Before Sunday’s match between the Panthers and Eagles, recently signed Carolina safety Eric Reid and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins had to be separated by referees.
This type of interaction typically occurs during the game, often after physical battles take place between contending positons such as receiver and cornerback.
Rarely do they occur during pre-game warm-ups between two players of the same position, and even more rarely is the issue at hand a political one.
“He’s a sellout,” Reid told reporters after the game. “His actions speak louder than his words.”
Reid was referencing Jenkins’ actions as the co-founder of the NFL’s Player Coalition, a group formed on behalf of players protesting during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice.
Jenkins, along with former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, led the group in negotiations with the NFL that resulted in a seven-year, $89 million-dollar social justice partnership between the league and its players.
While no language in the agreement prohibited protesting during the anthem, the league hoped the effort would discourage future anthem protests – which began when Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem of a preseason game in 2016 – from taking place.
Reid contends taking money from the NFL defeats the purpose of the protest, believing an agreement with the NFL should result in more than financial support. He also blames Jenkins and Boldin for not involving more players in the Coalition’s conversations with the league.
Through the match’s first three quarters, it appeared the two contending teams would not live up to the contentiousness exhibited during the pre-game squabble.
Quarterback Carson Wentz was completing passes with ease and efficiency all afternoon, and the Panthers could not move the ball on offence, punting on their first five drives to start the match.
The Eagles late third-quarter touchdown drive, which gave them a 17-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter, made a Philadelphia victory appear imminent.
All Doug Pederson’s offence had to do was run out the clock with rushing plays and get a few first downs to procure a convincing win against an NFC playoff contender.
But then the unlikely – and seemingly impossible – happened.
The Panthers, after a putrid first three quarters offensively, put together three straight touchdowns behind quarterback Cam Newton in the fourth quarter and forced two Eagle punts to give Carolina a 21-17 lead with 1:22 left to play.
A 48-yard pass interference penalty called against Panthers cornerback James Bradberry on the ensuing drive gave the Eagles the ball in Panthers territory with 1:17 on the clock, still trailing, 21-17.
Carson Wentz appeared to be intercepted by Reid on the next play, but the call was overturned by replay officials, giving the Eagles a second chance to avoid the late collapse.
On fourth and two from the Carolina 14, however, Wentz was strip-sacked by Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, effectively ending the game and solidifying Carolina’s comeback for the ages.
The result of the game and the actions in pre-game indicated two things are true as it relates to this Panthers team.
Cam Newton appears to have his 2015 MVP swagger back, and Eric Reid has no plans of quieting down anytime soon.
Both storylines will be interesting to watch play out for the remainder of the season.
Game of the weekend: Buccaneers defeat Browns, 26-23 (OT)
Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro redeemed his missed field goal at the end of regulation with a 59-yard kick to win it for Tampa Bay in overtime.
Down 23-9 to begin the fourth quarter, the Browns scored 14 unanswered points behind a touchdown run by running back Nick Chubb and a Baker Mayfield touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry. The late comeback took Cleveland to their fourth overtime this season (most for a team since Arizona in 2011), but a Jabrill Peppers fumble proved costly for the Browns in the extra quarter.
After forcing a Tampa Bay punt with 3:27 to play in overtime, Peppers gained 14 yards before coughing up the fumble, which gave the Buccaneers possession in Cleveland territory.
The turnover set up Catanzaro’s match-winning kick, sending Cleveland to their second straight loss, moving them to 2-4-1 on the season. The Buccaneers evened their record at 3-3.
Play of the weekend: Mitchell Trubisky’s (almost) miracle Hail Mary
Trailing 38-31 with time expiring in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky uncorked a 54-yard pass down the field to receiver Kevin White, who snatched the ball away from two New England defensive backs at the one-yard line.
Despite a heroic effort by White to force his way into the end zone after the catch, a swarm of six Patriot defenders wrestled him away from the goal line. The miracle that wasn’t left the Bears inches away from an extra point that would have sent the match to overtime.
Major credit is due to the Patriots secondary, whose effort defending the goal line was arguably more impressive than the completed Hail Mary pass itself.
Next week’s key matchup: Eagles vs Jaguars at Wembley Stadium (London)
A battle of two teams many predicted might face each other in the Super Bowl this year appears to have far different implications than it did at the beginning of the season.
Coming off demoralising losses in week six, both the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles and the AFC runner-up Jaguars travel to London with 3-4 records hoping to maintain in playoff contention.