Despite having the greatest quarterback of all time under center and being led by one of the best play-callers in the NFL, the New England Patriots’ offense has had its fair share of inconsistent play over the first half of the season. Some of it had to do with personnel turnover — from left tackle Isaiah Wynn getting (temporarily) placed on injured reserve to the wide receiver carousel — but the unit has generally had a hard time finding an identity.
The game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, however, appeared to be a step in the right direction despite the Patriots losing 37-20 and turning the football over twice. After all, the club got into a good rhythm from the second quarter on by going to a no-huddle attack with 11-personnel on the field. It would therefore not be a surprise to see New England going back to this well on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This rings especially true when talking to Brandon Lee Gowton, managing editor at Bleeding Green Nation. Brandon took the time to talk to Pats Pulpit about the upcoming matchup between the Patriots’ offense and the Eagles’ defense, and what he said points towards the reigning world champions using a similar approach versus Philadelphia on Sunday like the one they applied in Baltimore two weeks ago.
“The Patriots should look to come out throwing early and often against this Eagles secondary,” Brandon said earlier this week when being asked about how New England should attack this week. “That strategy worked pretty well when it came to shredding Philly’s defense in Super Bowl LII. I wouldn’t deviate from it. Oh, except the part that involves throwing to Tom Brady. Wouldn’t do that. He doesn’t have the best hands.”
While Brandon pours some salt into the wounds of Patriots fans everywhere by referencing one of the pivotal plays of the team’s loss against Philadelphia in the Super Bowl two seasons ago — a trick play on third down that ended with Danny Amendola throwing incomplete to Tom Brady — his point still stands: New England should take to the air to try to move the football against the 5-4 Eagles, especially considering their run defense.
“I wouldn’t waste my time with running the ball. The Eagles are much better at defending the run than stopping the pass, as is frustratingly by design,” continued Brandon. “The Eagles’ secondary recently hasn’t been quite as bad as it was earlier in the season. Replacing Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby — who started in the Eagles’ Super Bowl win — has helped.”
“But so has playing some of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks in Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky,” he added. Now, the Eagles will face one of their most difficult tasks of the season: a Patriots offense that is not just led by a future Hall of Famer but also has been at its most productive when moving the ball through the air — and one that will get first-round rookie N’Keal Harry back in a rotational role alongside Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu.
That being said, the Eagles certainly represent a big challenge on the road even though their biggest defensive weakness plays in the Patriots’ hands. The team fields one of the most talented units in football, after all, with the defensive line in particular standing out. Brandon pointed to two players who will certainly be on the team’s radar and should also be watched closely by the fans: defensive end Brandon Graham and tackle Fletcher Cox.
“The Patriots already have familiarized with Brandon Graham from when he strip-sacked Tom Brady [in the Super Bowl]. But it’ll be Fletcher Cox who should and likely will be New England’s main focus,” said Brandon about the two defenders. “Coming off injury, Cox got off to a slow start this season but he’s been rounding into form recently. Cox’s ability to generate interior pressure seems especially important against Brady.”
New England has had its issues up front this season after the aforementioned Wynn joined starting center David Andrews on injured reserve (if only for a few weeks), so the blocking will be a key against a highly talented Eagles front. Going no-huddle and running the offense at an advanced speed could help the line, though, as such an approach prevents defenses from substituting and consequently wears down the pass rush.
This could be a key for the Patriots considering that Tom Brady has been significantly worse this season when facing pressure. If the offense can therefore get into a rhythm by passing the football early and often as Brandon suggested, it could make life hard for Philadelphia to keep up as the game progresses — and in turn give New England a solid chance to get at least some revenge in the rematch of Super Bowl 52.