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Pats look to rebound against wounded Eagles

The Patriots look to rebound from the 31-0 opening day loss at Buffalo with this Sunday’s game against a banged up Eagles team in Philadelphia.

Looking at the Patriots 2003 schedule just a few weeks ago most would have agreed that this Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia against the Eagles was the toughest matchup of New England's opening month of games. But as fans and media members alike learn, life in the NFL changes about as often as the weather in New England.

Now, the Eagles are an 0-1 team coming off an opening weekend, 17-0 shutout loss on Monday night at home against the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The loss in itself is not all that notable as the Tampa team, specifically its defense, can make any team look vulnerable. The key factor that has changed a bit of the perception surrounding the Eagles is the team's injury situation. Between top pick Jerome McDougle, Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, Pro Bowl corner Bobby Taylor and defensive end Brandon Whiting, the team has at least four potential significant contributors who are either out or doubtful for the game.

Suddenly a no-win situation for New England appears less formidable. But according to Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick there is nothing easy, regardless of the injury situation, about going into Philadelphia and playing the Eagles.

"I think the bottom line on this team is they have been in the NFC Championship game the last two years," Belichick said. "They are a very solid team in every aspect of the game. They are well coached. They have won more games than any team in the league over the last couple of years in the regular season. They are good on defense. They set a franchise record for scoring points on offense. They led the league in special teams. They have led the league in a number of defensive categories over the last couple of years including points, third down efficiency, and red zone. They are high in turnovers and high in sacks."

Belichick knows that even with the injury losses, Andy Reid and the Eagles coaching staff will put together a game plan that will present challenges for New England in every aspect of the game.

"I think it goes without saying it is a real good football team and it starts with the top." Belichick said. "I think they are well coached. Obviously Andy Reid has done an outstanding job there. Jimmy Johnson, the defensive coordinator, has been in the league a long time and I have tremendous respect for him and Brad [Childress, offensive coordinator] and [John] Harbaugh, the special teams coach. They do a good job all the way through every aspect of the organization and the team. They are solid. They have been impressive to watch. It is a big challenge for us to go down there this week."

Defensively, New England has the unenviable task of defending Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb. That task, and it is unrealistic to expect the Patriots to hold the Eagles scoreless for a second straight week, would be made all that much easier should the visitors be able to jump out to an early lead. Taking the crowd out of the game and forcing the Eagles into passing situations would be a huge first step toward a Patriots win.

In the end, expecting either team to jump out to a big lead is probably unlikely. Both teams are talented, well coached and should compete for playoff spots in their respective conferences. But coming off of opening day shutout losses each team has something to prove this Sunday at 4 p.m., setting the table for what should be an interesting and hard-fought battle.

Numbers and Notes

The Eagles hold a 6-2 advantage in the all-time series between the two teams, including a five-game winning streak. The two teams last met in Dec. 1999 when the Patriots fell 24-9 at Veterans Stadium. … The home team has won seven of the eight games in the series. … The Patriots have a 7-2 record over the last nine games against the NFC, including postseason action. … Philadelphia linebacker Keith Adams is the son of former Patriots defensive end Julius Adams (1971-85, 87). … Last week's shutout in Buffalo brought to an end a pair of impressive New England scoring streaks. As a team it ended a 159-game streak in which they had scored (including the postseason) that ranked second among active streaks in the AFC (Denver, 176) and fifth in the NFL. Also, Adam Vinatieri had a 110-game consecutive scoring streak snapped that dated back to his rookie season of 1996. … The game will mark the first time New England has faced Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb in the regular season. … Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid has a 12-0 record in games following a loss dating back to week 3 of the 2000 season. … McNabb needs just 17 passing yards and 61 rushing yards to become just the 18th player in NFL history to surpass both 10,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in a career. … The Eagles are 23-8 under Reid when they score first, 30-4 when they score more than 20 points, 16-0 when they score more than 30 points, 21-2 when they have the advantage in time of possession and 30-6 when they take a lead into the fourth quarter. … The game features one brother from each of the only two sets of brothers to have started an NFL game. Eagles backup Koy Detmer and his brother Ty have both started in the NFL, a feat also accomplished by Patriots backup signal caller Damon Huard and his brother Brock. … The Patriots made one addition and one change to the injury report late this week, adding safety Je'Rod Cherry (leg) and listing him as probable while downgrading Damien Woody (chest) from probable to questionable. … The NFL set a paid attendance record on opening weekend as 1,095,720 fans purchased tickets to the 16 games of Kickoff Weekend 2003 for an average attendance of 68,483 fans per game.

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