Patriots Squeak By Philly
Fans Should Expect More of the Same
Forget "blueprints." Forget "getting exposed." Forget everything you hear in the mainstream bandwagon media. While any given game can be a microcosm of a team's season, for the New England Patriots, Sunday's 31-28 win over Philadelphia was not.
Still, Patriots players probably got the same message over the last couple days that Patriots fans should take to heart: Get used to it.
No, not the close games, though there could still be some those. Get used to every team bringing it's A game, pulling out all the stops, doing whatever it can to upend the Patriots and "make their season."
31 - - - 28
If there was a blueprint from Sunday for other team to follow, it's "Try everything."
Onside kicks, flea-flickers, stunt blitzes, start your backup quarterback. Whatever it takes.
One of the most impressive aspects of Philadelphia's game is those blitzes. You read about them, but it's a different thing seeing them. I'm sure the Patriots had plenty of league-supplied game film (you have to say it's league-supplied now or people will get the wrong idea), but for those of us not privy to the video, it was pretty amazing.
Philly's schemes are different from New England's but no less effective. It was very difficult to predict who would blitz and where they'd be coming from. As well as the Patriots line played through the first 10 games, they had a very difficult time blocking everyone the Eagles threw at them.
Sealing the Deal -- Patriots safety James Sanders ended the last Philadelphia threat with an interception in the closing seconds of Sunday's 31-28 win.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Barry Chin
Nick Kaczur looked particularly helpless, giving up a pair of sacks. Matt Light also false-started twice, likely anticipating the block.
Still, you have to give the line credit. More often than not, the Patriots ran 4-wide sets and rarely did they keep in extra blockers to protect Brady. Using that strategy, the Patriots scored two touchdowns and a field goal on their three first-half possessions (plus Asante Samuel's interception return).
As poorly as the defense appeared to play, they gave up just 7 points in the second half, and they sealed the game with a pair of interceptions. The bad news is that several players were injured, including Randall Gay, who hurt his back in the second quarter and didn't return, and Rosevelt Colvin, who was injured late in the third quarter and today was placed on injured reserve.
The first half was rough though. Philadelphia was 5 of 8 on 3rd-down conversions in the first half and 1-for-1 on 4th down. That help the Eagles control the clock, winning the time of possession battle, 17:28 to 12:32. Philly maintained their conversion average, going 3 of 5 in the second half, but the Patriots turned around time of possession, 19: 39 to 10:21. New England finished the game with a 4-minute edge in that stat.
For all the talk of the Patriots' lack of a running game, the Eagles didn't do much better. In fact, the Patriots were better in the second half. New England held Brian Westbrook to 52 yards in the game -- just 9 yards on 4 carries in the second half. Philly as a team had 46 yards rushing in the first half, adding only Westbrook's 9 in the second.
New England ran the ball just 3 fewer times than the Eagles and gained 7 fewer yards. The Patriots actually had the edge in yards per carry, 3.0 to 2.9.
Both quarterbacks, too, had very comparable numbers. A.J. Feeley was 14 of 20 in the first half for 193 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Brady was 19 of 25 for 204 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. In the second half, Feeley was 13 of 22 for 153 yards with a touchdown and two picks, while Brady was 15 of 29 for 176 yards, with no touchdowns but also no interceptions.
Remember This Guy? -- Patriots running back Laurence Maroney punches in the 4th-quarter game-winning touchdown, but he was scarce for most of the game with just 10 carries for 31 yards, all in the second half.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / AP Photo
Maybe the most telling stats (besides turnovers) were the red zone numbers. Philly was 3-for-3 in the red zone and 1-for-1 inside the 10. New England was just 3 of 5 inside the 20 and just 2 of 4 in goal-to-go situations.
So Brady wasn't godlike. Nor was Randy Moss, who finished with five catches for 43 yards, though he was ripped off of a 4-yard touchdown. And Light and Kaczur didn't play their best. And the defense gave up a lot of passing yards and a bunch of 3rd-down conversions. And Stephen Gostkowski missed a 32-yard field goal. And backup d-back Eddie Jackson got eaten for lunch.
But Wes Welker had a career night, and Gaffney had his best regular season game as a Patriot. Samuel had a pair of picks, and James Sanders may have planted his name in a few more minds. Rodney Harrison had another excellent game. And the special teams coverage and return squads played well again. Heck, even Chris Hanson was decent, punting twice and averaged 41.0 yards per punt.
So New England didn't play their best game, a lot due to Philadelphia playing an excellent one. Really, it's hard to say the Patriots played really poorly. We're just so used to them playing that much better.
But get used to it. Teams will be coming at New England with everything they have. Especially those teams with nothing to lose, and there are three of those in the last five games.
Getting the Job Done -- Patriots receiver Wes Welker had a career game and led New England with 13 receptions for 149 yards. Funny, I don't remember this facemask being called.
Photo courtesy: The Boston Globe / Barry Chin
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