A Win Is a Win Is a Win
First, give credit where credit is due. Philadelphia, A.J. Feeley particularly, played a heck of a game. Andy Reid and his staff devised and excellent game plan, and the Eagles executed most of it very well. That onside kick, while ultimately resulting in no points, was brilliant.
I still have to think about it, but I think it may be the first time I've seen Bill Belichick out-coached. The game plan was .. weird .. and the Patriots did not appear as prepared as probably most people expected.
I didn't understand the game plan at all. In the first half, the only called running play was Heath Evans's 1-yard touchdown dive. The only other rushing play was a Tom Brady scramble for 12 yards. There were no screen passes at all until Brady hit Welker on a "screen-like" play in the third quarter.
Defensively, It appeared that Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork sat out most, if not all, the first two defensive drives. Seymour came in while the Eagles reached the goal line on that second drive, but Wilfork was no where to be found.
Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who has missed most of the season only recently activated off the physically unable to perform list, was simply overmatched. At least one of Greg Lewis's touchdowns came with Jackson "in coverage." Early in the 4th quarter, Rodney Harrison plowed into a pile and knocked Ellis Hobbs out of the game. Feeley went right after Jackson, and it would have been a deep strike to Kevin Curtis, but for James Sanders breaking up the play.
There were far too many drops of very catchable balls. Brady made a few bad throws, but his stat line, while still pretty good, belied his performance. Brady held tough in the pocket, as always, knowing hits were coming.
Brady's record streak of consecutive games with 3 or more touchdown passes came to an end. Brady did, however, lead his 26th career 4th-quarter comeback.
Welker had another great game. Jabar Gaffney had a great game, for what's become expected of him. Moss started fast, but faded. Another completely ludicrous, game-changing, and obviously wrong offensive pass interference call -- it looked like the side judge just couldn't wait for the opportunity to throw that flag -- capped an off night for him.
The defense didn't appear to have any answers for Feeley. Brian Westbrook, they pretty well contained -- 17 carries, 52 yards, 7 receptions, 40 yards -- but Feeley was very Brady-like, spreading the ball around to anyone and everyone who was open. Feeley hit eight different receivers, and but for his 3 interceptions played a solid all-around game. I wouldn't be surprised if Reid sticks with him. At 5-6, it probably doesn't matter much anymore.
Asante Samuel nabbed his 5th and 6th interceptions of the season. No, last year was not a fluke. His first quarter return for a touchdown was his first of the season and the third regular season return for a touchdown in his career. Samuel's second of the night was also the 22nd of his career (matching his jersey number) and moving him past Don Webb for 10th on the Patriots all-time list.
The Patriots are the only team in the league to prevent any opponent to score on its opening possession.
Then a little bad news: Stephen Gostkowski missed a 32-yard straight-away field goal, hooking it left. Matt Light false started twice -- at home.
For the record:
Brady: 34 of 54 (63.0 percent) for 380 yds, TD, 3 sacks, 3 carries, 16 yds, passer rating of 90.0
Maroney: 10 carries, 31 yds
Evans: 1 carry, 1 yd, TD
Welker: 13 receptions, 149 yds
Gaffney: 6 catches, 87 yds, TD
Moss: 5 catches, 43 yds
Stallworth: 4 catches, 54 yds
Harrison: 6 tackles (6 solo, 2 asst), QB hit, special teams tackle
Adalius Thomas: 6 solo tackles
Hobbs: 5 solo, 2 asst
Vrabel: 5 solo, asst, 2 QB hits
James Sanders: 3 solo, 2 asst, INT, 2 passes defended
Samuel: 3 solo, 2 INT, 3 passes defended
Feeley: 27 of 42, 345 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT, 2 sacks, rating of 83.9