By: Steve Balestrieri
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots (8-3) came back from an early 10-0 deficit to blow out the Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) by a score of 38-20 to pretty much effectively end any hopes that the Eagles have for a post-season berth.
Things didn’t start well for the Patriots, the Eagles’ Vince Young hit on two long passes to start the game. The first led to a LeSean McCoy touchdown and the second led to a FG that put Philly up 10-0. Tom Brady was being hammered every time he dropped back to pass.
But what separates Bill Belichick from the rest of the coaching masses is his uncanny ability to adjust. From week to week, game to game, quarter to quarter. The Patriots are one of those teams that can re-invent itself for the occasion. Sunday was another example of this.
After the Eagles quick start, they would manage only a FG until the final seconds of the game at garbage time long after the game was in doubt. The Patriots offensive line, saw that the Eagles were bringing pressure with their Double 3 technique where the tackles line up on the outside of the guards rather than inside.
Tom Brady started hitting them with running plays right up the middle, none were of the huge variety, some of the runs were by Brady himself. But it accomplished two things, it made the Eagles respect the run, brought the tackles in a bit closer allowing much better pass protection and opened up play action passing.
That was in evidence by Brady’s long 41 yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, where Welker saw something earlier in the second quarter. In Brady’s post-game press conference, he said, “He said before the play that, ‘If I get this certain look, then I’m going to fake like I’m running the in-cut and then run the post.’ He did it and came to the sideline and said, ‘I told you, I told you!’ So that was pretty funny,” said Brady. “It’s nice when they work out kind of like you talk about it. Wes is so consistent and reliable, he’s a phenomenal player.”
Said Welker, “We ran the same play early on and the safety came down pretty yard, so I told Tom in the huddle that, if I see this coverage, I’m going to step in and go. He was fine with it. Luckily, we got the coverage and were able to get a touchdown.” Welker ran the route, the safeties and linebackers bit hard on the play-action fake and Welker streaked alone down the field where the nearest Eagle defender wasn’t even in the zip code.
The Eagles on the other hand, didn’t make adjustments especially defensively and the end results were that Brady carved them up badly. His final numbers 24-34 for 361 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs don’t begin to tell the entire story. Brady targeted his WRs just 6 times against KC on Monday night, last night they hauled in 14 passes for 240 yards. Brady’s passes for 15+ yards were 4-5 for 144 yards, so it wasn’t just the short- medium passes over the middle, it was complete domination.
Nothing was more indicative of the Patriots adjustments than their first possession of the second half. Going to the hurry up offense, they completely dismantled the Eagles defense and went easily down the field to score a touchdown that put the game quickly into blowout status. Philly was on their heels and wouldn’t recover.
Vince Young passed for 400 yards but those were a lot of empty numbers, they moved the ball through the air a lot, but after their first two possessions, Philly couldn’t find the endzone, while the Patriots were lighting them up. DeSean Jackson dropped a few passes, one in the endzone, he got alligator arms with Jerod Mayo bearing down on him, and the other it seemed that Sergio Brown, caught out of position made a nice reaction to the ball and may have knocked it out of his hands or at least deflected it.
The Patriots did a nice job of taking McCoy out of the mix, the NFL’s leading rusher had only 10 attempts for 31 yards running the football which was enormous because Belichick’s plan was to take away what the Eagles do best and that was run the football and make them beat them through the air. The results were obvious.
Julian Edelman had another big game, playing offense, defense, special teams running back punts and coverage. He even nearly had a sack when he blitzed from the left side and leveled Young with a textbook hit. He stopped Young on a scramble on second and goal where he stayed at home and made a tackle as Young tried to scamper into the endzone.
This is the kind of win where mental toughness and resilency shown through all evening. This is the kind of signature win Bill Belichick loves to see from his team, his comments after the game reflected that. Now the Patriots are in prime position with five games remaining to battle for a prime position in the AFC playoffs.
The defense, especially the patchwork secondary, was burned early twice, but they adjusted and played hard and weren’t burned again, even though the Eagles went back to well many times during the game. The speed of the Eagles offense was a concern, but the team handled it and by the end of the game Jackson was benched and supposedly in an argument with the coaching staff.
In our pre-game matchups we said that the Eagles had no one to matchup with Rob Gronkowski and the answer was both he and Aaron Hernandez were leaving Philadelphia grasping for straws. They couldn’t stop them and the longer the game went on, the worse things got for Philly.
Stay tuned for our Patriots 4th & 2 podcast for the wrap up of the game tonight at 7p.m.