The New England Patriots' aerial assault was in midseason form Friday as Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Mallett dissected the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary en route to a 42-35 triumph.
It was Brady's first taste of action this season after he was held out of the team's first preseason game. Things went south at first as Philadelphia's Cary Williams took advantage of a gaffe by a receiver and returned the interception for a touchdown.
Brady quickly recovered, though, and finished with an 8-of-10 effort for 81 yards and a score. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe humorously captured the vibe after New England's first two drives:
Yes, Tom Brady is still good. Bring on Ryan Mallett, please— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 16, 2014
Instead, fans were treated to the Jimmy Garoppolo show. A second-round pick, Garoppolo jumped Mallett on the depth chart after outplaying his competition last week against Washington.
He was not satisfied after his sound debut, though, as captured by Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com:
Tough. Losing like that is never fun, but it is a good experience for the first preseason game and I had fun out there. I did all right. There is a lot of stuff to improve on. It is a process. For any rookie quarterback, there is a lot to learn from and we will go watch the tape tomorrow and fix those things.
Garoppolo did nothing short of improve Friday, completing six passes on 12 attempts for 72 yards and two touchdowns. The first score was issued to fullback James Develin after a Philadelphia turnover to make it 14-7, the second went to newcomer Brandon LaFell.
NFL Network's Albert Breer noted that the rookie looked anything but in areas that usually give first-year players issues:
Jimmy Garoppolo poise in the pocket and release really showing up the last two weeks.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 16, 2014
Believe it or not, the Eagles did have a pulse in the first half despite the onslaught of surgical precision from what looks to be one of the NFL's best passing attacks once again.
As NFL on ESPN noted, that touchdown by Williams, who leaped over a diving Brady in the process, might have provoked such an onslaught:
Cary Williams just a week ago called the Patriots "cheaters" and then goes and gets a pick-6 on Tom Brady tonight.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 15, 2014
Regardless, Philadelphia tied the score up by halftime thanks to two touchdowns in the last four minutes of the second quarter.
The first was most important, though. A common theme for the Eagles this offseason has been the search for offensive production with DeSean Jackson out of the picture. Many have pointed to 2013 second-round pick Zach Ertz.
Friday, the tight end showed why by using his 6'5", 250-pound frame to box out a smaller defender for the score. Geoff Mosher of csnphilly.com and Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com were quick to point out that this was not going to be an isolated incident:
Get used to that folks, Foles to Ertz for a red-zone TD. Foles has responded from Bears game. 8-for-10, 81 yards, TD.— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) August 16, 2014
Saw Ertz do that all week: Makes himself big, boxes out defenders, makes contested catches. I think he leads Eagles in rec. TDs this year.— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) August 16, 2014
Another name who might see more opportunities to contribute in Chip Kelly's quick-twitch attack is wideout Arrelious Benn. He made his case for time with a scoring reception from six yards out thanks to a pretty throw from one Mark Sanchez.
Mallett did finally get his chance and had a respectable third quarter to counter the damage done by Garoppolo's second. He rushed for a touchdown from six yards out and later connected on a score with Brian Tyms before finishing the day with an 7-of-11 effort for 92 yards and a score.
Speaking of Tyms, he is doing all he can to make an already confusing depth chart even more difficult to discern. Last week he brought in five catches for 119 yards and a score, and as Volin noted, this week's highlight-worthy catch is furthering his case for a spot:
Another sick play in a 1-on-1 situation for Brian Tyms, who hauls in another impressive touchdown. Give this man a roster spot— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 16, 2014
That score actually put the Patriots up 42-28 with a little more than five minutes to go in the third quarter, but a touchdown pass to rookie Henry Josey from Matt Barkley brought the Eagles within seven points with one frame left.
Josey is yet another talent who is sure to make life difficult on staffs when final cut day rolls around. The undrafted back out of Missouri, who had multiple knee issues throughout his collegiate career, amassed 83 total yards and a touchdown.
Footage from Josey's touchdown scamper, via Mark Kim of KOMU 8 Sports, says it all:
That proved to be the last bit of production for the Eagles, though, as a mostly quiet final quarter saw the home side hold onto their lead as reserves battled it out for roster spots.
In total, New England finished with a 10-of-15 mark on third downs and held the ball for more than 39 minutes of play. To top it all off, they gained 250 rushing yards to just 89 for the Eagles, a testament to the work both teams must accomplish in the final two weeks before things begin to matter.
Now at 0-2 this preseason, the Eagles now look ahead to an encounter Thursday with Pittsburgh. The Steelers won't pose the same threat through the air but instead figure to bang on the ground for most of the contest. It is a great way for a developing defensive unit to test its mettle.
Brady and Co. will welcome Carolina to Gillette Stadium next Friday in what should be one of the marquee matchups of preseason Week 3, which sees starters tally the most time of any of the exhibitions.
In other words, fans will get to see just how in tune the Patriots' offense is against one of the NFL's best defenses from a season ago.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.