Patriots players were back at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday as preparations for the Eagles kicked into high gear.
"Big week for us here with the Eagles," said Bill Belichick at his weekly press conference that started things off on Wednesday. "Obviously, a great football team, great organization and they've done a tremendous job. They continue to do it. They're really good in everything, all three phases of the game. They have a lot of good players, a lot of guys that are hard to stop in all three phases of the game. They make you work on really everything – there's no plays off."
The team downplayed any lingering disappointment from Super Bowl 52 or feeling like this will be any sort of a rematch, but acknowledged there was value to the game film.
"There's some similarities in matchups there," sad Belichick. "There's quite a few differences, but it's worth looking at."
More than the gameplan, it was the Eagles aggressive style that was most effective against the Patriots. The Eagles roared out to a lead, went for multiple fourth downs, including scoring a touchdown with the "Philly Special" and never took their foot off the gas until they had secured their first championship. Was it hard for the players to revisit the disappointing loss?
"It's not tough, it's part of the game," said Stephon Gilmore, downplaying the film study with his usual relaxed style. "Watching film and learning."
Despite being two years ago, there's still plenty of similarities between that Eagles offense and this one. Different quarterback and different running backs, but still the same core philosophies under head coach Doug Pederson.
"Pederson's really an offensive guy, like the OC, like he's still there, they're still running a lot of similar things," said Devin McCourty. "Obviously, things are going to change because personnel changes but there's definitely some similarities and going back and trying to learn from that game to move forward definitely helps you."
The Patriots spent the bye week trying to also learn from their first loss of the season, while the Eagles were surely pouring over that same game film. Coach Pederson confirmed his team would try to take some elements from the Ravens victory two weeks ago, but cautioned they can't get caught up in trying to mimic Baltimore.
"The Ravens offense is unique because of their quarterback," Pederson told the New England media. "I’ll just throw that out there – this kid [Lamar Jackson] is special and he’s hard to bring down. So, they can do some things that probably every other team in the league can’t. But, I think you can look at the structure of things, and what Baltimore did and the success that Baltimore had in that game. I think you can kind of match that to what we do, or what we try to do.
"But, the thing is you’ve got to look at the entire body of work. You can’t just focus on one game because there’s so many things. I mean, the Patriots defense changes from week-to-week based on who they play, so we would anticipate maybe a little different structure than what they played against Baltimore."
The Patriots defense knows they'll continue to get a heavy dose of what has burned them, even if the Eagles can't exactly replicate what Lamar Jackson can do.
"They'll look at the Ravens game and see what they can take from it," said Duron Harmon. "We'll have to just know we have to better in areas we weren't good at against the Ravens. Until we stop what we've seen and similar problems plays that have come up, we're going to keep getting them. You know what to expect and we're looking forward to the game on Sunday."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots were in full pads for Wednesday's practice that felt like winter had come a little bit early. The lone player missing from the chilly practice was Nate Ebner. Side note -- if you haven't read Erik Scalavino's long-form piece on Ebner definitely check out it out, part two that just dropped on Tuesday and you can read it here.
Patrick Chung was back in action after missing the two previous practices that came last Wednesday and on Monday, bookending the bye week. Chung will be a vital gameplan piece with the Ravens two tight end sets. Bill Belichick pointed out how tough they can be in his Wednesday press conference.
"I think they play two tight ends more than any other team in the league," Belichick told reporters. "Those two guys combined play a lot. It's usually Ertz in 11-personnel but not always. Goedert plays in there a decent amount too, and obviously they're both on the field when they go to 12. They're, I would say, interchangeable.
"They're versatile, they're obviously smart. They can do, like I said, several different things and run the same play from different formations and different looks, so it's the same but it doesn't really look the same to the defense."
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
S Nate Ebner, Ankle/Back
S Patrick Chung, Heel/Chest
TE Matt LaCosse, Knee
DT Danny Shelton, Ankle
Locker Room Sound Bites
Devin McCourty on how much he misses winning after going almost three weeks since defeating the Browns.
"Playing football is about winning. That's what happens at the end of the week. You put in all this work, when you don't win it's not a good feeling. You want to get back to it and try to win. I think for us that's been our goal this week, to just continue to try to execute out there in practice, continue to talk, communicate on what we're gonna need to do and realize we're going into a hostile environment. We're gonna go out there and try to get a win."