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Patriots 38 Eagles 20: Patriots Offense Back on Track In Dominating Victory

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Watching the first few minutes of the New England Patriots road battle against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon, it might have looked like the Patriots were in for a long day.

On the third play of the game, Eagles quarterback Vince Young bombed the ball down the right sideline for 58 yards to receiver Riley Cooper.  Cooper hauled in what was a nearly perfect pass from Young (Kyle Arrington in coverage), and LeSean McCoy of the Eagles punched the ball in to the end zone on a two yard run two plays later.

After picking up one first down, the Eagles brought the Patriots opening drive to a quick hault.  The Eagles then capitalized on another breakdown in the Patriots' secondary, with DeSean Jackson burning Antwaun Molden for what turned out to be a 44 yard game.  However, the Patriots defense then stiffened and held the Eagles to three points.

At that point, down 10-0, the Patriots simply took over.

On the next drive, Tom Brady took the Patriots 80 yards in 12 plays, with the drive being capped off with a four yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown.  Brady completed key third down passes to Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez as well.  On the day, the Patriots were actually 6-11 on third downs (6-10 with Brady and the one's in the game).

After a quick three and out from the Eagles, the Patriots opened the second quarter with another big touchdown drive.  The key play: a 63 yard completion from Tom Brady to Deion Branch, a play in which Tom Brady improvised to burn Eagles safety Kurt Coleman down the left sideline.  The play brought the Patriots down to the one yard line - BenJarvus Green-Ellis then punched the ball into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.

The Patriots then came up with a key turnover - cornerback Antwaun Molden intercepted a deep Vince Young throw down the left sideline that was underthrown to DeSean Jackson.

After a missed field goal and another Eagles three and out, the Patriots took over and secured their third touchdown drive of the first half. The Eagles secondary completely bit on a perfectly executed play-fake by the Patriots, and quarterback Tom Brady found a wide open Wes Welker deep over the middle of the field to make the score 21-10.

Second half notes, overall thoughts, and a look ahead after the jump!

The Patriots took a 24-13 lead into the second half and marched straight down the field for another touchdown, to blow open the game, making the score 31-13.  The Patriots had just one designed run on the drive, and Tom Brady threw just one incompletion.  The drive was capped was supported by two grabs from Deion Branch, one 18 catch from Aaron Hernandez, and two catches by Wes Welker, the final of which was a nine yard touchdown.

The Eagles finally got something going on their next drive offensively, driving the ball down to the New England 11 on a first and 10.  Vince Young found receiver Jason Avant for two deep completions, as well as tight end Clay Harbor on a 25 yard pass that put the Eagles in the red zone.  However, the Patriots defense once again found a way to step up.  On a third and one from New England's two, James Ihedigbo helped sniff out a LeSean McCoy run.  On fourth and one, Vince Young overthrew a well covered Brent Celek in the end zone.

After trading field position a couple of times, the Patriots took over at the start of the fourth quarter and put the final nail in the coffin for the Eagles. Brady spread the ball around to Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez during the drive, while Shane Vereen had a couple of carries to help run down the clock.  On a second and 19 from the Philadelphia 24, Brady threw a deep pass down the seam to tight end Rob Gronkowski.  Brady's throw perfectly split two Eagles defenders and Gronkowski reeled in his 11th touchdown of the year.

After the drive, the Patriots inserted all of their subs, and while the Eagles did pick up some third down conversions and additional yardage in garbage time, the Patriots thoroughly dominated the Philadelphia Eagles on this day.

On offense, I liked how the Patriots got the balance going early to really soften up the Eagles defense. Once Philadelphia had to respect the run, the Patriots went to the air and really couldn't be stopped.  In my opinion, Tom Brady had one of his best games of the 2011 season (second maybe to only the Miami game in the season opener).  

One thing that I noticed was that in the second half, the Patriots spread out the receivers a lot (still using both tight ends) in empty-back sets and it seemed to help Brady beat Philadelphia's pass rush.  Brady remained relatively upright after taking a pounding in the first half.

Defensively, the Patriots had a bit of an up and down day.  The were shaky coming out of the gates, but really got their act together.  Vince Young had 400 yards passing, but half of those yards came in the first and last five minutes of the game.

The Patriots also did a good job bottling up LeSean McCoy - the NFL's leading rusher on the NFL's leading rushing team.  McCoy had just 31 yards on 10 carries.  22 of those yards came on one play.

The Patriots also did an excellent job stopping the Eagles on third downs.  Prior to the one "garbage time" drive, the Eagles were just 1/10 on third downs.  More impressive: their one third down conversion was for just one yard.

Overall, it was good to see the Patriots come out and dominate on the road against as talented a team (despite their record) as the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Patriots are still tied at the top of the AFC with the Ravens and Texans (and possibly Steelers if they beat the Chiefs later tonight) with an 8-3 record.  Next Sunday, they will host the 0-11 Colts in what should be seen as an "easy win."