PHILADELPHIA -- Say what you want about Cam Newton, but he was the best player in the game Monday night.
Newton threw for two touchdowns, ran for two more and never turned the ball over in the Panthers’ 30-22 win over Philadelphia, as Carolina improved to 3-8 this season.
Newton 2.0 seemed a lot like Newton 1.0 Monday night, which was a good thing. The Eagles couldn’t get hold of him on critical third downs. He didn’t make every throw perfectly, but he completed passes of 55 and 43 yards and generally made the right decisions (he threw for 306 yards, with a QB rating of 125.0). He was back to “Superman,” in other words, dominating much of the evening before a national TV audience. Worth noting also: it was Newton's second straight game without a turnover.
-- The Eagles (3-8) were without their top quarterback (Michael Vick), their top running back (LeSean McCoy) and – for almost the entire game – their top wide receiver (DeSean Jackson). And still the Eagles hung in there. Carolina was fortunate to cause and recover three second-half fumbles that helped ensure the victory. And how about a game ball for Gary Barnidge -- the reserve tight end caught a 24-yard TD pass and recovered the Eagles' final fumble on a kickoff.
-- One of the most amazing stats of the season: The Panthers are now 0-for-12 on coin tosses (including an overtime coin toss they also lost). As the visitors, the Panthers get to call the opening toss on Sunday at Kansas City. I think the team should have an online “heads” or “tails” poll of fans on their website, have fans pay a quarter for each vote with all the money going to charity and let the winner be the Panthers’ call on Sunday.
-- The way the Panthers shuffle through placekickers, Graham Gano has to be on somewhat thin ice now after missing an extra point in the fourth quarter that would have iced the game (the Panthers then led by eight points, not nine). His kickoffs were generally good, though. He did make a 23-yard field goal.
-- Although Eagles fans are renowned for their loyalty – and their frequent booing – even that loyalty has some limits. The stands at Lincoln Financial Field probably included at least 10,000 empty seats.
-- Sherrod Martin dropped two potential interceptions on the same series – the Eagles’ first of the first quarter. If Martin makes either of those picks, I think rookie Nick Foles’ confidence would have eroded early. But Martin did cause that key fourth-quarter fumble on special teams.
-- The Eagles actually were offsides on three consecutive plays late in the fourth quarter – on defense. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before.
-- Even in the Philadelphia pressbox, word spread of the Charlotte Bobcats’ astonishing 64-24 halftime deficit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s just a score you don’t see very often.