The New England Patriots sneaked out of Philadelphia with a 17-10 victory over the Eagles in which the Patriots’ only touchdown came from Julian Edelman’s arm. It was a pretty ugly game on both sides that required a double pass to break it open. The Patriots showed signs of life in the running game here and there but ultimately would finish with only 75 yards on 21 carries (3.6 per carry) with a bunch of ugly runs. These runs were mostly caused by poor blocking, specifically from Marshall Newhouse, who everyone is ready to replace with Isaiah Wynn.
This is also yet another week where the opposing defense showed little fear for the Patriots’ deep passing game. The Eagles matched up with the Patriots receivers one-on-one in Cover 1 for most of the game and seemed more intent on taking away the short stuff rather than preventing the deep ball. Fortunately, New England’s run defense stepped up and rebounded well from its performance against the Baltimore Ravens two weeks earlier.
Let’s go to the coaches film to see what exactly happened…
1. Ugly runs are more on the blocking than the runners
The Patriots are managing to stay afloat on the ground with Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead, but are still getting a bunch of negative runs every game. These runs may look like the running back committee’s fault, but the blocking execution tells a different story. Philadelphia’s front seven was causing havoc and they always had unblocked linebackers and safeties flying to the ball. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle in run blocking and was the cause of a few of these negative runs:
Patriots runners had 21 carries for 75 yards (3.6 YPC). All of the negative runs they had were more on the blocking than the runners pic.twitter.com/zp1RFiAX4a— HP Football (@HPFootball3) November 20, 2019
2. Another aggressive opposing defense
The Eagles’ defensive strategy reminded me a lot of the Cleveland Browns’ game plan from three weeks ago: Philadelphia seemed more intent on taking away Julian Edelman and the underneath routes than preventing the deep ball. They doubled Edelman often, had their deep safeties play aggressively, and they played a ton of man coverage with no help deep — a sign of disrespect for the opponent’s explosiveness through the air.
This coverage strategy combined with a strong Eagles pass rush led to plenty of plays where quarterback Tom Brady had no one to throw to:
The Pats also struggled though vs cover 1.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) November 20, 2019
The Eagles defensive strategy looked similar to Cleveland's lack of fear of the deep ball 3 weeks ago.
The emphasis seemed to be more on taking away Edelman and the intermediate routes rather than defending the deep part of the field pic.twitter.com/X5v1ukhSoF
However, the Patriots did have some success against the Eagles’ Cover 1 defense when Edelman was single-covered. He got tons of separation against cornerback Avonte Maddox, who was the primary defender on the reigning Super Bowl MVP throughout the game. The Patriots seemed like they were picking on Maddox a lot because of this matchup and even got tight end Benjamin Watson a big play against the defender in man coverage.
The Patriots also had success versus Cover 1 by using Watson as the pick man to spring open other receivers:
The Eagles defensive strategy was cover 1 all day.— HP Football (@HPFootball3) November 20, 2019
The Pats attacked Cornerback Avonte Maddox a ton, mostly because he was covering Edelman a lot.
New England also had success vs cover 1 by using Ben Watson's frame on pick plays to spring receivers free pic.twitter.com/cu6bQ7hwoH
3. Run defense steps up and dictates the Eagles’ offensive performance
After seeing the Patriots’ run defense against the Ravens two weeks ago, it was easy to be worried about how they would do against the Eagles’ talented offensive line. Philadelphia had two scoring drives in this game, both early in the first half and New England’s defense wasn’t great on these two drives stopping the run: the Eagles rushed for 35 yards on seven carries (5.0 per carry) and got 10 early points on the board as a result.
However, New England’s run defense stepped up from then on, as the Eagles would rush for just 26 yards on 10 carries for the rest of the game — and, of course, Philadelphia would never score again.
Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy both made some great plays in the run game. Their ability to shed blockers late in the play and collapse running lanes was awesome to watch and it led to a ton of run stuffs. Overall, the Patriots’ front seven did a great job of setting the edge, which it didn’t do well against Baltimore, and winning their one-on-ones up front, keeping the second level clean:
On the only two scoring drives the Eagles had, they had 7 carries for 35 yards— HP Football (@HPFootball3) November 21, 2019
On every other drive, the Eagles had 11 carries for 29 yards
The front 7 made some great plays on run D in the second half which prevented the Eagles from stringing together another scoring drive pic.twitter.com/gMSQvZYPV6
The Eagles’ receivers like tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Nelson Agholor, meanwhile, made some solid plays in the passing game. Ultimately, however, it was the lack of consistent success on the ground that held the Eagles back in the second half, preventing them from ever putting together another scoring drive.
The Patriots did a great job of bouncing back from their tough loss against Baltimore. Philadelphia is an extremely talented team that has shown that it has what it takes to beat the Patriots (a strong pass rush, solid man coverage corners, a good offensive line). However, in the end, the Eagles just couldn’t run the ball and put up more points, while the Patriots made just enough plays on offense to get ahead.
The return of starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn won’t be groundbreaking, but you see from these clips how Marshall Newhouse is affecting the left side of this offense on the ground, so there’s obviously a lot of hope for what this running game will look like going forward. In the passing game, it looks like teams are getting more aggressive to take away the Patriots’ short and intermediate routes, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this passing game tries to get more explosiveness down field in the coming weeks.
The Dallas Cowboys also play a lot of Cover 1 and single high safety defenses like Philadelphia. Will we see more deep shots taken this Sunday?