Sunday’s visit to Lincoln Financial Field ended in victory for the New England Patriots.
New England dug out of a 10-point deficit to take a 17-10 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles. And that lead would remain to see the Patriots improve to 9-1 on the regular season while retaining the AFC’s top seed.
Here’s a touchdown of observations from what went into the Super Bowl LII rematch.
Philadelphia’s tandem of tight ends a tough cover
The Patriots flew to Philadelphia without strong safety Patrick Chung, who’d been listed as questionable with heel and chest injuries, on Saturday. But the task of covering “12” personnel remained upon landing. Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert entered the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff having played nearly 900 offensive snaps this season. And over that span, they’d combined to tally 67 catches for 748 yards and five touchdowns.
Safety Terrence Brooks would stay around the football with Chung out. Frequently lining up in the vicinity of Ertz would be Patriots All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore. But there’d be slip screens and room in the open field for both Ertz and Goedert. And an interception and touchback by nickelback Jonathan Jones became a Goedert touchdown upon review.
It capped off a 95-yard drive that spanned 9:33 of game clock from the first quarter into the second. No pass intended for either Philadelphia tight end went incomplete by intermission. Ertz and Goedert racked up 12 receptions for 130 yards and by the final Hail Mary with two seconds left to tick.
N’Keal Harry runs his initial routes of the regular season
The No. 32 overall pick in April’s draft found himself on the gameday roster.
Harry had resumed practicing in the midst of October after beginning his rookie year on injured reserve. The former Arizona State wideout was then activated to the 53, yet scratched from the 46, earlier this month. There’d be no scratch on Sunday. Harry saw work as early as New England’s second offensive snap.
Harry run-blocked on each of his first four snaps. And he did so in the 6-foot-4, 225-pound weight class. But the first catch of Harry’s career came on a play-action slant in the second quarter, picking up 11 yards and a first down. Harry finished with a trio of receptions for 18 yards.
Filling the gaps against a shorthanded Eagles rushing attack
Philadelphia’s stable of running backs did not include starter Jordan Howard. It also did not include Darren Sproles after a torn hip flexor sent the 15-year veteran to injured reserve on Friday. But Jay Ajayi, freshly re-signed without a single practice this week, was available if needed. As was Boston Scott. And the same was true of second-round pick Miles Sanders.
New England’s defense had allowed opposing backs to amass 290 rushing yards on 46 carries through recent meetings with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
Philadelphia’s offensive line, which deployed unbalanced looks, struck first. Just not nearly to the tune of what had transpired in previous weeks. By last call, Scott and Sanders stood with 64 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
From linebacker to fullback and back
Elandon Roberts fielded kickoffs pregame. He’d play on both defense and offense during the game.
The first-time Patriots captain again served as New England’s fullback out of I-formation. And in the de-facto role, which core running back Brandon Bolden also stepped into, Roberts got a hat on a hat with Philadelphia’s linebackers more than once.
But Roberts also sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on a double A-gap blitz late in the first half. The 11-yard loss gave way to third-and-17 and a subsequent punt. In all, Wentz was sacked five times by five different Patriots.
Initial red-zone drives fall short for New England offense
A diving, 19-yard seam route by tight end Ben Watson put New England’s offense on the doorstep. So did a strip-sack by defensive tackles Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy. But field goals by Nick Folk were the byproduct. The Patriots were 0-for-2 in the red zone at halftime of a 10-9 game.
It was a first half that saw wide receiver Julian Edelman drop a would-be touchdown crossing across the back of the end zone. It was also one that saw quarterback Tom Brady throw a career-high 14 incompletions while dealing with wind and steady duress from the Philadelphia front.
Out of sync.
Second half brings tempo, a double-pass and punts
New England got the ball to begin the third quarter. And with it came less condensed formations, more hurry-up, and a Brady pass to Edelman that gave the former Kent State scrambler a chance to use his right arm. It turned into a 15-yard Phillip Dorsett touchdown catch.
Dorsett, who now has five scores this fall, left for the locker room following his latest. The Patriots ultimately downgraded the wideout from questionable to out due to a head injury. But the trickery capped off a 10-play, 84-yard sequence that took just over four minutes.
Falling in for the Patriots’ two-point conversion was tailback James White to make it 17 unanswered. And unanswered things went, with New England’s defensive side going a stretch of eight punts and two turnovers on downs. No points reached the scoreboard over Sunday’s final 25 minutes.