Panthers remain perfect, Eagles remain in search of answers on offense
Mike Tolbert has heard the critics question the legitimacy of the Carolina Panthers’ unbeaten start to the season.
The veteran fullback laughs it off, saying he couldn’t care less.
"You can doubt us all you want," Tolbert said. "We’re just going to keep pounding, just like our motto says."
Tolbert kept pounding Sunday night — right into the end zone. Tolbert scored two touchdowns — bulldozing over four players to get in on one pass play — and Cam Newton ran for one score and threw for another as the Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-16 on Sunday night to improve to 6-0 for the first time in franchise history.
"That’s the motto of this franchise is to keep pounding and we showed a little bit of that," Newton said.
Tolbert epitomized that motto.
With the Panthers lead 14-6, Tolbert caught a pass in the flat from Newton at the Eagles 2, got knocked 3 yards back by Malcolm Jenkins, regained his momentum and bulled his way into the end zone through four Eagles.
With the win, the Panthers became the fifth NFL team this season to reach 6-0, joining New England, Denver, Cincinnati and Green Bay.
The Panthers held Sam Bradford to 205 yards passing and sacked him five times, including two by Jared Allen to help seal the win. Ryan Mathews ran for 97 yards on just six carries, including a 63-yard touchdown, but the Eagles (3-4) were only able to convert three interceptions by Newton into six points.
"We talk about responses to turnovers and we end up kicking two field goals," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "Our defense did a good job of creating turnovers for us. We’ve got to turn those into seven and not three (points)."
Newton finished 14 of 24 for 197 yards. Two of his picks hit off the hands of his wide receivers.
"We didn’t play our best brand of football tonight," Newton said.
Newton took another step toward rewriting the NFL record book.
It marked the fourth time this season and 28th time in his career he has run and thrown for a touchdown in the same game — only three behind Hall of Famer Steve Young for the league record.
Jonathan Stewart ran for 119 yards for Carolina, which has won a franchise-record 10 straight regular-season games dating to last season.
Last November, the Panthers turned the ball over on two of their first three plays in an embarrassing 45-21 loss to the Eagles on Monday Night Football.
The Panthers started off this game much quicker.
Stewart ran twice for 45 yards on Carolina’s first two plays from scrimmage, Newton zipped a pass to Philly Brown for 25 yards and Tolbert scored on the fourth play of the drive on a 2-yard run for a quick 7-0 lead.
The Panthers pushed the lead to 14-3 when Newton reached the ball across the goal line for a 2-yard score. It was his fourth rushing touchdown of the season. Young totaled 43 career rushing touchdowns over 15 seasons. Newton has 37 just six games into his fifth season.
Tolbert pushed the lead to 21-6 when he caught a pass in the flat, bounced off a hit from Malcolm Jenkins and carried four Eagles into the end zone with him for a 2-yard TD reception.
But the Eagles wouldn’t go away.
Mathews’ 63-yard burst up the middle quieted the crowd, and cornerback Byron Maxwell intercepted Newton on a ball that deflected off the hands of Devin Funchess leading to a field goal by the Eagles.
Trailing 24-16, the Eagles had one last chance to tie and send it into overtime, but Allen came up with two sacks and a batted ball on a crucial series with less than three minutes to play. Allen now has 136 career sacks, more than any active player in the league.
"This team is good, and it’s good in all the right ways," said Allen, who joined the team in a trade last month with Chicago. "It’s a very humble team. It’s the work ethic. It’s the culture that coach Ron Rivera provides. … There’s never any panic, at least none I’ve seen so far."
Eagles seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters was carted off the field in the first quarter with back spasms after he fell to the ground while trying to block Allen.
Notes: Rivera said defensive end Mario Addison has a sprained shoulder and will miss next Monday night’s game against the Indianapolis. … DeMarco Murray had 65 yards on 18 carries for the Eagles.