The players may not have been playing for a win, but there was something at stake on Monday Night Football. Performances could dictate spots on the roster; some players are fighting for starting jobs, others are simply fighting for jobs.
These are my complete grades for each unit—offense, defense and special teams—as updated throughout the game on Monday night.
The offensive line still looks like a problem in New England. Tackles Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder were once again the poster-boys of pressure as the Eagles made the offensive tackles their whipping boys.
The offense moved the ball well through the air when the quarterbacks had enough time to do so, but the offensive line has been a problem throughout camp. The healthy return of Vollmer, Brian Waters and Logan Mankins should steady things up a bit, but until that happens, the line will be a justifiable concern.
The pressure got to starting quarterback Ryan Mallett several times, but he hung in there to deliver the throw on a couple of occasions. His stat line was misleading, though, with a pair of drops by Patriots running back Danny Woodhead and wide receiver Jeremy Ebert. He didn't look as poised in the second half. Brian Hoyer had some flashes, but he was also a victim of poor blocking up front.
The Patriots got things going in the screen game once again, with dumpoffs to running backs and wide receivers. Shane Vereen reeled off a nice 20-yard gain on a screen in the first half. It wasn't all good for the second-year back, who gave up a big-time sack on Mallett when he failed to pick up a blitz.
We didn't get to see much from the run defense in the first quarter, but the Patriots held the Eagles to 15 yards on four carries.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower has come under fire for his struggles in coverage, but he had nice coverage on wide receiver Jason Avant on a third-down pass that fell incomplete.
The defensive line got good pressure overall. Defensive tackle Kyle Love was the story of the first quarter, getting pressure up the middle on a few occasions (and getting held in the process). Jake Bequette, Chandler Jones and Jermaine Cunningham all got in on the pressure party, as well.
The Patriots were able to keep the Eagles pass attack grounded for the most part, with Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles averaging 3.67 yards per pass attempt in the first half—two full yards less than the Eagles earned per running play.
The Patriots fielded mostly second- and third-string defenders against the Eagles' first-team offense on the touchdown drive to open the second half. Their defense looked a lot like last year in the second half, giving up a lot of yards through the air highlighted by a 40-yard reception by Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson over Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski showed off his big leg with field goals from 51, 35 and 55 yards out, but failed to boot a pair of kickoffs out of the end zone, which allowed for a pair of big returns by Eagles rookie Brandon Boykin.
Julian Edelman nearly muffed a kickoff return in the second quarter, and rookie free agent Brandon Bolden muffed a punt. He also got nailed immediately upon fielding another punt, one he should have fair-caught.
Zoltan Mesko punted six times, and had a healthy average of 47 yards per punt (six punts totaling 282 yards). He got great hang time once again, with a maximum hang of 4.68 seconds. Mesko looks in midseason form.
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