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Patriots bounce back, 31-10

Two Eagle turnovers led to 14 first half points for the Patriots and that was all New England needed as they rebounded from Week One’s loss to keep Philly’ winless by the score of 31-10.

Two Eagle turnovers led to 14 first half points for the Patriots and that was all New England needed as they rebounded from Week One's loss to keep Philly winless by the score of 31-10.



             Tom Brady finished 30 of 44 passing for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns while Deion Branch led the New England receivers with 6 catches for 89 yards and a score.  

On defense, Tedy Bruschi was the team's sparkplug, especially with the Eagles in catch-up mode, with a sack and an interception for a score. Willie McGinest also had a strong game with two sacks, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.

Eugene Wilson started at free safety for Antwan Harris and the rookie fared well.

On the day, the Eagles had four fumbles and two interceptions as the team was roundly booed for most of the game.

Both teams offenses' started slowly with the Eagles first two drives marred by penalties and the Patriots' having to punt on their initial two tries.

With 1:10 left in the first quarter, it was the Patriots to score the first points of the 2003 season for either team, a 27-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri. New England's drive finished at the Eagles 10-yard line and was mostly an air-affair with Kevin Faulk nabbing 25-yarder grab early in the drive followed by a Branch 15-yard catch two plays later.

That lead was short-lived as Philly opened the second quarter with its own scoring drive. New England had a chance to stop the action at midfield when, on third and 3, Tyrone Poole seemed to have dropped Brian Westbrook on an end run for a loss. But Poole was flagged for a facemask penalty giving the Eagles a first down 15 yards down the field. The Eagles made the Patriots pay as Duce Staley scored on a 2-yard run up the middle for the 7-3 lead.

It looked like the Patriots would answer right back when they drove down to the Eagles 22 on their next possession but on third and 4, Brady just missed being picked off as he looked for Patten in the end zone with Sheldon Brown in coverage. Vinatieri came on for a 40-yard field goal and something that hasn't happened in a long time for this team, finally reared its ugly head. Holder Ken Walter let the snap go through his hands and the Eagles took over at the 35.

Not to be outdone by that miscue, Philly gave the ball right back as Donovan McNabb dropped back and bumped into his own player and fumbled. Rosevelt Colvin recovered and the Patriots had a second chance to make good (Colvin was injured on the play and did not return to the game).



             This time they did as Brady hit Faulk for a 27-yard pickup down to the Eagles 8. The finisher was a Brady to Christian Fauria touchdown pass from the 8 with 7:59 left in the first half.  

The Eagles second turnover of the first half came after the Patriots went three and out and punted from their own 33. Michael Westbrook attempted to field the kick but let the ball bounce off his hands and into a wild scrum of players looking for the recovery. When the dust cleared it was Bethel Johnson giving the Patriots the ball at the Eagles 14. A pass to Branch for 9 yards set up the second touchdown for Brady and Fauria on the day, a 5-yard strike.

Now up by 10 at 17-7, New England's defense closed out the half by stopping Philly on its last two drives of the half. McNabb and his receivers did their part with four incompletes along with a sack in their final two possessions.

The Eagles did their best to continue their charitable ways as they opened the second half with yet another fumble. Phifer knocked the ball loose from Duce Staley and McGinest recovered. This time, the Patriots could not take advantage after Brady was sacked by Corey Simon and then flagged for grounding on the subsequent drive.

That didn't stop Philadelphia from its woeful ways on offense. After going three and out on its next series and looking awful in the process, the Patriots took over at their own 48. A 17-yard pass to Bethel Johnson started things out and the drive ended with a Brady to Branch strike on third and 1 from the 26. The call completely took the Eagles defense off guard and had the Philly fans, already in boo-mode with their team down 24-7, seething and calling for back-up quarterback A.J. Feeley.

A McGinest forced fumble on McNabb forced the Eagles to attempt a 57-yard field goal with just under 11 minutes left in the game. David Akers was good on the try, the longest of his career and the Eagles closed to within two touchdowns.

That was as close as Philly could get as McNabb gift wrapped a pass to Bruschi for an easy six points with just over five minutes left in the game. The Eagles were working from their own 14-yard line and McNabb threw well behind Freddie Mitchell. Bruschi stepped in front of the pass and trotted in for the score.

That made the score 31-10 Patriots and with McNabb fumbling yet again as the game wound down, it was just a matter of a few running plays while milking the clock for New England to enjoy its first win of the season.

New England can look forward to its first home game of 2003 with the New York Jets on the slate for next week

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