Monday, November 18, 2019

Patriots Outlast Eagles 17-10

New England gave up two first-quarter scores, then scored 17 unanswered points to take a road win in Philly, 17-10. The win put them at 9-1, still a game up on Baltimore and two games up on the Bills for the division lead. Next week the Cowboys ride into town for a tussle at Gillette Stadium.

For the second straight game, the opponent came out of their Bye week with a good initial plan. The Ravens started out 17-0 and won by 17 points. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they started out 10-0 but couldn't sustain it. The Pats made adjustments and shut down Philly the rest of the game.

It seems that good teams can attack the Patriots defense early, especially if they have two weeks to prepare. That might not seem like much of a problem. But remember; the Patriots are in position to have a playoff Bye, which is a two-week break. And the Super Bowl (if they get that far) is played after two weeks off.

IMO, the team has to do a better job of defensive preparation to begin games. In the games against Baltimore and Philadelphia, they allowed 27 points in the first quarters and 20 total points in the other quarters combined. That might not cost them in the regular season, but it will against good teams in the playoffs.

As for this game, the defense adjusted and played very well after the first quarter. The offense did decent in the mid-game, scoring on four straight drives. But even though they made that stand up, they were much too inconsistent on offense.

The offensive line played poorly most of the game. And the pressure caused missed throws by QB Tom Brady and first-half running problems. There were also wrong routes by several receivers (Jacobi Meyers and Sony Michel specifically), and blown up screen passes, any of which could have led to interceptions.

The good news on offense is that both Rex Burkhead and Ben Watson get more involved with each passing week. Also, rookies Meyers and N'Keal Harry are at least trusted enough to contribute occasional receptions for first downs. And the protection and run-blocking should look better when tackle Isaiah Wynn returns from injured reserve next week. Should; but no guarantees.

A sign that the team is spreading the ball around is that only Julian Edelman had double-digit targets (10 exactly). That also bodes well heading into the stretch run. Oh, and Edelman also had the only touchdown pass of the game, to Phillip Dorsett on a double-pass.

The defensive adjustments were excellent. After the first three drives, the team double-teamed on tight end Zach Ertz and that at least limited the damage he did. And the tight man-coverage forced quarterback Carson Wentz to hold the ball an extra second and read deep into his progressions.

The result was five sacks for 40 yards and just 50% completions. After their initial scoring surge, the Eagles punted seven times, lost a fumble, turned it over on downs, and the game ended.

Secondary play was very good against everyone except Ertz. New(ish)comer Terrence Brooks tied for the team lead with seven tackles and he knocked down two passes and had two QB pressures to boot. The team benefited from some missed throws by Wentz and dropped passes. But overall they did a great job adjusting in-game.

Along the line, defensive tackle Danny Shelton merits special mention. He also had seven tackles, a rarity for a Patriots interior lineman. He also had a sack, a QB pressure, and forced the game's only fumble -- which the Pats recovered and turned into a field goal.

Special teams played a big role in the win. New kicker Nick Folk hit three of three field goals. And punter Jake Bailey had six kicks downed inside the 20. That field position forced the Eagles to go a long field too many times -- and they could only convert one of those long-fields into points.

As for the coaching, the defensive adjustments were excellent, and the offensive play-calling was very good. The offensive execution wasn't great, but some of that was probably rust from the week off, and some of it was also working in new players. Josh McDaniels has some work left to do with this group.

Where does this leave us? 9-1 and atop the AFC isn't half-bad for a team with so much local media gnashing of teeth. The kicking game and defense are in fine shape. It remains to be seen if the offense can score enough once the January games begin. Next up are the Cowboys. And I still think their QB, Dak Prescott, is about to learn how tough it is to play a Belichick defense for the first time.

Biggest on-going concern: It has to be the offensive line. The team is involving more and more receivers every week. But they can't run and the backside pressure is getting to Brady far too often.

Non-Brady MVP: A three-way tie between Bailey, Brooks, and Edelman. One from each phase of the game... wouldn't BB be proud :D

Statistical oddity: For all the consternation about the Miami Dolphins "tanking" this season, head coach Brian Flores has the same record in his first 10 games as Bill Belichick did in his first 10 games with the Patriots: 2-8.

Bonus oddity: Julian Edelman has a career QB rating of 158.3 -- which is the highest you can record, a "perfect" QB rating.

Water-cooler wisdom: "The Pats have to lose two more games to get knocked out of a playoff Bye. And I don't see two more losses on the schedule."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 9-1!


  1. Brady threw some more ill-advised long-bombs into double coverage, or covered receivers, at least one which was short. More riverboat gambling. Something to keep an eye on. He still seems to be making crisp decisions at short and medium range, but his choices on bombs have had an uncharacteristically high percentage of poor decisions.