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Game Observations: Patriots rebound over Eagles

20191117-GameObservations-PDC

The Patriots overcame a slow start and an early 10-point hole with 17 unanswered points that sparked the team to a 17-10 win over the Eagles. The Pats moved to 9-1, getting things back on track after their loss to the Ravens prior to their bye week.

The defense gave up just one long scoring drive on the night and forced a turnover that led to three points at a key moment in the first half. They also forced five-straight second half punts, as once they got a bead on what the shorthanded Eagles were doing offensively, they shut it down.

As for the offense, the Patriots threw plenty at the wall and not much stuck, but they made enough plays to win the game. This game will do little to reassure anyone that the Patriots offense will suddenly become a juggernaut. With two weeks to prepare it was another up-and-down game with the offense punting eight times.

But at 9-1 they’ve still got time a little time to figure it out and the return of Isaiah Wynn next week will be a welcomed one, but not a save-all. The slate of tough games will continue with Dallas, Houston and Kansas City coming up. The offense will have to start generating more points to keep pace.

Here what stood out as The Boogeymen saved the day once again in the game observations!

- The Eagles got a 49-yard pass interference call on their first play of the game, setting up an opening field-goal drive. After a three-and-out, Carson Wentz led an impressive drive on their third possession with a variety of screens and run plays that were all effective and took up almost 10 full minutes. It almost ended with a Jonathan Jones interception in the end zone but the play was overturned into a Dallas Goedert touchdown after review, extending the lead to 10-0. The Patriots had trouble getting to Wentz with their pass rush early on, allowing him the extra second to complete passes. That wouldn’t continue.

-The Patriots got started with a nice little 11-yard screen pass to Sony Michel, but looked disjointed on their first two possessions and this was one of the few effective screen plays. It seems like this was an area they wanted to really explore in this game and one worth keeping an eye on in the review. Unlike their last game against the Ravens, the team was already rotating in their new personnel showing an effort to get N’Keal Harry and Matt LaCosse involved, while Elandon Roberts and Brandon Bolden both jumped back in at fullback. They are a gameplan offense, so how much these tactics were based on attacking Philly's weaknesses or looking for their own strengths isn't crystal clear. They were turning over every rock they had.

- The Eagles picked up where the Ravens left off in the first quarter, holding onto the ball for 10:22 and getting the Patriots on their heels. The Patriots defense would turn things around after that, a good sign of the team’s resilience, as was their last stand at the end of the game. Getting a fourth-down stop then having to close it out at the very end are big-stakes moments they succeeded in.

-N’Keal Harry was finally thrown into the fire, grabbing his first catch early in the second quarter for 11 yards on a quick slant, the kind of route Josh Gordon was running before him. Harry also showed up with some solid run blocks as well. It was a solid debut for the rookie with three catches for 18 yards. Brady tried throwing to a lot of targets -- 10 players caught balls.

-After two-straight punts to open the game, the Patriots grinded out a 13-play, 59-yard drive on their third possession, getting on the board with a field goal. The offense continued to use all their personnel but nothing was consistently effective. They even broke out a double pass play that fell incomplete. Josh McDaniels dug deep into the playbook in this one, almost as if this was an audition for a little of everything to an extent. The no huddle is effective in spots, but they need more. Did they find anything more in this game? Not really.

-After a three-and-out by the Eagles, the Patriots got a nice 14-yard punt return by Mohamed Sanu that set the offense up at the Eagles 48. A 12-yard catch by Edelman and a 19-yarder by Ben Watson got them to Philly's four, but they couldn’t get it in the end zone as the red zone struggles continued, they'd finish 1-for-3 on the day. Brady missed on passes to Sanu (should’ve been intercepted), Edelman (dropped) and White (mistimed and a bad throw).

-Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy combined to force and recover a Wentz fumble, giving the Patriots offense their lifeblood – takeaways that set them up on a short field. It was the only big Patriots play of the half but the offense wasn’t able to move the ball, settling for their third field goal. The scoring drive: four plays, one yard.

-Brady was 11-of-25 for 103 yards in the first half, while Michel and Burkhead produced 19 rushing yards on nine carries (2.1 YPC).

- The Patriots came out in the second half and went back to the no huddle that was effective against the Ravens and it produced their first touchdown of the game, sparked by a broken-tackle 30-yard screen pass to Rex Burkhead. The TD came on their second double pass of the night, with Julian Edelman throwing his second career touchdown, this one to Phillip Dorsett. James White took a draw in for the two-point conversion giving the Pats 17 unanswered points. It was a well-scripted opening drive that would end up being the game-winning points but it shows to what lengths they have to go to in the red zone now to score touchdowns.

-It felt like the Pats emptied the tank on the gadget plays in this one, which felt a tad desperate coming off the bye week. Was it because of the Eagles’ defensive aggressiveness or was it because they not sure what they can really hang their hat on? Hard to remember a game with more misdirection and screens.

-Once the pressure started getting to Wentz the game shifted dramatically, highlighted by Dont’a Hightower picking up the fifth team sack of the game midway through the third quarter. After allowing two scores on the first three drives, the defense went on to force seven punts and a fumble, opening the door and closing it for the 17-10 win. After Philly’s 16-play, 95-yard touchdown-scoring drive in the second quarter the Eagles went on a long offensive drought until they finally moved the ball on their last drive of the game to make things interesting.

-The Patriots offense also stagnated after the start of the third, as once again it was often Julian Edelman or bust. Nine receivers had two more catches but very little came easily for Tom Brady as has been the case for most of this season. They were 1-for-3 in the red zone and just 5-for-15 on third down.

-Philadelphia would not quit despite their offense being totally ineffective in the second half, putting together one final drive, moving from their own six-yard-line all the way to the New England 26. It was good to see the defense have to play disciplined until the clock hit zero, there were some distant memories of what happened in Miami last year.

-On the final play the Patriots sent pressure and Wentz heaved it to the end zone and the ball almost connected with Nelson Agholor, as J.C. Jackson had good coverage on what was essentially a game-sealing incompletion. It was an exciting and tense game-ending moment that have been mostly absent this year.

-Jake Bailey and Nick Folk deserve a lot of credit for their performances. Folk was perfect and Bailey had some key punts, none bigger than his final one that pinned the Eagles deep. Special teams did their part in this one. Bailey has turned into quite the impressive player between game-changing punts and now kickoffs.

It wasn’t the kind of reassuring post-bye win we might’ve been hoping for, but at this stage a win is a win and this one maintains New England’s grip on the top seed in the AFC.

It’s clear that the defense leads this team and how they perform will determine how far the Patriots go this season. Can the offense figure themselves out and string together some playoff wins against the best opponents? That answer remains to be seen and the trial runs are quickly running out.

The Patriots are back at home on Sunday, November 24th at 4:25pm to take on the Dallas Cowboys.

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