CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A lot of things have been wrong with the Eagles at one time or another this season.

An interception-prone quarterback. A malfunctioning run game. Receivers that can't seem to hang on to the ball.

Third-down impotence. On-again-off-again coverage problems.

Through it all, the one thing the Eagles have been able to count on week in and week out was their run defense.

They went into Sunday night's game against the unbeaten Carolina Panthers ranked third in the league in rushing average, holding opponents to 3.5 yards per carry.

They had held opponents to 94.2 rushing yards per game, the eighth best mark in the league. They had given up just 23 rushing first downs in the first six games for a league-best 3.8 per game. They hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 games.

They knew they needed to be every bit as dominant Sunday against a Panthers team that was averaging a league-high 32.8 rushing attempts per game and 132.8 rushing yards per game.

But they weren't.

The Panthers rushed for 204 yards and averaged a hefty 6.2 yards per carry in their 27-16 win over the Eagles.

The Eagles' front seven was gashed for 118 yards in the first half alone, including an early tone-setting 36-yard run by 235-pound battering ram Jonathan Stewart and a costly 43-yard run on a reverse by wide receiver Ted Ginn.

Both of those long runs helped set up first-half touchdowns for Carolina.

Stewart became the first player to rush for 100 yards against the Eagles since the 49ers' Frank Gore did it in Week 4 last season. Stewart finished with 125 yards on 24 carries.

"We gotta hit him," Fletcher Cox said. "We gotta hit him and stick him. He's like a lot of other backs in the league. Downhill, one-cut guys. You gotta tackle them."

Stewart picked up 9 yards on the Panthers' first play of the game, then found a gaping hole on the left side of the line on the very next play and sauntered 36 yards to the Philadelphia 27-yard line. Two plays later, Mike Tolbert scored on a 2-yard run. It was just the second rushing touchdown the Eagles had given up this season.

Stewart rushed for 69 yards on eight carries in the first half. Also had a 10-yard run in the second quarter on a second-and-3 play.

"The credit goes to them," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "They had that first counter to the open side. We took one bad step and they climbed up on us. It was a nice run.

Ginn's reverse was a killer. It came on the possession right after Caleb Sturgis booted a 52-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game.

Davis sent linebacker Marcus Smith into the game to give Brandon Graham a few snaps off. Smith got victimized on the play, failing to protect the backside from exactly the kind of tricker that the Panthers pulled.

"We have to be where we're supposed to be," Davis said. "We've done a great job with the discipline in our gaps. That's where you stop the run. That's how you get it done.

"Sometimes you're out of your gap and it doesn't cost you. Tonight they had a couple of them that did. (On the reverse) we had a guy out there who had the force. But (Smith) got his eyes in a bad spot and they outflanked us. You can't get outflanked on a reverse."

That gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the Philadelphia 8. The Eagles stopped Stewart for no gain, but then nose tackle Bennie Logan, who has been one of the stars of the Eagles' defense this season, picked up not one, but two consecutive encroachment penalties, giving Carolina the ball at the 2-yard line. Quarterback Cam Newton took it in from there to make it a 14-3 game.

Logan insisted that a Carolina lineman moved on both of his offsides penalties.

"He moved before I moved," he said. "You watched the game. He moved before I moved. Of course I'm going to jump when I see him move.

"But I need to be more disciplined. After the first one, I should've understood that they weren't going to call it. So I just have to be more disciplined."

Newton came into the game averaging 10 carries and 45 rushing yards per game. For the most part, the Eagles did a good job of keeping him in the pocket and not letting him run loose. He finished with just 20 yards on four carries.

But he had the touchdown run and converted a third-and-2. And he ran a back-breaking quarterback draw in the fourth quarter right through the guts of the Eagles'defense, gaining 16 yards and giving Carolina a first down at the Eagle 18. The Eagles stopped them, but Graham Gano's 35-yard field goal gave the Panthers an eight-point lead with 9 minutes left.

The Panthers had nine rushing first downs, including six in the first half. The Eagles hadn't given up more than five in any of their first six games.

"The way Stewart was running today, the mantra of this franchise is keep pounding," Newton said.

Blog: eagletarian.com