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Darius Slay, Eagles secondary shines for first time in 2021

The Philadelphia Eagles needed a few big plays down the stretch to close out a 21-18 road win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in 2021, the secondary delivered.

Darius Slay and Steven Nelson combined for three interceptions, helping Jonathan Gannon’s defense shut down the Panthers in the second-half. While the Eagles offense started the game slow in Charlotte, the defense stepped up when needed to help the team snap a three-game losing streak.

“I’m going to compete. Whatever you need me to do, I’m gonna do whatever at my highest ability and I’m going to do it for the team,” Slay said postgame. “All the DB guys, I told them ‘I’m gonna need everyone today. I leaned on those guys. We cover each other, and I appreciate them for having my back out there and putting me in position to make the plays that I made.”

Slay registered his first multi-interception game with the Eagles and his third overall as an NFL player. The 6-feet, 190 lb. cornerback now has 22 interceptions for his career and will likely need more of them throughout this season if the Eagles want to come anywhere near a playoff spot.

Nelson, who is in his first season with the Eagles, delivered the sucker punch to Carolina’s offense, intercepting Sam Darnold late in the fourth quarter to ice the comeback win. The 28-year-old only has eight interceptions during his seven-year career, but his most recent came at an important time for the Eagles.

With Carolina looking to march down the field for its fourth win of the season, Nelson jumped in front of D.J. Moore and picked off Darnold before falling out of bounds. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense would eventually run out the clock, but it was the key defensive plays from both Slay and Nelson which saved the Eagles from falling to 1-4 in Nick Sirianni’s first season in charge.

“I feel like that’s how it happens,” Nelson said of the defense’s three takeaways on Sunday. “It’s just one of those things, you can’t really time or put a timetable on it. They just occur.

“I think that we proved that we’re a tough team that can fight back through anything,” Nelson said. “It’s still early. We’re still ironing out some kinks. We came and got the victory today.”

Sunday marked the first Eagles performance in which they intercepted the opposing quarterback three times since 2019 against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. After being exposed in recent losses to both Dallas and Kansas City, the Eagles secondary rose to the occasion and showed they can play their part this season.

Another tough test for the team comes in a quick turnaround as the Eagles host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football at Lincoln Financial Field. However, with needed confidence under their belt, the Eagles will be ready for the challenge against one of the league’s all-time best passers.

“A great job of the dawg mentality of our defensive players and our defensive staff. They played a great game, they had three turnovers,” said Sirianni. “They just came together and played a great game.”

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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