PHILADELPHIA -- Carolina earned its first road win of the season in highly dramatic fashion Sunday, completing the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history to beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles 21-17.
In addition to a few timely defensive plays, quarterback Cam Newton provided the spark that surged the Panthers late. After completing just 8 of 15 passes for 59 yards to start, Newton completed 17 of his final 24 attempts for 210 yards and two TDs, including a 1-yard pass to tight end Greg Olsen - his first score of the year - to give Carolina its lone lead.
"Every win is a statement win but we were against the ropes to a degree. We didn't have a good performance in the first half. We know that can't happen," Newton said. "Moving forward, this is a confidence booster for us, it's something that can accelerate the production offensively, defensively, as well as special teams."
Head coach Ron Rivera focused on what winning after sluggish play in the first three quarters says about his team.
"This is special just because it's the defending champs. We talk about wanting to be the champs. You got to beat those guys and, today we had that opportunity," Rivera said. "When you win this type of game, coming back the way we did, a lot of credit goes to our guys. The players in this room were terrific."
Down 17-0, Carolina's offense came alive early in the fourth quarter with a crafty 14-yard rushing touchdown by wide receiver Curtis Samuel to end an 11-play, 80-yard series.
A sack by linebacker Luke Kuechly on quarterback Carson Wentz resulted in third-and-18 on the Eagles' subsequent drive and a punt soon after, giving Newton and Co. another scoring chance. Five straight Newton completions - the biggest a 28-yarder to receiver Jarius Wright - set up Newton for a 18-yard connection to wideout Devin Funchess for Carolina's second score of the quarter. Wright secured the two-point conversion to put the Panthers within three.
After cornerback James Bradberry came up with a huge pass break-up on third-and-10 on a pass intended for receiver Alshon Jeffrey, the offense was gifted one final shot to complete the unlikely comeback.
The threat was in jeopardy after three incompletions, but Newton hit wideout Torrey Smith for a 35-yard catch and run to give Carolina life approaching the two-minute warning. A few chunk plays allowed Newton to find Olsen in the end zone with 1:22 to go.
A strip-sack by defensive end Julius Peppers ended the Eagles' last-gasp effort on fourth-and-2 at the Panthers' 14-yard line and gave Carolina the shocking victory.
Wentz - the other half of Sunday's QB duel - ended the game 30-of-37 for 310 yards and two TDs. Tight end Zach Ertz led all receivers with nine receptions for 138 yards while Jeffrey added 88 yards on seven catches.
As Rivera said, Sunday was a "tale of two halves." The first half - or really three quarters - was controlled by the Eagles. Three Wentz completions for 57 yards early in the second quarter helped set-up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery to give Philadelphia a 7-0 lead. Much like their first two drives, the Panthers' third series did them no favors, ending with another punt. The offense went 0-for-3 on third down and amassed just 29 yards in the first three drives. Newton went 1-for-6 for 5 yards during that stretch.
Back-to-back 25-plus-yard completions by Wentz put the Eagles in Carolina territory. A sack by defensive end Mario Addison, who briefly exited in the first quarter, on third-and-5 stopped the momentum, but kicker Jake Elliott nailed a 46-yarder to put Carolina in a 10-0 hole.
A 34-yard reverse to Wright coupled with a 12-yard Newton rush pushed Carolina into field goal position, but two false starts added 10 yards to a 39-yard attempt against the wind, and Rivera elected to punt to end the half. For the second straight week, Carolina went into halftime without putting any points on the board.
After playing on the road in back-to-back weeks, the Panthers will return to Bank of America Stadium to take on the Ravens on October 28.