Cam Newton passed for over 300 yards and accounted for four touchdowns as the Carolina Panthers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the reeling Philadelphia Eagles 30-22 at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night.
Newton and the Panthers offense started fast, scoring touchdowns on each of their first two possessions. Following a 36-yard field goal by Eagles kicker Alex Henery, Newton found a wide open Gary Barnidge down the left seam for a 24-yard touchdown, capping off an five-minute, eight-play drive that spanned 72 yards. After a three-and-out by the Eagles' offense, the Panthers took over at their own 45-yard line. Newton needed just three plays to get the Panthers back in the end zone, finding a wide-open Brandon LaFell, again down the left seam, for a 43-yard touchdown.
The Eagles would claw back and take the lead in the second quarter. A 41-yard field goal by Henery trimmed the Panthers' lead to 14-6 and, on their next possession, Eagles seventh-round running back Bryce Brown would go around right end for a 65-yard touchdown run to pull within two points of the lead. A curious decision by Andy Reid to go for the two-point conversion so early in the game would backfire, as rookie quarterback Nick Foles' pass attempt would fall incomplete.
Henery added a 45-yard field goal with 3:20 to play in the second quarter to send the Eagles into halftime with a 15-14 lead.
A clipping penalty on the opening kick of the second half on fullback Mike Tolbert would pin the Panthers offense at their own 5-yard line, but Newton would use his arm to flip the field. Facing a second-and-11 play from their own 16-yard line, Newton and wide receiver Louis Murphy would hook up for a 55-yard gain, as Murphy would outleap Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was flagged for defensive pass interference, and safety Kurt Coleman for the ball.
Three plays later, Newton would use his legs to extend the drive, scrambling for 14 yards to pick up a critical third-and-12 to put the Panthers inside the Eagles' red zone. On a third-and-1 from the Eagles' 1-yard line, Newton called his own number, leaping into the air and extending the ball over the goal-line to give the Panthers a 21-15 lead with over nine minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Eagles responded by marching into scoring position, but the drive came to an abrupt halt as Panthers defensive tackle Sione Fua forced a spinning Brown to fumble, with first-round linebacker Luke Kuechly pouncing on the loose ball.
Brown would atone for that mistake with a 5-yard touchdown on the Eagles' next set of downs, putting the Eagles back in front, 22-21. Brown's second touchdown of the night was set up by a 51-yard pass interference penalty on Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura, who wrapped his left hand around Maclin's shoulder as the two competed for the ball.
Making his first NFL start for an injured LeSean McCoy (concussion), Brown ran for 178 yards, setting a single-game record for rushing yards by a rookie. Brown would add four receptions for 11 yards, but his impressive performance was marred by ball security issues. Late in the third quarter, Brown would once again allow a Panthers defender to jar the ball loose as defensive end Charles Johnson would rip the ball from Brown's grasp and into the awaiting arms of linebacker Thomas Davis.
Taking over in Eagles' territory, Newton moved the Panthers inside the red zone by picking up chunks of yardage via completions of 19 yards to LaFell and 12 yards to starting tight end Greg Olsen. Two rushing attempts by Newton would get the Panthers to the 5-yard line, but an incomplete pass to Steve Smith would force Carolina to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Graham Gano to take a 24-22 lead with over 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defense would help keep the Eagles out of scoring range, as Brown was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play at the Panthers' 40-yard line by rookie defensive tackle Frank Alexander.
Immediately after the big stop by Alexander, Newton found Smith for 31 yards. Three plays later, Newton dumped the ball off to Tolbert, who rumbled 13 yards to pick up a key third-and-10 play that included an offsides penalty on defensive end Jason Babin, the first of a three-play sequence where an Eagles' defender would jump offsides. Newton would score from 2 yards out, but Gano missed the extra point, giving the Eagles a chance with over four minutes remaining to tie the game. Philadelphia's hopes would be dashed as Panthers safety Sherrod Martin stripped the ball from rookie cornerback/return specialist Brandon Boykin at the end of a 44-yard return, which was recovered by Barnidge. The Panthers would run out the final 4:29 of game clock to come away with the victory.
Newton has not been as impressive in 2012 as he was during his outstanding rookie season, but the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft was the obvious star of the game on Monday night. Newton completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 306 yards and the touchdowns, while also adding a team-high 52 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. With the Panthers firmly out of the playoff race, Newton said the win on Monday will help the team as it attempts to finish out the season on a positive note.
"It means a lot. It means a lot," Newton told ESPN's Lisa Salters of the win over the Eagles. "On prime-time football, in front of America. We just gotta get that swag back, get our confidence back and finish out the season strong."
The Panthers will have another opportunity to get more of their swag back when they visit the 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday.
For the Eagles, Foles completed 16 of 21 attempts, but had just 119 yards as his longest completion went for just 16 yards. Part of the lack of explosion in the passing game was due to the loss of No. 1 receiver DeSean Jackson, who exited the game early with a sternum injury and would not return. Maclin led Eagles receivers with five receptions for 55 yards. With a seventh consecutive loss, the Eagles drop to 3-8 on the 2012 season and will hit the road for a game against the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday night.