PHILADELPHIA — A dominant defense made it easy for Mark Sanchez.
Darren Sproles had two touchdowns, Sanchez threw for two scores and the defense sacked Cam Newton nine times to help the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Carolina Panthers 45-21 Monday night.
Filling in for an injured Nick Foles, Sanchez had 332 yards passing in his first start since Dec. 30, 2012. Sproles returned a punt 65 yards for a score and had an 8-yard TD run. Bradley Fletcher returned an interception 34 yards for a TD and Jordan Matthews had 138 yards receiving and two TDs.
The Eagles (7-2) stayed on top in the NFC East. They're trying to repeat as division champions without Foles, who broke his collarbone in a win at Houston last week.
The Panthers (3-6-1) hardly look like the team that won the NFC South last year. They've lost four in a row and already have allowed more points in 10 games than they did in 2013. Making things worse, Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was carted off the field late in the third quarter.
Newton threw the first of three interceptions and DeAngelo Williams lost a fumble on Carolina's first three plays from scrimmage. The turnovers led to 10 points for the Eagles.
Conor Barwin had 3 ½ sacks and Brandon Graham had 1 ½. Newton had never been sacked more than seven times in his career.
The game was in Philadelphia's control when Newton threw a pair of fourth-quarter TDs to Kelvin Benjamin.
Casey Matthews, starting for injured linebacker DeMeco Ryans, forced Williams' fumble and Cedric Thornton recovered at the Panthers 22. Cody Parkey hit a 39-yarder to make it 3-0.
Cary Williams then intercepted Newton on Carolina's next offensive play. It was the first pick by an Eagles cornerback this season.
Sanchez completed passes of 15 yards to Jeremy Maclin and 21 yards to Brent Celek to set up Sproles' score. Sproles took a handoff and ran off the left side untouched.
The Panthers answered on their ensuing possession. Newton connected with Greg Olsen on a 38-yard pass and converted a pair of third-down passes to keep the drive going. Jonathan Stewart jumped over the top from the 1 to cut it to 10-7.
Sproles broke loose up the middle, deked punter Brad Nortman and cut to the right sideline on his way to his second punt return for a score this season and fourth in his career, giving the Eagles a 17-7 lead.
Fletcher stepped in front of a poor pass intended for Jason Avant and ran it back to put the Eagles up 31-7. The Eagles already have a franchise-record nine touchdowns on defense and special teams.
LeSean McCoy ran in from the 1 to make it 38-7. Matthews caught an 18-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.
Benjamin had TD catches of 21 and 40 yards.
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