PHILADELPHIA – Exactly one week ago at another NFC East venue, Cam Newton could feel the game turning the Panthers' way – only to feel it slip away.
Second down. Third down. Fourth down.
Panthers go down.
Sunday at the home of the NFC East champions – the Super Bowl champions – it again felt like a Panthers' rally might be turned away.
Second down. Third down. Fourth down.
A new set of downs. New life.
And soon after, the completion of a comeback for the ages.
"I told myself, just preparing all week, if we ever get in that position again, I better hold up my end of the bargain," said Newton, who led the Panthers all the way out of a 17-point hole this time to pull off a 21-17 triumph over the Eagles. "There are a lot of guys that trust in me in that locker room, a lot of people that are depending on me to put this team in the best situation.
"To a degree I think I could have been better last week, and this week we were in the same situation and I didn't want to let nobody down."
Seven days ago in Washington, a mistake-filled first half helped the Redskins build a 17-0 lead. Carolina steadily closed, and in the waning seconds, the Panthers reached Washington's 16-yard line facing a 23-17 deficit and a second-and-5. Three consecutive Newton incompletions ended it on the doorstep.
Sunday in Philadelphia, the Eagles carved out a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter, but Cam and Co. finally hit their stride, getting the ball back late 69 yards away from a go-ahead touchdown with 2:17 to play. After three consecutive Newton incompletions, Carolina still stood 69 yards short, but on fourth down he spotted Torrey Smith open along the right sideline for a 35-yard catch-and-run delivered by Newton as he was getting blown up by defensive end Michael Bennett.
Six plays later, the Panthers had the lead.
"I evaluated the whole circumstances, and I saw that his man had slipped and fell," said Newton, who eventually capped the comeback with a 1-yard touchdown toss to tight end Greg Olsen. "He was wide open, and I just knew I had to get the ball in his hands. It wasn't pretty, but the results were.
"That fourth-and-10 was probably the only play that we were desperate for some type of movement in the drive. For the whole second half, we were methodical with moving the chains and were just persistent the whole time."
The Panthers were "on rhythm" as Newton said throughout the fourth quarter – but certainly not before. The offense avoided the turnover troubles that helped create the deep hole last week against Washington, and that kept Carolina within shouting distance at least. But the Panthers appeared to barely have a pulse when Philadelphia found the end zone at the end of a nine-minute drive at the end of the third quarter to extend the edge to 17-0.
"We were against the ropes," Newton said. "We didn't have a good performance in the first half – we know that. We know that can't happen, especially versus a good team like that."
When Newton and the offense came back out with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, the offense had punted on each of its limited possessions (five), and Newton had completed just 8 of 15 passes for 59 yards.
But from there, over the course of three drives that all ended with touchdowns, Newton hit on 17 of 24 passes for 210 yards.
"It felt like early on we couldn't do anything right; the second half, it felt like we couldn't do anything wrong," Newton said. "A lot of things were holding us back and being thrown at us. But at the end of the day, we overcame that and we kept pushing through.
"When you talk about good teams and the development and DNA of good teams, winning on the road and winning close games is something you have to do. We did that today."