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Eagles fly by the Patriots, 27-17

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The pre-game dress list quickly turned from an obscure, routine ritual into a “who’s who” of NFL superstars.

And an offensive coaching nightmare.

Tom Brady. Wes Welker. Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Hernandez. Brandon Lloyd. All offensive stars given the night off by Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick prior to Monday night’s pre-season kick-off against the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Who was left to play?

There were a few players left, to be sure. But not enough to make the difference as Eagles' backup quarterback Nick Foles helped pitch his team to a 27-17 win.

The primary reason for the multiple no-shows came from not wanting to tempt fate or risk veteran injuries with two days of practices and a game in Tampa later this week.

Playing three pre-season games in a 10-day span is a brutal stretch for any team, pre-season or otherwise. And, there’s also not much time left for younger players to make an impression in game action – so Monday night began their time to shine.

2nd year quarterback Ryan Mallett started in Brady’s place, and got the Patriots on the board first with a 56 yard drive in the first quarter, highlighted by two quick hitting completions to Julian Edelman – who started in place of Wes Welker. A 51-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal made it 3-0 with 6:09 to play. Then, the defense…which had some standout moments in limiting the New Orleans Saints to just six points in the pre-season opener, decided to make its presence felt, even without several starters on the field.

With 6:01 to play in the quarter, Eagles’ QB Michael Vick was flushed from the pocket and hit hard by Jermaine Cunningham. Philadelphia had planned to use their starters for at least a half in the game – but Vick’s night ended early with the big blow.

Later in the quarter, Mallett had an apparent interception by Dominique Rogers-Cromartie called back, thanks to a roughing penalty called against Fletcher Cox…and a 3rd down sack against Mallett was also rubbed out due to defensive holding. Largely against the Philadelphia regulars, the Pats took the two gifts into Eagles’ territory, with Mallett finding Deion Branch for 20 yards to the Philly 29, and then hitting Shane Vereen for 20 more to the 8 at the end of the quarter.

On the 3rd play of the second quarter, Mallett put the Pats into the end zone, and perhaps put himself into the discussion for the backup QB job with a seven yard strike to TE Alex Silvestro, a second year converted defensive end from Rutgers. After an Eagle penalty moved the ball half the distance to the goal, the Pats ran a two point conversion into the end zone behind Vereen…making it 11-0 New England with 13:44 to play in the first half.

After the Patriots’ defense again forced Philadelphia into a punt, Brandon Bolden fumbled a punt return at his own 24, giving the Eagles their best shot of the night. LeSean McCoy scored from one yard out to put the Eagles on the board with 10:07 to play in the second quarter – the first TD allowed by New England in more than five quarters of play in the pre-season.

On the ensuing possession, the Pats made it easy for the Eagles to pull back into the game. With Brian Hoyer entering at QB for the first time, a Hoyer fumble put Philly at the New England 13. Two plays later, the Eagles grabbed the lead with Nick Foles hitting TE Clay Harbor in the corner of the end zone…14-11 Philadelphia with 9:06 remaining in the quarter.

Who needs starters? Backups were making all of the big plays in this one.

Gostkowski booted a 35-yard field goal with 3:09 before the half to pull the Patriots into a 14-14 tie, after a Patriot drive stalled at the Eagle 11. Then, the defensive backups got their licks in…as a Foles pass to TE Brent Celek was fumbled after a huge hit from Bobby Carpenter. The ball was recovered by Trevor Scott and returned 22 yards for an apparent touchdown. The expected review, however, overturned the play on the field – negating the fumble and the score.

A Nate Ebner interception of a Foles’ pass deep in Patriots’ territory ended the half with another play made by a reserve…and the half ended in a 14-14 deadlock.

Philadelphia started the third quarter with a swift 80 yard drive, highlighted by Foles hooking up with DeSean Jackson for 40 yards (beating Sterling Moore on the play), and a three yard TD toss to Harbor for a 21-14 advantage. Ryan Mallett re-entered the game as QB to lead a drive late in the period that ended with a 55 yard field goal from Gostkowski – his 3rd of the night in three attempts – to narrow the deficit to 21-17 with 4:12 to play in the quarter.

Following a 42 yard field goal from Alex Henery that put Philly back on top by seven, the Eagles managed another Henery field goal from 21 yards out with 2:00 remaining to make it 27-17, and put a wrap on the scoring.

And perhaps in the process, a wrap to someone’s season along the way.

"We got to look at a lot of players tonight, evaluate them against a good football team and we’ll take a look at the film and correct our mistakes, build on it," head coach Bill Belichick said afterward. "We’ve got a quick turnaround this week with Tampa. These are the days that we can, as a team, really learn from a lot of these experiences, game situations, training camp practices and so forth, to make our team better, so that’s what we’re going to do.

"It was some good experience for us out there tonight," Belichick added. "Obviously we didn’t make enough plays to win, but there are some things to build on there and obviously a lot of things to correct."

Post Game Notes

The Patriots and Eagles have now met in the preseason a total of 20 times. Philadelphia ties Washington as New England’s second most frequent postseason opponent. The Giants and Patriots have met the most with 21 total preseason meetings...QB Ryan Mallett started the game in place of Tom Brady. It marked his first professional start. Mallett had 10 completions on 20 attempts for 105 yards and a touchdown...TE Alex Silvestro, who converted to tight end from defense line, made his first NFL catch on an 11-yard reception from Mallett in the first quarter. Silvestro later caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mallett in the second quarter...LB Brandon Spikes and DL Ron Brace made their preseason debuts on defense with both players seeing action in the starting lineup...WR Deion Branch made his preseason debut on offense with a start at wide receiver. The 11-year veteran led the Patriots with 51 receiving yards on three catches...First round draft picks Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower were both in the starting lineup for the second straight preseason game...PK Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts Monday night, connecting from 51, 35, and 55 yards. Gostkowski is 5-for-8 from 50 yards or more in his career, including a career-best 53-yard field goal at Denver on Nov. 11, 2009. His only 50-plus field goal at Gillette Stadium in the regular season was a 51-yarder vs. Chicago on Nov. 26, 2006...Sixth-round draft pick DB Nate Ebner picked off Philadelphia QB Nick Foles at the 3-yard line and returned it 34 yards to end a scoring threat at the end of the first half. A world-class rugby player who walked on at Ohio State, Ebner was a special teams standout who saw limited action on defense in college...LB Jermaine Cunningham led the team with three quarterback hits. DL Marcus Forston led the team with two tackles for losses. LB Niko Koutouvides paced the Patriots with five solo tackles and also added a team-high two special teams stops...


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