September 15, 2003
Brady Developing A Reputation
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- When faced with adversity, it appears that quarterback Tom Brady is developing a reputation for overcoming it.
Facing questions of whether or not the loss of former Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy would linger into week two, Brady stepped up and lifted his team to a 31-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
The Patriots got a solid effort out of their signal caller as Brady tossed three touchdowns and finished 30-of-44 for 255-yards and no interceptions.
It was a stark contrast to his performance just one week earlier when he looked flat and completely out of sync. Against the Bills last Sunday the offense failed to produce any points for the first time in nearly a decade, losing to Buffalo 31-0.
To make matters worse Brady threw four interceptions and finished with a career worst 20.4 passer rating. He misfired for much of the afternoon and finished just 14-of-29 (48%) for 123-yards.
On Sunday the Patriots needed Brady to step up and come up with a better performance to get them back on track. Luckily for New England, he did just that.
It was the second time in his career as the starting quarterback for New England that Brady had followed up a terrible outing with a big victory. In 2001 Brady threw four interceptions in a 31-20 loss to the Broncos in Denver only to come out the following week and throw three touchdown passes against the Falcons in a 24-10 win over Atlanta.
On Sunday the trend continued, and with the offense doing its' part, the defense took care of the rest. They forced six Eagles turnovers, with two leading to 14-points for New England. They sacked McNabb 7-times and also got off the field on third down, with Philadelphia converting just 3-of-14 third down attempts.
They had their way with Philadelphia all afternoon, but early on things didn't look all that promising.
The Eagles took an early 7-3 lead, putting together an 8-play 67-yard drive that ended in a Duce Staley 2-yard touchdown run.
Just when it appeared the Patriots were going to answer Philadelphia's score, their drive stalled and the snap from Lonnie Paxton on the field goal attempt went through the hands of holder Ken Walter, squandering a scoring opportunity and giving the Eagles great field position.
But on their first play from scrimmage McNabb was sacked by Ted Washington and fumbled the football, with the Patriots recovering. Four plays later Brady connected with Christian Fauria on a perfectly executed play-action pass and suddenly New England was on top 10-7.
The Patriots caught a break on their next possession after they went three-and-out, and Ken Walter punted the ball 51-yards to the Eagles' Brian Westbrook. Westbrook muffed the catch and Bethel Johnson recovered the football at the Philadelphia 14-yard line, and it took Brady just two plays to put them in the endzone. Another touchdown grab by Fauria from 5-yards out extended New England's lead to 17-7.
With two quick scores the momentum had swung in their favor. The crowd had begun to turn on Philadelphia, and the Eagles found themselves being booed off the field at halftime.
When you're playing on the road there's no question that getting an early lead makes a big difference, and prior to the game Brady had acknowledged the importance of not having to play from behind.
"When you are down 21-0, that game plan gets real small," Brady had told reporters earlier in the week. "We like to be the ones that get up that type of score and be able to run our entire offense and make them react to everything we do."
Fortunately for the Patriots Philadelphia didn't react too well.
McNabb came out and picked up right where he had left off after his 6-of-18 first half performance. In the second half he was just 12-of-28 for 112-yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned by Tedy Bruschi for a touchdown. With under a minute left head coach Andy Reid replaced McNabb with Koy Detmer, who was cheered loudly by the Philadelphia faithful who had apparently seen enough from their starting quarterback.
As for New England the play of their quarterback was pivotal as another turnover-plauged performance would have made life difficult for the Patriots defense. With the offense making plays and the defense forcing turnovers, the end result was just what New England needed.
"We played better. We executed better," New England head coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. "We scored in the red area and we played better defense in the red area. It's not that complicated."
No it's not, but being able to rely on Brady to come up big after a tough loss certainly makes Belichick's team that much better.
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