By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots started off the 2013 season in a mostly positive fashion as they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 31-22 on Friday night in Philadelphia.
It is important however to remember that the defenses in Week 1 of the pre-season are of the decidedly vanilla type and the offenses aren’t quite as good nor the defenses quite as bad as was in evidence on Friday evening.
Brady Sharp In Debut- Tom Brady capped off a stellar week of practice against the Eagles with a razor sharp performance going 7-8 for 65 yards and a touchdown. He played two series, a total of 16 snaps and led the Patriots on two touchdown scoring drives.
Tom Brady was sharp in his 2013 debut leading the Patriots to two scoring drives. (FILE:USPresswire)
Brady tossed a beautiful 13 yard scoring toss to RB Shane Vereen in the corner of the end zone that was a carbon copy of the play, they scored on against the Texans in the playoffs back in January.
The Eagles’ Mike Vick was also sharp and teamed up for 47 yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson when he blew by Aqib Talib and caught a perfectly thrown strike from Vick. Vick finished 4-5 for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Running Game, Blount With Big Effort- The player of the game for the Patriots was RB LaGarette Blount who has had a very lackluster camp up to this point but turned in a very solid performance.
Blount has appeared slow and plodding at times this summer but on Friday night had a fantastic effort on a 51 yard touchdown. He tried to run to the outside to his left but seeing there was nothing there, Blount reversed his field and cut back toward the middle and then raced to the end zone. Blount finished the game with 101 yards on 11 carries and 2 TDs.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and ran six plays; all on the ground including a 62 yard burst by Stevan Ridley to score quickly to take a 7-0 lead. Ridley finished with 92 yards on 8 carries as the Patriots rolled to 248 yards rushing.
Rookie WRs Have Decent Start- The young guns at WR had a decent showing in their first NFL action. Kenbrell Thompkins caught four passes, mainly underneath for 23 yards, Aaron Dobson had two catches for 35 yards and Zach Sudfeld had a nice 22 yard reception.
Overall with Brady at the helm and the young players at wide receiver, the offense hummed along twice getting into the endzone each time. An impressive first effort for a unit with so many new faces.
Defense Has A Mixed Evening- After being carved up on Philly’s first drive, the first team defense got a stop on their next series and then got a turnover when DT Tommy Kelly and DE Chandler Jones teamed up for a strip sack of QB Nick Foles with the Patriots recovering the fumble. Kelly and Wilfork look to be a daunting duo at the DT position and Kelly definitely brings more to pressuring the quarterback than any of the Love or Deaderick did in 2012.
There were some issues covering in the secondary, which wasn’t surprising given that two starters (Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard) were out. Rookie Jamie Collins got a lot of work with the second team defense and blitzed more than he did in practice thus far and played well.
He’s still a bit raw and a work in progress but the potential for him is very high. He narrowly missed a sack when he overran a play in the Eagles backfield, allowing Foles to escape.
Jake Ballard- Ballard played in the Patriots first two series and looked excellent in the run blocking game, his block on the edge sprung Ridley for his long gain during the first series. For someone who was hobbling so bad during practice the first 10 days, playing in his first game since the Pats-Giants Super Bowl it has to be a very positive sign.
Offensive Line- Anytime you rush for 248 yards, vanilla defense or not, it is a very positive sign and the first team unit did an outstanding job. With a slew of injuries at RG, tackle Will Svitek filled in and did very well with the first team offense.
Marcus Benard- We’ve written during camp that Benard could have a big impact as a sub-rusher ala Mark Anderson of 2011. Benard got snaps at both DE as well as in the interior at DT. He had one play inside where he got swallowed up in a run, but the team will live with that.
Overall, Benard had a good solid outing and did nothing but help his cause for making the final 53 man roster.
Special Teams- Not a great start for Asst. Coach Scotty O’Brien’s troops. Stephen Gostowski hit on only 1-3 field goals, missing from 44 and 53 while hitting just one a 34 yarder in the first quarter.
Rookie punter Ryan Allen outkicked his coverage and the subsequent return went for a big 62 yard return to the Patriots 29 yard line.
Brandon Bolden got flagged for running into the kicker which gave the Eagles a fresh set of downs. And the return game on kickoffs was rather pedestrian, much was expected with the addition of Leon Washington but didn’t generate much.
Ryan Mallett Leaves Early With Injury- Mallet is still beset by consistency issues, he badly overthrew rookie WR Josh Boyce who was all alone on a seam route into the end zone as well as missing on a few others. He finished 9-18 for 97 yards.
But after making a throw to Julian Edelman under pressure, Mallett took a big hit and suffered what looked to be a whiplash injury to his head/neck area and didn’t return. Tough break for a player who’s playing as many snaps as possible during the pre-season since he’s not going to get to make many appearances during the regular season.
Tim Tebow Debut a Mixed Bag- Tebow finished a rather so-so 4-12 for 55 yards but did add 31 yards rushing. The team did play to his strength and run him out of a read-option set and they ran well out of that formation.
Tebow missed on some throws he should make but did connect on a few nice screens which is something to build upon. He made a nice deep throw, just missing Aaron Dobson on a deep sideline throw in the endzone.
He’s a work in progress and will need to work hard to ever be a QB in the Patriots system. He still holds the ball too long and takes too long to make his reads.
Its back to camp on Monday and next week the Tampa Bay Bucs come in for some practices prior to next Friday night’s game.