Patriots at Eagles thumbs up, thumbs down: Tom Brady, offense struggle in win in Philly

Andy Hart
November 17, 2019 - 9:46 pm
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Two weeks removed from their first loss of the season in Baltimore and after a week off for the bye, the Patriots (9-1) returned to action Sunday evening in Philly with a lackluster 17-10 win over the Eagles.

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The Super Bowl LII rematch included far more punts than that epic battle, though Philadelphia got off to the early 10-0 lead before New England fought back to within a point at halftime thanks to three Nick Folk field goals.

The Patriots then put their best drive of the day together to open the second half, a no-huddle, up-tempo march that included a 30-yard screen play for Rex Burkhead and then a trick play, 15-yard touchdown pass from Julian Edelman to Phillip Dorsett to give the visitors the 17-10 advantage on the two-point run by James White.

The teams – which combined for a single punt in Super Bowl LII – then swapped 10 straight punts over the course of the third and fourth quarters to essentially close out the game.

It wasn’t too pretty at times on either side of the ball, but it goes down in the win column nonetheless.

Before turning the page to next week’s battle with the Cowboys at Gillette Stadium, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the victory over the Eagles.

Thumbs up

Pass defense – New England’s biggest strength all season was also its biggest strength in Philly. The Stephon Gilmore-led coverage was stellar. The pressure and sacks started to pile up after right tackle Lane Johnson left with head injury and left tackle Jason Peter limped off later. Overall the Eagles netted just 174 yards through the air. Carson Wentz completed just 20 of 40 passes for one touchdown and no picks for a 74.4 rating, while being sacked five times. Zach Ertz got his for the Eagles, finishing with nine catches for 94 yards. Overall, though, it was another all-around impressive night for the pass defense.

Nick Folk – It’s been an unsettled season for New England’s place kickers. But so far so good for Folk. After hitting each of his field goals and PATs in his Patriots debut in Baltimore, the veteran Folk remained perfect in Philly, including three first-half field goals that represented all of New England’s points at that point. As things have played out at the position, and in tight games, Folk deserves credit for his perfect night against the Eagles.

Third down defense – One of the more dominant aspects of the Patriots defense early in the season was third down production and that was obviously another key in the win forcing eight punts at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles converted just three of 13 third-down chances (23-percent) on the evening. Bill Belichick pointed out that part of the problem on the Eagles’ long early scoring drive was struggling to get the home team to third-down situations. Thanks in large part to the pass defense, New England’s third-down defense is elite.

Josh McDaniels/double-pass TD – The Patriots threw a lot against the wall to try to jumpstart the offense. Not too much of it worked, but the second double pass of the game hit pay dirt for an easy touchdown to open the second half. After using the tempo to move the ball, Josh McDaniels dialed up a Brady-to-Edelman-to-Dorsett throw that found the receiver wide open in the middle of the end zone. In a dogfight game, that play ended up being a key step toward victory.

Jake Bailey – The rookie punter was called on to boot the ball eight times in tough winds in Philly and executed in impressive fashion. He finished the game with a gross average of 47.6 yards and an extremely impressive 46-yard net. In a tight game where every play mattered, the rookie punter did his job.

Thumbs down

Screen game – It seemed that one of the adjustments or game-plan ideas that came out of the bye week was a focus on the screen game. Aside from the missed tackle by Philly that led to the 30-yard Burkhead gain on the first drive of the second half, the screens weren’t overly effective. Brady didn’t look comfortable on some of the misdirection screens and again had to spike the ball into the turf. The screen game has been a key part of the Patriots offense in the past, including earlier this season, but it wasn’t very well executed against the Eagles.

Sony Michel/Rushing offense – New England’s struggling rushing attack continued to fail to produce in Philly. Sony Michel came in averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on the year. He had 10 carries for 33 yards and that very unimpressive average against the Eagles. As a team New England ran it 21 times for 75 yards for a 3.6-yard average against a solid run defense. As the offense looks for more consistent ways to produce and move the ball, Michel and the ground game aren’t adding much to the mix.

Tom Brady – Usually when Brady sets a record at this point in his two-decade career, it’s a good thing. Sunday evening in Philly, not so much, as Brady set a career high with 14 incompletions in the first half against the Eagles. That inefficient half included a would-be interception in the end zone that was dropped Rodney McCloud. From ugly screen passes and missed short throws to feeling the pressure, Brady never got into much rhythm. He finished completing 26 of 47 passes (55.3 percent) for 216 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions for a 63.7 passer rating, his second worst of the season. He didn’t seem too happy about it afterwards.

Related: Patriots 17, Eagles 10: 10 quick thoughts from tough win on road