Eagles at Patriots Review: Eagles Perfect Storm Downs Pats

The Eagles did a number of unprecedented things to hand the Patriots their second straight loss.

First, Philadelphia became just the third team in NFL history with a INT return TD, a blocked punt return TD, and a punt return TD in the same game.

Second, Bill Belichick was 61-0 as Patriots head coach in games where his team led by 14+ points at home.

Third, the Patriots loss snapped a streak of 56-straight games without losing 2-straight games. The Pats had won 10-straight games following a loss within a season.

Here we go with this week’s film review:

On Offense

Offensive line: The easy place to lay blame offensively (other than injuries) is by pointing at the offensive line. Two things that stood out after re-watching the game; first, when Brady had time the offense moved the ball, second, this group isn’t close to being on the same page. When everyone was healthy along the o-line, the Patriots were using a rotation to try to keep guys fresh. On Sunday, they used just seven offensive lineman, and Cam Fleming played just three snaps. Cannon, Vollmer, and Stork played every snap, while Josh Kline played on 85% of snaps (missed a few due to injury). Right now it’s up to Brady to get the ball out, and for receivers to uncover quickly downfield. The o-line can’t block for any extended period of time.

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Final Drive (drops): The Eagles did everything they could to give the Patriots a chance to tie this game. They botched an onside kick, and then Kenjon Barner fumbled with less than 2 minutes to go. Brady got the final drive going, but three consecutive drops by Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, and Keshawn Martin were the final nail in the Patriots coffin. Drops are becoming a problem for the Patriots this season. They now have the second most drops in the league (26) and are dropping catchable passes 7.4% of the time (5th-most). The pass to Amendola could have been better (a bit behind) and Keshawn Martin had to make a tough catch over the middle, but the drop by LaFell should have been a big completion.

James White: The MVP of the offense on Sunday was running back James White. For the first time since Dion Lewis’ injury the Patriots second year RB showed glimpses of being a viable option as a pass catcher out of the backfield. White’s stat line speaks for itself, but the main takeaway from Sunday was his ability to get yards after the catch. 68 of White’s 115 receiving yards came after the catch. That’s the closest thing the Patriots have had to replicating Dion Lewis’ production and big play ability in the offense among the replacement RBs. White seemed to gain Tom Brady’s trust as the game went on, and hopefully built something with the QB going forward.

Clock Management: Along with all the other rare coaching miscues was the Patriots handling of the clock at the end of the half. The Pats got the ball back with 1:32 at their own 13-yard line. The Eagles did have all three timeouts, so the Pats needed a few first downs to at least run out the clock. The Pats had a tough time deciding between being aggressive or conservative, and it cost them. The drive went run (Bolden, 6 yards), run (Bolden, 14 yards), Pats timeout, Brady sack, Philly timeout, run (White, 8 yards), incomplete pass. By not running out the clock, the Patriots were forced to punt with 15 seconds left in the half. That punt was blocked and resulted in seven points for the Eagles.

On Defense

Scat Backs (Darren Sproles): Eagles coach Chip Kelly mentioned that the reason for going with Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner was because the Patriots have great size in the front 7 and at linebacker. Meaning the quicker/shiftier backs were having more success than typical workhorse back DeMarco Murray. The Patriots have had some trouble covering running backs out of the backfield this season, and looked unprepared for Darren Sproles. Unprepared isn’t usually a word used very often to describe the Pats, but covering Sproles primarily with Jamie Collins and Jonathan Freeny burned them. Collins is a good coverage linebacker, but Sproles is a special back in space. Sproles had 100 of the Eagles 248 yards of offense. He was the only consistent option for them offensively.

3rd Down Conversion to Riley Cooper: The play of the game might have been Bradford’s 14-yard completion to Riley Cooper to move the chains late in the 4th quarter. The Pats got the ball back on Barner’s fumble, but the conversion shaved nearly two minutes of game time, and Brady got the ball back with 1:02 and no timeouts because of it. Credit Sam Bradford for standing in their under pressure, and Cooper got away with a bit of a push off at the top of the route to create separation from Butler. The MVP of the play, however, was definitely Eagles LT Jason Peters. Peters got just enough of Rob Ninkovich to keep him from sacking Bradford. Nink had Bradford dead to rights.

Special Teams

Sproles Punt Return TD: It’s so uncharacteristic of the Patriots to struggle this much on special teams, but the Eagles have one of the best punt return units in the league. Sproles is one of the most explosive returners in NFL history, and the second he sees daylight he’s gone. The Pats looked to be in pretty good shape when he caught the ball, but Nate Ebner overran the play and Matthew Slater had a rare missed tackle. From their it was off to the races, but Darius Fleming and Ryan Allen should have had him at mid-field. Overall, it wasn’t terrible coverage, but the Patriots just couldn’t bring Sproles down.

Punt Block Return TD: The punt block wasn’t any fancy disguise from the Eagles, and I’m sure the Patriots had practiced against the rush that they used. It looked like rookie Geneo Grissom was to blame for Chris Maragos going unblocked to Ryan Allen. Grissom double-teamed (player) with long snapper Joe Cardona when he should have picked up Maragos. Nate Ebner (personal protector) took the free runner through the right side expecting Grissom to block Maragos. The missed assignment was a huge turning point in the game.

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Nate Ebner Drop Kick: A lot has been made of Nate Ebner’s drop kick attempt in the 2nd quarter after the Patriots went up 14-0. I understand that it was unnecessary and a low percentage play, but this far down the list of reasons of why the Patriots lost. It didn’t work, but at the end of the day the Pats only lost about 20 yards in field position. The TDs on punts and turnovers by the offense were much bigger deals than this.