Carolina Panthers

Panthers at Eagles: Joseph Person’s three things to watch

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34), as well as teammate Jonathan Stewart, need to get more touches against Philadelphia – and keep the Eagles potent offense off the field.
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34), as well as teammate Jonathan Stewart, need to get more touches against Philadelphia – and keep the Eagles potent offense off the field. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Can Panthers re-establish the run?

The best way to slow the Eagles’ fast-paced offense is to keep Mark Sanchez, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin on the sideline. That will require Mike Shula sticking with the rushing attack more than in recent weeks. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the loss to the Saints that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart deserve more touches. The Eagles have allowed only one 100-yard rusher – Frank Gore ran for 119 on 24 carries in San Francisco’s Week 4 win. The Panthers don’t need a 100-yard rusher. They need long, sustained drives and manageable second and third downs.

Cashing in on Eagles turnovers

No team has turned over the ball more than the Eagles, whose 21 giveaways have resulted in a minus-10 turnover margin that is tied for next-to-last in the league. Nick Foles, who had only two interceptions last season, had thrown 10 this season before breaking his collarbone last week vs. Houston. Sanchez threw two interceptions after replacing Foles, along with two touchdowns. The Panthers wasted a pair of scoring chances after forcing turnovers on the Saints’ first two possessions. They can’t do that again and expect to keep up with Philadelphia’s potent offense.

Don’t sleep on special teams

The Eagles have four special teams touchdowns through eight games, including one score in a franchise-record three consecutive games from Weeks 3-5. Philadelphia has blocked two punts that were returned for touchdowns, and Chris Polk (102-yard kickoff return vs. Washington) and former Saint Darren Sproles (82-yard punt return at San Francisco) have the other two. Sproles ranks second in the NFL with a 15.4-yard punt return average, so Brad Nortman will have to make sure he gets good hang time and doesn’t outkick his coverage. Panthers return specialist Philly Brown, back after missing two games following a concussion, has to be more sure-handed.

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