Patriots vs. Eagles: 5 Keys to Upsetting New England
The Philadelphia Eagles saved their season momentarily last week with a big road win against the NFC East-leading New York Giants. This week, the Eagles will have to do even better when the New England Patriots come into town.
The Patriots come in at 7-3 with the second-ranked passing offense in the league, averaging over 315 yards in the air per game. The Eagles will have to cool the red-hot Patriots in order to continue to save their season.
With the Dallas Cowboys escaping the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving, an Eagles loss would put them three games back with five games left. A win would keep the Eagles in the NFC East race, with their next two games coming against very beatable opponents, the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins.
A Sunday afternoon upset of the Patriots won't come easy, but not much has this season for the Eagles.
1. Joselio Hanson Must Contain Wes Welker
Wes Welker has become one of the best slot receivers in NFL history. His stats through the first 10 games—74 receptions for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns—are Pro Bowl-caliber stats for an entire season. He is the key to the Patriots offense.
Fortunately for the Eagles, they have one of the best slot corners in the NFL. Joselio Hanson has been a top-notch slot corner for the last few years in Philadelphia. Last season, Hanson was primarily a nickelback, where he was targeted just 46 times, where he gave up just 4.4 yards per attempt, which was second best in the NFL, and only gave up 1.5 yards after the catch which was first. Hanson is a good press coverage corner in the slot who rarely gives up yards after the catch.
Hanson should match up very well versus Wes Welker. He will be key against the Patriots passing attack. When Welker goes, so does the offense. When you can put one cornerback on Welker and contain him for four quarters, it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the offense. It allows a defense to give extra help on the tight ends and make the other Patriots wide receivers beat you.
2. Get Pressure from the Front Four
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Tom Brady is a special quarterback. If you give him enough time, he will carve up any defense. If you blitz him, he will read it and make you pay. The best way to bet Brady is to get pressure from your front four.
This season, the Eagles have 29 sacks on the season, 27 of them have come from their front four. The Eagles like to use eight different defensive linemen and rotate throughout the entire game. They will need to come up big if the Eagles are going to upset the Patriots.
The Eagles have three different linemen with at least five sacks, including Jason Babin, who has 10 on the year. Babin and Trent Cole will have to come up big against Brady. Brady has proven over his career that when he gets hit early and often, he gets rattled. He has also proven if he has time, he will carve up your defense.
3. LeSean McCoy
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LeSean McCoy has become a top-three running back in the NFL this season. Through the first 10 games, McCoy has 1,019 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns on the season. He is the total package in the backfield and will be key for the Eagles offense.
The Patriots give up over 104 rushing yards a game, and McCoy will have to be even better than that on Sunday. Time of possession will be a major factor in Sunday afternoon's contest. The longer the Eagles can stay on the field, the better, not only to keep Tom Brady off the field, but also to wear down a very thin Patriots defense.
In a Week 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, McCoy had just one touch in the final 20 plays. He had 26 touches in last week's victory over the Giants. He will have to be the focus of the offense that will most likely be without Michael Vick and could be without Jeremy Maclin and maybe even DeSean Jackson. All three players are day to day; Vick has yet to throw in practice through Thursday.
If McCoy has a big day, it should make things much easier for whoever is running the offense.
4. Take Care of the Football
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The Eagles have been the most careless team in football this season. Starting quarterback Michael Vick has 14 turnovers on the season, and his backup, Vince Young, didn't fare much better with his three picks last week against the Giants. Tom Brady doesn't need any held. He can tear apart a defense without getting help from his defense. Another high turnover day for the Eagles will spell doom.
Despite his three interceptions, Young actually played a heck of a game last week. Two of his interceptions can be chalked up to receivers not coming back to the ball. DeSean Jackson let an under thrown ball be picked off by rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara, and Riley Cooper lost the ball in the light on a fade pass that was picked off by Aaron Ross in the end zone. The third pick was a tipped pass that fell into Giants safety Kenny Phillips hands.
It won't matter who is to blame; Vince Young or Michael Vick will have to take care of the football in order to be successful on Sunday. With Michael Vick unable to throw the football through the first two practices this week, it appears it will be up to Vince Young once again to save the Eagles season. If so, he will have to be more careful with the football.
5. Score Touchdowns in the Red Zone
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The Eagles have always struggled in the red zone under head coach Andy Reid. Much of that can be attributed to never having a physical wide receiver or a true power back outside of a couple years with Duce Staley.
This season, the Eagles red zone woes have continued. During a two-game stretch against the Giants and the 49ers, the Eagles scored just three red zone touchdowns in 12 trips. This week, the Eagles will have to be more efficient inside the 20. You don't beat the Patriots by consistently settling for field goals.
Last week, against the Giants, the Eagles scored two touchdowns in five red-zone trips. One of those trips was the final possession where the Eagles just killed the clock. The other two trips ended in a Alex Henery field goal and an interception in the end zone. Seventeen points in four red zone trips isn't bad.
The Eagles will have to get to the red zone more often against the Patriots on Sunday. Seventeen points won't cut if against New England. The Eagles will have to put up at least 24 points, which means they have to be very efficient inside the 20. They do that, and they may just save their season for another week.