The Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl 193 days ago, but the Eagles players’ and fans’ squawking escalated this week as the two teams met in week two of the preseason. Eagles lineman Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots culture not being fun resurfaced, a billboard commissioned by an Eagles fan just outside the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium reminded everyone just who won Super Bowl LII as did a plane which circled the stadium pre-game. ESPN even got into the act putting the Eagles ahead of the Patriots in this week’s power rankings.
The Patriots like to do their talking on the field, and quarterback Tom Brady’s play speaks loudest. Brady would be making his first preseason appearance and he would be looking to quiet the Eagles’ chirps.
Brady would not have to wait long as the Patriots defense engineered a quick three and out and Brady took the field to raucous cheers from the Patriots faithful.
The Patriots took over on their own 38 and went to work after a quick pass to James White for 6 yards, the Patriots went into their “Hurry Up” offense and never took their foot off the gas. Three passes and a 22 yard run by White, a pass to Phillip Dorsett, and another small run by White was all Brady needed before he found Hogan cutting across the back of the end zone for six points.
Brady would stay in rhythm for the rest of the half finding receivers Julian Edelman, White and Hogan for completions. Wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson and tight end Jacob Hollister would also make big plays. Patterson caught a screen pass that went for a big gain and would have been a touchdown if he hadn’t stepped out of bounds and Hollister made a big catch downfield and held on to the football despite taking a big hit. Brady would finish his night with a screen pass to James White where White cut behind some excellent blocking from the offensive line and getting a big block from Hollister before slicing into the end zone for a touchdown.
Brady would leave the game before the half completing 19 of 26 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and more importantly with the Patriots leading 27-7.
Brady’s first half excellence was matched by the Patriots defense. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers applied constant pressure to quarterbacks Nick Foles and Nate Sudfield. Clayborn would get to Foles at the beginning of the second quarter, hitting him in the arm forcing a fumble that linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley would pick up and run in for a touchdown. Bentley and fellow linebacker Kyle van Noy had the television announcers calling their names several times after big defensive plays. The defense would close the first half with a big goal line stand forcing the Eagles to turn over the ball on downs.
The start of the second half looked no different from the first with the defense making a big play, intercepting a ball ricocheting off running back Matt Jones’ face mask.
Brian Hoyer would hand off to running back Mike Gillislee for two runs, one a 15 yard run enhanced by a 15 yard personal foul penalty by the defense. Hoyer would then throw a quick screen to Patterson at the sideline. Some nifty footwork by Patterson left the defensive back in the dust and ended with Patterson jumping into the end zone for a touchdown and a 34 - 7 Patriots lead.
The Patriots offense and defense would start to sputter as the game went on. The Eagles attacked the younger Patriots defensive backs and would close the gap to 34-20. Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was the victim of some drops but also was inconsistent with his throws. The Patriots running backs could not find much space against the Eagles defense, although Brandon Bolden had a series of three rushes for 35 yards, which would lead to a Patriots field goal and a 37-20 score which would end up being the final.
While a meaningless preseason win cannot make up for a Super Bowl loss, the Patriots have to be comforted by how well the offense operated with the first team playing in the opening half. Brady was as sharp as ever, and White, who is not lauded as highly as Rex Burkhead or Sony Michel, reminded the fans that he was the one who led them to their last Super Bowl win. The only drawback to the offense was that rookie guard/tackle Isiah Wynn left the game with an Achilles injury and will be lost for the season.
The defense also showed they have improved since these teams last played. Newcomer Adrian Clayborn and second year player Derek Rivers, injured last year, applied quarterback pressure that was nonexistent last season. Rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley also provided some depth to the line backing corps.
Next Up: Carolina Panthers, Friday August 24
3 Things to Watch For
Running Backs – The third preseason game tends to be the final dress rehearsal for the starters and all eyes will be on the running back rotation. Rex Burkhead should play, but this could be the spot where Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee distinguish themselves and earn their roster spot.
Wide Receivers – This could be the last chance for Eric Decker or Kenny Britt to get some snaps with Tom Brady at quarterback.
Defense – With Cam Newton coming to town, can the Defense stop a mobile quarterback with multiple weapons? This game will forecast how well the Patriots will be able to handle Deshaun Watson and the Texans in week one of the regular season.
Projected Roster Offensive Skill Positions
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Running Backs: Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, James Devlin, Brandon Bolden, Jeremy Hill
Wide Receivers: Julian Edelman*, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarelle Patterson, Matthew Slater, Riley McCarron, Eric Decker**
Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
* Suspended first four games
** Cut candidate once Edelman returns week five.