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Carson Wentz throws three TDs as Eagles down Panthers

AP

Carson Wentz said he saw some things from the Carolina Panthers he hadn’t seen on film leading to three first-half sacks and plenty of pressure.

It didn’t bother the Philadelphia Eagles’ second-year quarterback.

Wentz came up big in a huge game, throwing for 222 yards and three touchdowns against one of the NFL’s top defenses, and the Eagles beat the Panthers 28-23 on Thursday night to improve to an NFC-best 5-1.

“We kept backs in to handle their linebackers and we did a better job cleaning it up in the second half,” said Wentz, who wasn’t sacked in the second half.

Philadelphia turned two interceptions deep in Carolina territory into 15 points. Wentz teamed with Zach Ertz on two touchdown passes, and LaGarrette Blount scored on a 2-point conversion run for an 18-10 lead in the third quarter. Wentz added a 24-yard scoring pass to Nelson Agholor in the fourth quarter.

“He’s a great leader of this football team, even in his second year,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said about Wentz. “Guys really respect the way he plays. It’s exciting to see that.”

Cam Newton threw three interceptions for the Panthers (4-2).

The first two interceptions came inside Carolina’s 20, but weren’t Newton’s fault. He was hit by Fletcher Cox as he released one pass, and running back Jonathan Stewart bobbled another pass resulting in a pick. Newton’s third interception — by Jalen Mills with 3:06 left — ended a chance for the go-ahead score.

The Panthers had one last shot to win, but turned it over on downs at midfield.

“We gave them layups, giving them the ball inside our 20,” Newton said. “Against a good team like that, well that’s not good ingredients to win. We can’t put our defense in that type of position.”

Carolina middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was placed into the concussion protocol after his body crumpled following a collision with Eagles pulling guard Brandon Brooks. Kuechly missed nine games over the past two seasons with two concussions. All of Philadelphia’s touchdowns came after Kuechly left the game late in the second quarter.

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said it won’t be easy to replace Keuchly, adding “Luke is a big part of what we do.”

Added defensive tackle Kawann Short: “You saw a quick prayer, but then the game has to go on.”

Newton gave the Panthers a 10-3 lead on his 51st career touchdown rushing in the second quarter. He kept the ball on a read option and juked cornerback Rasul Douglas on the 16-yard run.

Douglas got revenge on Carolina’s next possession, intercepting Newton’s pass after Cox crashed into Newton as he was throwing, causing the ball to float high into the air.

After a two-game absence due to a calf injury, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox returned and was a dominant force. Along with the tipped pass on Newton’s interception, he also had a sack and two quarterback hurries.

“There’s no way I could sit him tonight,” Pederson said. “It was too important to him.”

If it hadn’t been for Newton , the Panthers would not have had any running game to speak of against the Eagles. Newton ran for 71 yards and the touchdown, but running backs Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey and Fozzy Whittaker were limited to 1 yard on 13 carries.

“We have a lot of things to look at. We really do,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said of the running game.”

NFL gains victory in court

A federal appeals court cleared the way Thursday for the NFL to impose a six-game suspension on Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott over domestic violence allegations, siding with the league in the latest high-profile fight over its ability to punish players for off-field behavior.

In a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans granted the league’s emergency request to set aside an injunction and ordered a district court in Texas to dismiss Elliott’s case.

The NFL announced that the suspension was effective immediately, though further appeals were possible and the Cowboys are not playing this weekend.

“We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days,” Elliott attorney Frank Salzano said.

The Cowboys don’t play again until Oct. 22 at San Francisco. If Elliott’s legal team can’t put the suspension on hold again, he won’t be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at home against Washington, a Thursday night game the week after Thanksgiving. Elliott played the first five games as Dallas went 2-3 in a disappointing start.

A federal judge in Texas issued the injunction blocking the suspension last month, agreeing with NFL players’ union attorneys who argued that the investigation of the allegations in Ohio and a subsequent appeal were unfair to Elliott, one of the league’s standout running backs.

The NFL countered that it followed procedures under the league’s labor deal and that the union improperly filed a lawsuit before the appeals process was complete.