PHILADELHIA – In a city most people have come to associate with the "Rocky" boxing movies, New England found itself on the canvas after a couple of quick jabs and a strong right hook from the Eagles offense.
Down 10-0 after just six-and-a-half minutes, the Patriots were merely dazed momentarily. Sixteen minutes later, they had an 11-point lead.
The fight could have been called then and there, as the Patriots proceeded to pound the Eagles into submission. Had this been an actual prize fight, the towel would have been thrown into the ring during the first half.
How was New England able to reclaim the momentum?
"The first two series, you saw us give up a couple big plays and it cost us at the end with points. Once we settled down," explained defensive tackle and co-captain Vince Wilfork, "we locked in and were focused, we started rolling. Sometimes it's not going to be perfect, but you just fight through it, make the adjustments on the sideline."
"It's kind of one of those things," safety James Ihedigbo added, "the first couple of series you let it play out, and you know what type of game it's going to be – whether it's going to be a quick game, whether it's going to be quick throws, whether it's going to be in-cuts, out-cuts, whatever it may be.
"It's all about just getting settled in and really playing the way we're capable of and the way we have been of late."
The Patriots defense has been playing more cohesively the past few weeks, despite suffering mounting injuries in the secondary and at linebacker. The positive results appear to be helping the players build confidence in themselves individually and as a unit.
"We just knew we had to play 60 minutes of football and we'd put ourselves in good position to come out on top," Ihedigbo continued. "We did that; our offense played awesome. Every time we got them the ball, they punched it in, it seemed. Once you get a lead and start playing from ahead, then you can start to tee off on defense, which we did."
Tom Brady and the New England offense had their way with the Philly defense, as Ihedigbo indicated. Self-inflicted wounds were the only ones that prevented the Patriots from putting 40-plus on the scoreboard Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We've got to keep putting up points like that every quarter. You can't have a let-down. We have to play like that all four quarters," stressed tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was responsible for six of New England's 38 points.
That killer instinct served the Patriots well Sunday night in Philadelphia, but it was the work they put in during the week leading up to the game that gave them the confidence to know they could put this opponent away, even if they had to absorb a few early blows.
And a few late ones.
Like any capable contender, the Eagles have talent and pride.
"We're not going to stop fighting," Eagles star defensive end Trent Cole said after the game. "Anything can happen. This is the NFL. I've seen it all happen over the years, so we're going to keep fighting. We're known to keep fighting and everyone knows that. We don't stop."
They exhibited that moxie during the third quarter when, down 31-13, they drove down to the New England 2-yard line, and would have scored on 3rd down were it not for a spectacular effort by wide receiver Julian Edelman – playing emergency defensive back for the third straight game – to bring down Eagles backup QB Vince Young just short of the goal line. Philly went for it on fourth down and couldn't convert.
New England absorbed Philadelphia's best punch and wasn't even dizzied.
"If you prepare well, good things happen," Wilfork insisted. "We prepared well on a short week [coming off Monday Night Football], and it showed.
"When it's not going perfectly, you have to be mentally tough to make the corrections, which we did. That's the sign of a good football team."
One that can deliver a knockout punch when it has to.