Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers one of five teams still undefeated

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates a touchdown run by fullback Mike Tolbert during third quarter action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday. The Panthers defeated the Eagles 27-16.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton celebrates a touchdown run by fullback Mike Tolbert during third quarter action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sunday. The Panthers defeated the Eagles 27-16. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers free safety Kurt Coleman was doing an interview late Sunday night when he stopped in mid-thought and started dancing to a Drake song.

Two months into the NFL season, the Panthers’ dance party just keeps raging.

The Panthers dispatched Philadelphia 27-16 on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium on a night when their $103.8 million quarterback threw three interceptions and finished with a passer rating that was nearly identical to Sam Bradford’s.

But forget about Cam Newton’s 59.2 rating (two of his picks were the fault of his receivers).

The numbers this team cares most about are 6 and 0.

The Panthers are off to their best start in the franchise’s 21-year history and are one of five 6-0 teams. Green Bay, one of those other undefeated teams, visits Charlotte in two weeks in a game that will give someone an early edge in home-field advantage in the NFC.

But next up is Indianapolis, and these Panthers have shown an ability to live a week at a time.

The prime-time matchup against the Eagles (3-4), winners of two in a row before Sunday, had all the makings of a trap game after Carolina’s stirring, come-from-behind win a week earlier in Seattle.

Not so much.

“This isn’t college where you’re getting a I-AA team coming in here,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “These teams are good. These teams are prepared. They’re going to come and give you their best shot. And it was a big win for us.”

It’s telling that Olsen and his teammates are keeping an eye on the NFC South standings. The Panthers won the South last season with seven wins, a total they’ll match next week with a win against the imploding Colts.

But with Atlanta off to a 6-1 start, there will be no backing into the playoffs this year.

“We’re going to need all these wins. You see how competitive our division’s getting,” Olsen said. “Tonight was a really good win for us. To bounce back from last week’s emotional win on the road, come back here, regroup and host a team that was really ascending. We didn’t play real well, and we were still able to find ways to win. I think that’s a credit to this team.”

The Panthers weren’t pretty, but they seemed to get contributions from every corner of the roster – starting with their backfield.

Fullback Mike Tolbert scored a pair of 2-yard touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving, carrying about half of the Eagles’ defense into the end zone on his second score.

Tolbert said the Panthers thought they could exploit Philadelphia’s 3-4 scheme with their stretch running game. But with Jonathan Stewart pounding away for 125 rushing yards, their power run game was effective, as well.

But it wasn’t only the backs who came up big.

Second-year wideout Philly Brown had a long catch on the opening drive. The Philly native added a shorter grab late in the game that was just as important, moving the chains and allowing the Panthers to milk a couple more minutes off the clock.

Linebacker Thomas Davis put a huge hit on slot receiver Jordan Matthews, who killed the Panthers last year, on the Eagles’ second series. Matthews was scarcely heard from again, finishing with 14 receiving yards – or 124 fewer than last season against Carolina.

Olsen did what Olsen does, pulling down a couple of long receptions when the offense needed a boost.

Punter Brad Nortman should get a game ball for making dangerous returner Darren Sproles a non-factor.

Defensive end Jared Allen had an eventful couple of weeks after coming to Charlotte in a trade with Chicago. The NFL’s active sack leader managed to hurt himself in a walkthrough, was gimpy and sack-less in his first game in Tampa and missed the trip to Seattle with a pinched nerve in his back.

But Allen helped seal Sunday’s win with a sack and a tipped pass on the Eagles’ next-to-last series. Allen took advantage of backup tackle Matt Tobin, who came in when Pro Bowler Jason Peters left in the first quarter with a back injury.

Allen said it took him a little time to learn Tobin’s tendencies. He had him pretty well figured out by game’s end when he dropped Bradford twice.

Allen is also getting a good handle on his new squad.

“This team, it’s good. It’s good in all the right ways,” Allen said. “I think it’s a very humble team. It’s the work ethic. It’s the culture that coach (Ron) Rivera provides. No one gets ahead of themselves. And throughout the whole game, everybody’s competing. Everybody’s holding each other accountable. And every time everyone’s playing off each other.”

Newton said the Panthers would enjoy Sunday night’s win, then get back at it Monday for the start of the work week.

“What’s better than 6-and-0?” Newton asked, then answered his own question. “Seven-and-0.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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