Philadelphia Eagles: Recapping the Dress Rehearsal Against the Patriots
Yes, it was only Week 2 of the preseason, not normally the week teams have their regular-season dress rehearsal. But, due to a scheduling quirk for the Eagles, Week 2 was in fact the regular-season prep game.
In a nice gesture by Patriots owner Bob Kraft, the teams served a moment of silence to honor the memory of Andy Reid's late son, Garrett, who was found dead August 5 in his dorm room at Lehigh University while serving as an assistant strength coach.
Early on was fairly ugly on both sides of the ball. After starting with a three-and-out, the Eagles came out on offense, actually getting a first down, which was completed by a slide by Michael Vick. However, he slid head first, not feet first, not what Eagles fans (and President Obama) were hoping for. The drive stalled three plays later.
Oh, and by the way, Tom Brady was never a part of this. He, along with Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, among others, were held out of this game. For the full list of Patriots who did not dress, see this post from Greg Bedard (@GregABedard).
Reason being, the Patriots are in a stretch of three games in 10 days, tonight against the Eagles, Friday against the Buccaneers (and they will practice in Tampa Bay) and next Wednesday against the Giants.
So instead of facing Tom Brady, the Eagles had their dress rehearsal against second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Mallett looked impressive on a 10-play drive that resulted in a 51-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The drive included a personal foul on Darryl Tapp for unnecessary roughness.
The next drive was a scary one for the Eagles; yet again, Michael Vick suffered an injury when he took a hard shot from defensive end Jermaine Cunningham on the first play of the drive. Vick was taken back to the locker room for X-rays on his ribs, which revealed no fracture.
Rookie quarterback Nick Foles came in for Vick and took all the snaps the rest of the first half, with Trent Edwards being the only other healthy quarterback on the roster. Mike Kafka is out two to three weeks with a broken left (non-throwing) hand.
Foles started out well with a 15-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, followed by an eight-yard pass to LeSean McCoy. After a two-yard run off a direct snap by LeSean McCoy, Foles threw two straight incompletions, and the Eagles were forced to punt.
On the next Patriots drive, the Eagles looked to have ended Mallett's run with an interception by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a 3rd-and-7. However, Fletcher Cox was called for roughing the passer, negating the interception.
Three plays later, Trent Cole got in the act, sacking Mallett on another third down. But another Eagles penalty kept the drive alive, this time holding on Nnamdi Asomugha. Those penalties would come back to bite the Eagles. Mallett hit Deion Branch for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-5 from the Eagles 49 and then hit Shane Vereen for a 20-yard gain on a 3rd-and-9 from the 28. Three plays later, Mallett hit Alex Silvestro for a seven-yard touchdown. After an illegal substitution penalty on the Eagles, the Patriots decided to take the ball at the 1-yard line and go for two, which was run in by Vereen, giving the Patriots an 11-0 lead.
After a drive that netted 10 yards, the Eagles punted and received their first lucky break. Brandon Bolden muffed the punt, giving the Eagles the ball at the New England 24, after Akeem Jordan recovered the muff. Three plays later, McCoy ran right side into the end zone for a one-yard score after a nice 14-yard run up the middle by Stanley Havili.
Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer entered the game and on his third play was stripped-sacked by Philip Hunt, with Darryl Tapp recovering the fumble, setting the Eagles up with great field position, yet again.
This time, the Eagles only needed two plays before Foles found Clay Harbor in the corner, and Harbor did a nice job keeping his feet in bounds. Alex Henery's second extra point gave the Eagles a 14-11 lead.
Two more Eagles penalties on defense on the next drive (roughing the passer on Tapp, offsides on Brandon Graham) allowed the Patriots to build on a 15-play, 63-yard drive, that resulted in a game-tying field goal.
The replacement referees were at it again, missing a pretty obvious incompletion. Foles targeted Brent Celek, who was hit immediately and could not haul the pass in. The refs, somehow, called the play a catch, a fumble and a touchdown by Trevor Scott. After reviewing the play, the referees correctly reversed the original call, ruling an incompletion. However, they ruled the down would be replayed, which should not have happened. The mistake did not matter; the Eagles punted two plays later, anyway.
What grade would you give the Eagles against the Patriots?
A New England punt gave way to one last Philadelphia drive, which was off to a good start, as the Eagles went from their 15 to the New England 30 in about 30 seconds. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Foles underthrew Maclin and was picked off by Nate Ebner. One New England knee, and the teams went to the locker room tied at 14.
The Eagles came out firing to start the third quarter. Foles looked very sharp, going 5-of-6 for 87 yards and a touchdown, the second one to Harbor. McCoy fumbled on the third play but was able to pick it up, keeping the drive alive. That was the final drive of the night for the first team.
The Eagles forced a three-and-out, and it was time for the second-teamers. Dion Lewis got some carries on a drive that ended with a missed 55-yard field goal attempt by Alex Henery.
Starting at their 45, the Patriots were able to move the ball only 18 yards, as the Eagles started playing their second-team defense. Curtis Marsh continued to impress; it looks more and more likely that he will be the third cornerback, behind Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, who suffered a shoulder injury. Gostkowski hit his second field goal from over 50 yards, this one a 55-yard field goal.
The Eagles responded with a field goal, after some nice running by rookie running back Bryce Brown, who continues to distance himself from Chris Polk for the third running back spot.
Brown continued to run well in the fourth quarter, breaking off a 17-yard run, with Edwards at quarterback. Foles finished 18-of-28 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
That drive stalled at the New England 47, after Edwards threw three straight incompletions, forcing the Eagles to punt.
Vinny Curry and Akeem Jordan helped the Eagles force another three-and-out on the next drive.
Bryce Brown had another fine couple of runs, and Chris Polk got some short-yardage work on the next drive, but it ended with a punt—but a nice one at that as Chas Henry pinned the Patriots at their 9. It was his second punt, averaging 36 yards.
Mat McBriar, however, punted four times for an average of 44 yards.
Polk continued to run well on the next offensive series, including fighting for about five yards and gaining a first down inside the 10. The Eagles later faced 4th-and-goal and went for a field goal, which was good again from Henery, making the score 27-17 with two minutes left.
The Patriots closed the game with three Steven Ridley runs, and that was the end of the game.
Overall, it wasn't a bad game for the Eagles. They were hoping for a good test against a strong Patriots offense, but Belichick decided to sit roughly half of the offense, so it was pretty tough to exactly gauge this team, especially since they went most of the first half with Foles as quarterback, rather than Vick.
The defense looked better than last week but was still getting beat on screens, mostly. And the penalties have to come down. They really hurt a lot of drives, including the first Patriots touchdown drive.
We can only hope that the Eagles will get fired up, especially after getting scolded by Reid.
Guys who stood out in this game included LeSean McCoy, Mychal Kendricks, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Clay Harbor, Bryce Brown, and Nick Foles.
DeSean Jackson led in receiving with 82 yards on four catches, and Harbor caught six balls for 30 yards and two touchdowns.
Bryce Brown ran nine times for 51 yards, McCoy ran seven times for 30 yards and a touchdown.
I'd give the Eagles, as a team, a B. They looked good on offense with Foles under center, and solid in the limited time Vick was under center. Vick still needs to learn to slide feetfirst, not headfirst.
Still some work to be done, especially when the first team didn't look completely sharp against the Patriots second team. The Eagles have two more preseason games and 20 days before their opener September 9 at the Browns. Their remaining preseason schedule is Friday against the Browns and Thursday, August 30, against the Jets.
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