Hurts runs for 2 TDs, Eagles come back to top Panthers 21-18

CHARLOTTE — Jalen Hurts ran for two second-half touchdowns and the Philadelphia Eagles battled back from a 12-point deficit to defeat the Carolina Panthers 21-18 on Sunday and snap a three-game losing streak.

After T.J. Edwards blocked a Carolina punt, Hurts scored on a 6-yard run-pass option with 2:38 left to give the Eagles their first lead of the game.

Carolina’s Sam Darnold was intercepted three times, twice by Darius Slay, and sacked three times as the Panthers offense struggled against an Eagles defense that allowed 83 points and 851 yards in its previous two games.

Darnold’s effort to bring Carolina (3-2) back in the final 2 1/2 minutes ended when he was picked off by Steven Nelson along the left sideline as he threw under pressure. The Eagles, who were held to 88 yards in the first half, ran out the clock from there to hand Carolina its first loss at home.

[PHOTOS: Eagles versus Panthers at Bank of America Stadium]

Chuba Hubbard ran for 101 yards on 24 carries for Carolina filling in for the injured Christian McCaffrey.

DaVonta Smith had seven catches for 77 yards and a 2-point conversion for the Eagles (2-3). Hurts completed 22 of 37 passes for 198 yards and ran for 30 yards on nine carries.

Carolina’s defense had been playing lights-out for the better part of three quarters with Donte Jackson coming up with an interception and a forced fumble and Haason Reddick had two sacks.

But Carolina’s defense appeared to get worn down in the second half from spending so much time on the field.

Carolina built a 15-6 lead at halftime behind yet another dominant first-half performance at home, holding the Eagles to five first downs. That included a safety in which Jason Kelce snapped the ball over Hurts’ head into the end zone, prompting a quick game of hot potato before the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone.

INJURIES

Neither team reported any injuries.

UP NEXT

Eagles: Host Buccaneers on Thursday night.

Panthers: Host Vikings on Sunday, their fourth home game in six weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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BACKFIELD DUO

Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell has been productive, taking carries and receptions away from Miles Sanders. Gainwell had 89 total yards and one touchdown on three carries and six receptions last week. Sanders had 44 yards on 10 combined carries and catches.

“If we feel that Kenny gives us the best chance in this situation to make a play, we’ll put him in,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “Same thing with Miles. If we think he gives the best chance in a situation, we put Miles in.”

Overall, through four games, Sanders has 37 carries for 169 yards and 11 receptions for 105 yards. Gainwell has 19 carries for 84 yards and 13 catches for 114 yards.

WHERE’S FLETCHER?

Eagles six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s production is way down: he has just five tackles, no sacks, no tackles for loss, no quarterback hits through four games. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the end zone.

“I could be better. I know I can be better,” said Cox, who is in the fifth season of a six-year, $102.6 million contract. “That’s a problem I have to fix. Embrace whatever we’re doing and make the best of it.”

Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon blamed his scheme for not putting Cox in better positions to succeed and also pointed out he has contributed in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet. The Eagles have used both a 3-4 alignment and 4-3 so Cox is still adjusting to a new coordinator.

“It’s just one of them things where it’s hard to get settled in, in a game when you’re playing so many positions and doing so many things,” Gannon said.

McCAFFREY’S STATUS

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey’s status may not be determined until game time, according to Rhule. McCaffrey missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, but returned to practice this week on a limited basis. Darnold expressed concern this week about McCaffrey rushing back too soon.

“It’s tough for him because he’s such a competitor and he wants to go out there and play,” Darnold said. “At the same time it is early in the season.”

EASY STRETCH?

While the Panthers have taken the traditional “one week at a time” approach to the season, the reality is this is a golden opportunity to stack up some wins.

Carolina’s next five opponents have 1-3 records and the Panthers are likely to be favored in all of those games. Given the team’s brutal closing schedule that includes two games against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay and one against the Buffalo Bills, the Panthers would surely benefit from racking up some wins now.

But if the Panthers don’t do a better job of protecting Darnold, they will continue to struggle. Darnold was sacked five times and hit 11 times last week by the Cowboys.

PHILADELPHIA (1-3) at CAROLINA (3-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Panthers by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Eagles 1-3, Panthers 3-1.

SERIES RECORD: Eagles lead series 7-5.

LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Eagles 21-17 on Oct. 21, 2018 at Philadelphia.

EAGLES OFFENSE: OVERALL (8), RUSH (t-9), PASS (9), SCORING (t-17).

EAGLES DEFENSE: OVERALL (14), RUSH (31), PASS (7), SCORING (24).

PANTHERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (13), RUSH (t-16), PASS (8), SCORING (13).

PANTHERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (10), PASS (2), SCORING (3).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Eagles 0; Panthers minus-1.

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: Wide receiver DeVonta Smith set career highs vs. Kansas City with 122 yards receiving and seven receptions. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner also had a TD catch negated because he was pushed out of bounds before coming back in to make the play.

PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR D.J. Moore is emerging as QB Sam Darnold’s favorite target. Moore had eight catches for 113 yards and two TDs against Dallas and is second in the NFL in receptions (30) and fourth in yards receiving (398).

KEY MATCHUP: Panthers QB Sam Darnold vs. Eagles secondary. Darnold continues to impress in Carolina, combining for four touchdowns — two rushing and two passing — in last week’s 36-28 loss to Dallas. He will face a Philadelphia defense that has allowed a whopping 83 points and 851 total yards in the past two weeks.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles RT Lane Johnson left the team before last Sunday’s game because of a personal matter and hadn’t returned midweek, leaving his status uncertain. ... LT Jordan Mailata missed the past two games with a knee injury but has returned to practice in limited form. ... Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey returned to practice Wednesday after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury, but his status for Sunday remains unclear. Chuba Hubbard will start if McCaffrey is out. ... The Panthers will be without LB Shaq Thompson (foot), another blow to a defense that put two other starters — CB Jaycee Horn (foot) and safety Juston Burris (groin) — on injured reserve last week.

SERIES NOTES: The Panthers have won three of their last five games, but very few players remain on either roster from their last meeting four years ago. ... The most memorable contest came in the 2003 season when the Panthers defeated Donovan McNabb and the Eagles 14-3 in Philadelphia in the NFC championship game to advance to their first Super Bowl. The Panthers would go on to lose to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 38.

STATS AND STUFF: The Eagles have lost three straight. Since beating the Falcons 32-6 in the season opener, the Eagles have been outscored 100-62 in their last three games. ... QB Jalen Hurts threw for a career-high 387 yards and two TDs and ran for 47 yards in a 42-30 loss to the Chiefs last week. He has thrown for at least 300 yards in four of his eight career starts. ... TE Zach Ertz had nine receptions for 138 yards in his last meeting with Carolina. ... WR Greg Ward has caught a TD pass in his last two games. ... C Jason Kelce will make his 110th consecutive regular-season start. He’s the only offensive lineman to start every game. The Eagles have used different line combinations each week. ... DT Javon Hargrave is one of three NFC players with at least five sacks this season. ... The Panthers are 2-0 at home this season. ... Carolina has a plus-31 point differential through four games. ... Coach Matt Rhule is 8-12 since taking over the Panthers. ... Darnold’s five TDs rushing are the most ever by an NFL quarterback through four games. ... Panthers LB Haason Reddick has 12 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his last eight games with the Cardinals and Panthers. ... DE Brian Burns has six sacks in his last six games. ... CB Stephon Gilmore, acquired via trade with the Patriots on Wednesday, remains on the PUP list and will not play. He is eligible to play in Week 7 vs. the New York Giants.

FANTASY TIP: The Panthers’ defense had 14 sacks through the first three games, but none against Dallas. The Eagles have allowed eight sacks through four games and their offensive line has been a revolving door, so this could be a big week for Burns and Reddick.

Gilmore: No hard feelings on Pats, excited to join Panthers

Stephon Gilmore said he’s excited to join the hometown Carolina Panthers team that he grew up rooting for and doesn’t harbor any ill feelings toward the New England Patriots, who traded him away less than two years after being the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s a business,” Gilmore said Thursday. “It happens all of the time. I had good years there, but I’m happy to be a Panther now.”

The Patriots dealt the 31-year-old Gilmore to Carolina on Wednesday for a sixth-round pick in 2023 after the two sides were unable to come to terms on a long-term contract extension. The Panthers will pick up the remaining portion of his contract, which amounts to approximately $5.4 million.

Gilmore said the past 24 hours were “crazy,” and the sudden change in his career destination “is how it is” in the NFL.

“Every year starts over and you have to earn it every year,” Gilmore said. “That is how I look at it. I turn the page every year and try to earn everything I want. That is how I look at every situation.”

Gilmore said Patriots coach Bill Belichick called him directly on Wednesday and informed him of the trade.

He said he was “excited” to learn he was going home to Carolina.

He grew up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which is about 25 miles from Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium. Rock Hill is also the future site of the Panthers headquarters with a scheduled completion date of 2023.

He currently owns a house in Waxhaw, North Carolina, three doors down from Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer.

Gilmore rooted for the Panthers as a kid and said he loved watching Steve Smith Sr., Jake Delhomme, Stephen Davis and Julius Peppers and was pumped when Carolina reached the Super Bowl in the 2003 season.

“It’s a place that I always wanted to play,” said Gilmore, who spent five full seasons in Buffalo before joining the Patriots in 2017. “Looking at the team and what they got, the potential. You have to put in a lot of hard work to get to where you want to go, but for sure it was a great opportunity to come here.”

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