November 27, 2011
Patriots Fly Into Philly And Ground Eagles
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
PHILADELPHIA -- Bill "Stats are for losers" Belichick really has this points allowed deal down, so long as it continues to work into January and beyond.
The newest trendy stat that everyone loves to bring up is "points allowed", which makes everyone forget the now hackneyed "yards allowed" stat. It's almost like how really irrelevant pitchers wins are in baseball; who cares which pitcher gets the win with a blown save or two thrown in as long as your team gets the win. Same for the Patriots, who are revolutionizing the fine art of yielding 300-400 yards a game yet keeping the other team in the teens as far as points scored.
Other than a late garbage time drive, that's pretty much what happened on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Eagles had a nice drive to open the game, a nice meaningless drive to end the game, and watched the visiting Patriots completely dominate all the rest of the game. The Patriots prevailed, 38-20, and tied Baltimore and Houston for the best record in the AFC after eleven games. The Patriot defense gave up a whopping 466 yards, but kept backup quarterback Vince Young on his heels pretty much all game long and never let him dominate the game.
There were two things that pretty much put this game in the win column for the Patriots: a lousy job of the Eagle offense in converting third downs, and the fact that Tom Brady is still the best quarterback in the business, or at least the AFC in case the good people of Green Bay beg to differ. The Patriot offense ran up only nine fewer total yards than the Eagles did, but the Patriots cashed in those yards and finished drives thanks to Brady and his expertise, while the Eagles watched several drives end either in field goals or on downs deep into enemy territory.
Brady being Brady is still the most beautiful thing to watch in the NFL. He finished 24 of 34 passing for 361 yards and three touchdowns and a 134.6 rating. With the Eagles focusing heavily on containing Rob Gronkowski, Brady showed the Eagles, and the rest of the league, that the Patriots are loaded with offensive weapons. Wes Welker caught two touchdown passes, and he and Deion Branch both topped 100 receiving yards. In other words, if you can't get it to the tight ends, go back to the wideouts. With Nnamdi Asomugha sidelined due to a knee injury for much of the game, Brady was able to make a lot of hay in the secondary. Former teammate Asante Samuel never got his name called in the game, and could only stand on the sideline and watch while his former teammate Branch, who also bolted for more money, piled up 125 yards receiving while wearing the navy blue Patriot uniform again.
The Eagles wound up converting only 4 of 13 first downs, with three of them coming on the meaningless final drive of the game. Compounding that problem was that the Eagles had five drives of 50 or more yards, and scored only 20 points on them. One of those drives was a 78-yard, 10-play drive which ended on a failed fourth down attempt from the Patriot 2. Needing one yard for a first down and two yards for a touchdown, Vince Young rolled to his right and threw a rainbow into the back of the end zone, overthrowing tight end Brent Celek by a great deal while the home crowd booed in disgust. The play seemed to encapsulate the day for Young, the former Texas quarterback who was filling in for the injured Michael Vick.
It seemed that from the outset, the Patriots would be under siege. The first play of the game saw Young connect with Celek for a 22-yard pass, and two plays later Young found Riley Cooper over the middle running past Kyle Arrington for a 58-yard completion to the Patriot 4. Two plays later it was 7-0 Eagles before the Patriots knew what hit them. On the next drive, a 44-yard bomb to Desean Jackson helped set up a 43-yard field goal by Alex Henery. It was 10-0 Eagles with 8:19 to go in the first quarter. The defense was shellshocked, and in addition to giving up 139 yards of total offense in the first two drives, they were also down by ten points.
In what turned out to be perhaps the most pivotal moment of the game, Brady took all the momentum away from the Eagles just after the field goal. Needing time to rest and regroup, Brady gave his defense a much needed extended rest and led the Patriots on a 12-play, 70-yard drive which chewed up just under seven minutes of playing time. Brady accomplished this by featuring BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who was able to dent the Eagle front seven for 31 yards on eight carries on this drive. While these aren't eye-popping numbers, Green-Ellis enabled the Patriots to run clock and keep Brady in manageable downs. Brady did manage to hit Gronkowski for 16 yards, Welker for ten yards and Aaron Hernandez for 11 yards and not misfire on any pass. Green-Ellis finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to make it 10-7 Eagles, but the defense was well rested and able to make adjustments. The result was a 38-3 Patriot run, and it all began with this critical drive.
Five of the next Eagle drives ended with punts, one with an interception, and another on downs as previously mentioned. The other drive was a nifty 78-yard, 10-play drive, but which died at the Patriot 4-yard line. The Eagles had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Henery, which also did not settle well with the partisan Philly crowd. It kept the Eagles within striking distance at 21-13, but in the grand scheme of things it mattered not other than emboldening the Patriot defense.
The Patriots once again used the front seven to help out the battered secondary. The Patriots sacked Young twice, one by Rob Ninkovich and one by Kyle Love. Antwaun Molden had an interception of Young on an underthrown bomb to Jackson, a play where Molden got away with a facemask that wasn't called. And Julian Edelman, for the second straight game, did his best Troy Brown impersonation with a nice game on defense. Edelman had two tackles and was never beaten on any key reception.
Of course, time will tell if this bend-but-don't-break defense will work in the playoffs. The Patriots will be right there in the playoff mix and have a decent chance of another first round bye this year. But there are teams in the postseason which can shut down Brady, and giving up 400 yards on defense won't get the job done. It works in Philly against Young, a quarterback the Patriots have seen before in Tennessee with good success against, but at some point the defense needs to lock down for sixty minutes if they have any designs on a February date in Indianapolis.
Still, it is something to marvel. Take away that final drive and you had 13 points allowed despite 367 yards surrendered. Like it or not, that is really something.
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