PHILADELPHIA — The only time Philadelphia’s fast-paced offense slowed down Thursday was when the Eagles coughed up the ball.
The Panthers minimized a shaky defensive performance by forcing three first-half turnovers in a 14-9 loss in their second preseason game Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field.
With a lackluster pass rush, the Panthers made both of Philadelphia’s quarterback candidates look like quality starters.
Nick Foles and Michael Vick combined to complete 15 of 18 first-half passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns against a Panthers defense that generated no pressure out of its base, 4-3 scheme.
The defensive line appeared to wear down against Philadelphia’s fast-break attack, which first-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly brought to the NFL from Oregon. The Panthers’ only two sacks were by a pair of defensive ends not expected to make the roster – Wes Horton and Louis Ngezwu.
The Eagles led 14-6 at halftime, but it could have been a lot worse for the Panthers if not for their takeaways. Cornerbacks Josh Thomas and Josh Norman each had interceptions, while linebacker Thomas Davis forced a fumble that defensive end Charles Johnson recovered.
Norman’s interception was his third in two preseason games.
The Eagles outgained Carolina 257 to 162 in total yardage in the first half when both teams had their starters in, and held a 17-9 edge in first downs. Philadelphia converted all four of its third-down situations against the Panthers’ first-team defense; the Panthers’ starting offense converted just 2-of-7 third downs.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and the first-team offense logged five series, resulting in a pair of field goals and three punts.
In eight series over the first two preseason games, Newton has guided just one touchdown drive – on a short field (18 yards) last week following Norman’s interception of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. The other seven series have produced four punts, two field goals and an interception.
Newton completed 8-of-17 passes for 112 yards against the Eagles. It was the kind of inconsistent performance Newton has said he wants to eliminate in his third season.
Newton overthrew Steve Smith several times, including a fade route after the Panthers had driven inside the Eagles’ 10 late in the first half.
New offensive coordinator Mike Shula kept his calls conservative, but it’s hard to know how much of that is his philosophy or simply not wanting to reveal too much in the preseason – or some combination of the two.
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who has expressed displeasure in not getting enough touches under former coordinator Rob Chudzinski, had a workmanlike 12 carries for 39 yards.
But the Philadelphia offense was the story.
The Panthers tried to prepare for the Eagles’ tempo during their final training camp practices in Spartanburg, but had a hard time keeping pace Thursday.
The Eagles’ hurry-up offense was hurrying down the field on their first possession before Thomas ended the threat.
Foles fumbled a shotgun snap – his second one of the drive – and rushed his throw when defensive end Greg Hardy grabbed him around the waist. Thomas, competing for a starting spot, caught the ball at the back of the end zone and did a good job keeping his feet inbounds.
But the Panthers couldn’t slow the Eagles on their next possession. Cornerback Drayton Florence, a free agent acquisition, had a rough series.
Florence whiffed on a tackle attempt when Eagles running back LeSean McCoy made a move and cut back for a 21-yard run inside the Panthers’ 10. On the next play, Eagles receiver Riley Cooper sealed off Florence, allowing Foles to scramble around the left end for a 7-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead for Philadelphia.
Kickers Graham Gano and Morgan Lineberry accounted for all the Panthers’ scoring. Gano connected on field goals of 47 and 32 yards, while Lineberry hit from 27.
Joseph Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson