August 09, 2013
For A Change, Offense Ahead Of Defense
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
PHILADELPHIA -- If Tom Brady played three quarters of this game, the Patriots might have dropped 60 on the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles were all about unveiling Chip Kelly's new offense and not much else. Kelly, the former head coach at the University of Oregon, has Philly all abuzz over what wonderful things he will do with Michael Vick and Nick Foles, whomever he decides to put under center. Maybe Vick will pass for 400 yards and run for 200 yards in every game he plays in.
Unfortunately, the Eagles may have found Kelly, but they may also be pining for the late Jim Johnson. Their late, great defensive coordinator probably turned over in his grave over the porous defense his Eagles exhibited in the 2013 preseason opener at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagle defense gave up a 62-yard run to Stevan Ridley on the first play, and the Patriots cruised to a 31-22 victory in a game that wasn't really as close as the score suggests.
The score wasn't worse because of two elements. First, Ryan Mallett has a penchant for missing open receivers. Second, Tim Tebow has no penchant for throwing the football at all. Otherwise, had Brady been allowed to play longer, the Patriots would have looked like the Rams of 60 years ago.
The game opened up with the Patriots running a simple left tackle run with Ridley. He cut back right behind a block by Logan Mankins and almost ran to the house. He rambled 62 yards to the Philadelphia 18, then he and LeGarrette Blount covered the final 18 yards in five plays to make it 7-0 Patriots. Six runs, 80 yards, without breaking a sweat. Michael Hoomanawanui provided the key lead block on the one-yard touchdown run by Ridley.
On the second offensive possession, the final one with the varsity all in there, Brady was marvelous and seemed to enjoy all his new targets. After an incompletion on first down thanks to a missed block by Nate Solder, Brady hit on seven passes in a row with two runs mixed in. Kenbrell Thompkins was the primary target, catching four passes for 23 yards. Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson also hauled in a pass each. Shane Vereen made a nifty catch in the left corner of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 Patriots, a play which held up after Kelly asked for a review. Vereen's left knee appeared to go out of bounds, but both feet stayed in.
Mallett came in on the third possession and suffered a three and out. He threw on second and third down, throwing behind Dobson in the right flat and leading Vereen too far in the left flat. Those are throws Brady makes in his sleep.
On the first play of the second quarter, Mallett failed to take advantage of a colossal Eagle coverage breakdown. Josh Boyce slipped away over the middle and no one was within 15 yards of him. Mallett tossed the ball just beyond his reach, missing a dog-ugly easy touchdown. Again, Brady makes that throw.
Mallett did lead the Patriots on two scoring drives. One of them went 13 plays and 62 yards. Mallett threw three straight incompletions from the Eagle 16, and Stephen Gostkowski (only one of three kicking field goals) booted a 34-yarder to make it 17-14 Patriots. On the next drive following an Eagle three and out, the Patriots had the ball at the Eagle 49. Blount took the handoff on first down and ran towards left end. He then retraced his steps and headed back right. Amazingly, no one on the Eagles could bring him down, and he took it all the way for a touchdown to make it 24-14. Zack Sudfeld blocked Jake Knott at the goal line to pave the way. Again, what must Johnson have been thinking from football's Valhalla.
On the next Patriot possession, Mallett hit Julian Edelman with a 22-yard dump pass over the middle with time running down in the first half. But Mallett was clobbered by old teammate Patrick Chung and had to come out of the game under the concussion rule. So, with 1:22 left in the first half, the Patriot offense was in the hands of the most famous third string quarterback in NFL history.
Let this fact be clear: At present, Tebow does not have anything resembling an NFL caliber arm and showed it clearly during the next two plays and most of the second half. This is not news. But any notions of Tebow becoming the next Michael Bishop were quashed on Friday night. Tebow cannot throw the ball. Period.
But he can run. The Patriots actually dabbled with some Wildcat packages in the second half. On their first possession of the second half, Tebow led the Patriots on a 57-yard touchdown drive, with one pass, one sack, and six runs. Two of them were by Tebow, including a nice 12-yard run on third down and six. Blount had the other five carries, including the touchdown from one yard out.
The next offensive possession was mostly Wildcat. Tebow lined up in the shotgun with odd and varied backfield combinations, and it worked until Tebow started to throw the football. Tebow had two runs on the drive including a 14-yard run off left tackle on second down and 9. But the drive stalled at the Eagle 40 after two misfires. A 12-men on the field penalty moved the ball to the 35, so Bill Belichick decided to try a 53-yard field goal which Gostkowski yanked wide right (he also had a 44-yard attempt in the first half sail wide right).
Tebow spent most of the rest of the game stuck in neutral. But the Eagles basically abandoned any semblance of an offensive game plan in the second half, featuring mostly Dennis Dixon at quarterback against a mediocre Patriot defense that was lucky to get two stops on fourth down to preserve the win.
The Patriot defense was adequate at best with some chinks in the armor. Aqib Talib got beaten badly by DeSean Jackson for a 47-yard touchdown pass to answer the Patriots' opening salvo on a drive that covered 77 yards in only five plays. Greg Salas scored a touchdown on the opening play of the fourth quarter thanks to a missed tackle by Tavon Wilson. Chandler Jones did get a strip sack of Foles in the first quarter, but that was thanks to a replay overturn on a play that originally went as an incomplete pass (remember, no more tuck rule).
Tebow finished 4 of 12 passing for 55 yards and a 49 passer rating. Mallett was 9 of 18 for 97 yards and a 66.2 rating. Brady's rating? 140.1.
The rushing stats look wonderful. Blount had 101 yards on 11 carries. Ridley had 92 yards on 8 carries. Tebow had 31 yards on four carries and a 7.8 average. The team had 248 yards rushing and eight yards per carry. Of course, these stats are skewed by two runs, but Kelly will not like those runs when he peruses the game film.
And just for the sake of mentioning it, nine Patriot receivers had double figures in yards receiving, with Dobson leading the way with 35 yards.
Basically, this was a nice opportunity to see what Tebow can, and cannot, do. The Eagles didn't really focus on sound defense and Tebow still couldn't throw the ball.
But Brady can. Rest easy, Patriot Nation.
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