Second-half collapse had roots in the second quarter

Panthers safety

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers gave up a second-half lead, again.

But the signs that pointed to how the Eagles came back for a win started well before halftime.

The Panthers lost to Philadelphia for a number of reasons, with a number of plays that just went wrong at the wrong times. That left them frustrated and searching for words at times. There were many versions of feeling like it was a game they should have won, but they didn't, for some specific reasons.

Little things they got away with during a 3-0 start became killers against the Cowboys and Eagles.

"Just details. Just details," Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson said. "Just got to go in and win fights, not just football games. We've got to go in and win fights, and go in preparing for a 12-round fight. I think we didn't really fulfill that in the last two games. We let some rounds go, and it shows when you're going against Dallas and an explosive offense and the Eagles with an explosive offense. It shows when you take those rounds off, they're going to be still swinging. That's what kind of happened.

"We're just getting away from the details, getting away from our standard, the brand, everything we believe in. It's not every play, it's not every quarter. It's those bits and pieces, and when you're playing against teams with talent like these last two, those little mistakes we got away with the first couple weeks, we can't get away with now."

Jackson had a great view for one of the telling plays of the game, though it may not have looked that way at the time.

When Eagles center Jason Kelce launched a snap over quarterback Jalen Hurts late in the second quarter, the Panthers had about four chances to dive on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. But safety Sean Chandler didn't see it in time as he was chasing Hurts. When he fell toward it, the ball squirted away from linebackers Jermaine Carter Jr. and Haason Reddick, and Jackson was standing nearby as it rolled out of the end zone for a safety.

The difference between that and a touchdown would have been significant.

Of course, the problems protecting Sam Darnold will get plenty of attention, as they should. But even with those problems, and even after giving up a five-point swing on the safety, the Panthers still had plenty of chances.

Even as the Panthers were floundering in the third quarter, the Eagles hadn't done much either, until a 53-yard pass to Quez Watkins gave them life. A Panthers penalty and one play later, Hurts scored a touchdown that cut it to 15-13 and started the comeback.

From there, the blocked punt that gave the Eagles field position for another touchdown drive just seemed like the natural extension of the day, when mistakes cascaded, building steam as they rolled down the mountain.

"Changes the momentum," Reddick said. "Still doesn't matter defense has to go out there, if it's a short field, keep them to three points at the max. Go out there and get a stop.

"I got so many emotions right now I don't even remember what happened after the blocked punt."

So many things, actually.

But the individual components paled in comparison to the theme.

For three weeks, the Panthers overcame some adversity.

Suddenly, without leaders like Shaq Thompson and Christian McCaffrey, without stoppers like Jaycee Horn, and without solid veterans like Juston Burris, the cracks began to turn into canyons.

"Disappointed about today. Really disappointed in the second half," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. "They played four quarters and we did not. Really not much to say other than that. We couldn't control the line of scrimmage. Gave up big plays late in the game. Couldn't protect the football. The quarterback was under duress. Couldn't make plays that we needed down in the red zone and all those areas to make touchdowns instead of field goals. Couldn't capitalize on the opportunities that we had.

"We did a nice job in the first half building a lead, and could not sustain it."

View photos from the field during Carolina's Week 5 game against Philadelphia at Bank of America Stadium.

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