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Thrill of victory can't mask Carolina's issue with slow starts

PHILADELPHIA – The Panthers' locker room was as joyous as you'd expect after they erased a 17-0 deficit against the Eagles to match the largest comeback win in team history.

The music was blaring, bear-hugs were being shared left and right. It was a hard-earned celebration following a crucial road win.

But center Ryan Kalil was the one guy who wasn't so caught up in the thrill of victory.

Not to say he was "Debbie Downer" or anything, but the veteran team captain offered an honest assessment of the full four quarters of play.

"For us to come back like that shows a lot of character," Kalil said. "We're excited about the win."


"But at the same time, we don't need to put ourselves in those situations," Kalil explained. "This team is very capable of putting that kind of performance on in the first half. We have to do a better job coming out faster or it's going to hurt us down the road."

It hurt Carolina just last week in Washington, when they faced yet another 17-0 deficit. That poor start proved to be too much to overcome as the Panthers failed to reach the end zone with the game on the line and lost 23-17.

Sunday in Philadelphia, the Panthers dug another very deep hole, and Kalil is absolutely right – Carolina can't keep doing this.

"17-0 nothing is not a great scoreboard to look at two weeks in a row," tight end Greg Olsen said. "We've gotta figure that part out."

A first half like the one the Panthers put together against the Eagles is going to get you beat nine times out of 10, probably more.

Carolina had five net passing yards at halftime. Yes, you read that right.

Carolina was outgained 223 yards to 83. It was ugly, but fortunately they trailed by just 10 entering the second half.

"It felt like we couldn't do anything right," quarterback Cam Newton said of the offense's performance in the first half. "Second half it felt like we couldn't do anything wrong."

And therein lies the crux of Sunday's thrilling win after a 21-point outburst in the fourth quarter. The Panthers have to balance so much joy with the realization that there's a lot to fix.

"I don't think there's a defense in the league that was stopping us in that fourth quarter," wide receiver Jarius Wright said.

What if we saw some of that execution in the first three quarters?

That's what's on Kalil's mind.

"We'll enjoy this victory," Kalil said, "but we've got work to do."

View photos of the Panthers at Eagles by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.