchable ball that would’ve resulted in a first down. Philly then blocked Joseph Charlton’s punt, setting the Eagles offense up at the Carolina 27. Four plays later Philly scored a go-ahead touchdown and a two-point conversion to take a 21-18 lead with 2:38 left in the game. Sam Darnold sealed the Panthers fate with a bad interception - his third of the game - just three plays later.

Big Mo MVP - Donte Jackson

What a day for Donte. He was credited with six tackles, one pass defended, one interception, and one forced fumble. D-Jax did his part, but Carolina’s offense wasted the two third quarter turnovers he generated with a Sam Darnold pick and a three-and-out. It was one of the better games I’ve ever seen Donte play. If he can overcome his history of nagging injuries slowing him down, he’s going to get paid this offseason.

What I liked

  • Throwing Brady Christensen into the fire, though I would’ve preferred to see him at left tackle (his college position) rather than starting him on the right side and shifting Taylor Moton to the left. The Panthers offensive line is a mess and their veterans have seriously limited upside, so let’s get the rookie some reps.
  • Alex Erickson looks frisky as both a kick and punt returner. Carolina has auditioned 142 returners (approximately) over the last several seasons, so let’s hope Alex develops into something good.
  • AJ Bouye looked solid. Carolina’s corners will be downright scary when Stephon Gilmore joins him and D-Jax.
  • Haason Reddick’s back-to-back sacks in the third quarter to force a punt.
  • Zane Gonzalez going 3-for-3 with field goals from 43, 48, and 50 yards.
  • Chuba Hubbard rushing for 101 yards and adding 33 more through the air.

What I didn’t like

  • Joe Brady’s third quarter offense was once again abysmal. As I wrote last week, Carolina’s offense has been terrible in the third quarter of late. Here’s how many points the Panthers offense has scored in third quarters over their last seven games: 0, 0, 0, 0, 7, 0, 0. That’s right - Joe Brady’s offense has been blanked in six of their last seven third quarters. That’s too much of a trend to ignore. I think Joe Brady and Matt Rhule are simply getting outcoached in the second halves of games. Prove me wrong, guys.
  • Robbie Anderson being invisible for long, long stretches of games this year.
  • Phil Snow dropping Brian Burns into coverage with 3:09 left in the game instead of sending him after Jalen Hurts. The Eagles were obviously passing and Burns was asked to cover Dallas Goedert on a deep route and he gave up a 20-yard reception down to the Carolina six yard line. Philly scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later. Brian Burns is one of the league’s elite pass rushers. I’m still scratching my head over this decision by Snow.
  • Seeing “Bad Sam Darnold” make an appearance.

This was a bad loss and completely dampens the early season enthusiasm after starting 3-0. Carolina had several chances to put this game away and they simply couldn’t. This loss will sting. If the Panthers miss the playoffs by one game this year, we can blame Week 5. Carolina now sits at 3-2 and will next face the 2-3 Minnesota Vikings in a winnable home game.