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Once again, Eagles' 'D' at a loss

DeMECO RYANS put his hands up in the air and grabbed his helmet in disbelief. Safety Kurt Coleman was flabbergasted.

The Panthers gained 398 total yards against the Eagles Monday night. (Mel Evans/AP)
The Panthers gained 398 total yards against the Eagles Monday night. (Mel Evans/AP)Read more

DeMECO RYANS put his hands up in the air and grabbed his helmet in disbelief.

Safety Kurt Coleman was flabbergasted.

Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks looked lost.

And that was all in less than a three-minute span in the first quarter, in which the 22nd ranked Panthers' offense picked apart the Eagles' defense for two touchdowns easier than slow-cooked Carolina barbecue falls off the bone.

Amazingly, the three-win Panthers finished with four different receivers with at least 50 yards receiving on Monday night. And the Eagles, now 0-5 under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, had no answers as to their miscommunication miscues after a week in which they swore they'd have it all sorted out. Again.

Under Bowles, the Eagles have allowed an average of 31.4 points-per-game, which would make their defense ranked second-to-last over the course of a full season.

It has to come back to miscommunication on the field. It's either miscommunication or just a plain lack of knowledge about the schemes - shifting back and forth from man-to-man coverage and zone defenses - the Eagles are running.

How else can you explain no defender being within a 5-yard radius of Panthers tight end Gary Barnidge's 24-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter?

The Eagles ran a cornerback blitz on the play. Kendricks, whose play has dropped off considerably after a strong start to his rookie season, appeared to bump Barnidge at the line. Barnidge went untouched after that, with neither Coleman nor Ryans even noticing him until he already flicked the ball to the official in the end zone. It's not like Cam Newton, who finished 18-for-28 with 306 yards in the air, had the entire field to work with: The Panthers were almost in the red zone.

It shouldn't be that easy to sneak free. Barnidge has been in the NFL since 2008. It was his first career touchdown and just his 16th career reception. He isn't Jason Witten or Tony Gonzalez - and the Panthers haven't exactly been feared for their passing attack this season.

On a play like that, it's hard to pin blame on one particular player. But Kendricks has received the bulk of the responsibility against tight ends this season for the Eagles.

It was equally as hard to find fault in one particular player on Carolina's next scoring drive. Receiver Brandon LaFell's 43-yard touchdown snag was an almost exact duplication of Barnidge's catch 2 minutes and 36 seconds earlier.

Clearly, the Panthers' coaching staff saw a weakness in the Eagles' defense up the middle. And they exploited it to jump out to a 14-3 lead on their first two drives.

In the second half, when the Eagles appeared to have solved some of their coverage issues downfield, the Panthers switched up their game plan to try and dink-and-dunk down the field. Well, that was after throwing a 55-yard bomb to Louis Murphy on their third play from scrimmage in the half. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged for pass interference on the play, but Murphy made the catch anyway.

Newton, the Eagles' second straight opponent who is a dual threat, ran the ball 11 times in the second half for 34 yards.

Fittingly, Eagles defensive lineman Cedric Thornton was whistled for an encroachment penalty late in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a Panthers' first down inside the Eagles' 10-yard line and ultimately Newton's win-sealing touchdown dance.

By then, most of Lincoln Financial Field had emptied into the cold Philadelphia night. The booing for the Eagles' defense had long stopped. Like the defense, most fans probably left just shrugging.