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Snap judgments: Patriots 38, Eagles 20

11.27.11 at 7:28 pm ET
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The Patriots moved to 8-3 on the season and put an end to any postseason hopes for “The Dream Team” with a 38-20 annihilation of the Eagles on Sunday, a win for New England that had the fans at Lincoln Financial Field either A) leaving with six minutes left in the third quarter or B) chanting “Fire Andy!” at the head coach. But the good news for the Eagles? DeSean Jackson will still have an awesome Madden rating next year.

Tom Brady passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns, both Deion Branch and Wes Welker went over 100 yards receiving and BenJarvus Green-Ellis found the end zone twice for the Patriots, who own a two-game lead (really three, a sweep over the Jets, remember) in the AFC East. They host the winless Colts next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

— Tom Brady did whatever he wanted against a depleted Eagles’ defense, completing 24-of-34 passes for 361 yards and three TDs. Brady found Wes Welker on two of the touchdown passes, the first a 41-yard score in the second quarter that found Welker wide open after a terrific play-action fake by Brady froze Joselio Hanson and Nate Allen. The second TD pass to Welker (which was reviewed but correctly NOT overturned) capped a sensational eight-play, 69-yard drive to open the second half. Brady was 5-for-5 for 60 yards on the drive and in complete control on Sunday. Maybe his best effort since his Week 1 masterpiece in Miami.

— Welker (eight catches, 115 yards, two TDs) had three catches for 31 yards and the TD in the opening drive of the second half. He now leads the NFL with 82 receptions and 1,143 receiving yards.

— Deion Branch had a season-high 63 yard reception on 3rd-and-13 play in the second quarter, catching a Brady pass (after Brady motioned for Branch to run a different route mid-play), making Nate Allen miss, and running over Kurt Coleman before going down at the Philadelphia 1. His speed isn’t what is was in his prime years, of course, but contrast the heart Branch showed on the play with the alligator arms special offered by DeSean Jackson in the end zone at the end of the second quarter. Talent matters, sure, but so does heart. Branch had his most productive game of the season, finishing with six catches for 125 yards.

— BenJarvus Green-Ellis hadn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5 (Jets), but had a pair of rushing scores on Sunday. Green-Ellis finished the game with just 44 yards on 14 carries, but looked very sharp in the first quarter, maybe the strongest he has looked since injuring his toe a month ago.

— After a very shaky start (more on that later), the defense settled down and did what they should do against a pass-skipping addicted Vince Young (a man once picked THIRD in an NFL Draft). Young finished the game with 400 yards passing, but plenty of those came in El Garbage time. I’ve been all over this defense this season, but I will not use 400 yards from Young as evidence. When it mattered, the Patriots made stops, and none bigger than the 4th-and-1 stop at the NE 2 in the third quarter. The Eagles tried play-action and rolled Young out to his right, but the Patriots did not bite on it. Kyle Arrington stayed with Brent Celek the whole way, and Young’s attempt wasn’t even close. A TD there makes it 31-20 and who knows what could happen? But the game was over (6:27 left in third) when the Eagles failed to convert and turned the ball over on downs.

Rob Ninkovich had a sack of Young (with plenty of facemask, no call), a tackle of LeSean McCoy for a loss and two other hits on Young.

Rob Gronkowski caught his 11th TD of the season in the fourth quarter, beating Nate Allen (who had a brutal game) over the middle. Gronkowski has 11 touchdowns this season and 21 in his career. Only three tight ends in history have put together back-to-back seasons with 10+ touchdowns, and Gronkowski is the only one to do so in Seasons One and Two.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Logan Mankins continued his 2011 struggles, getting beat twice by Cullen Jenkins in the opening drive of the game and whiffing on Jenkins on a Stevan Ridley rush. The offensive line settled down but Brady was lit up early on, taking five hits in the first quarter.

— Young came out throwing and that seemed to surprise the Patriots. Riley Cooper easily beat Kyle Arrington for a 58-yard catch on the opening drive of the game. Two plays later LeSean McCoy (very quiet all game) found the end zone (Gary Guyton was lost on the play) and it was 7-0 Eagles. On the next Philadelphia possession, DeSean Jackson was open on a deep ball from Young, and it appeared that Antwaun Molden was at fault. But the secondary was significantly better after that, with Arrington and Molden making key third-down plays (the Eagles finished just 4-of-13 on third down).

Stephen Gostkowski missed a 35-yard field goal (to the right) in the second quarter. He would later convert on a 45-yard attempt with 52 seconds left in that same quarter.

Halftime analysis: Patriots 24, Eagles 13

11.27.11 at 5:48 pm ET
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Two quarters are in the books, and the Patriots hold a 24-13 lead on the Eagles. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢ Tom Brady went 13-for-20 for 213 yards and a touchdown while BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 43 rushing yards and two touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Vince Young was 9-for-18 for 190 yards and an interception.

‘€¢ The Eagles got things started early with a five-play, 84-yard drive that took 2:17 and ended with a two-yard plunge from LeSean McCoy to make it 7-0. Philadelphia added to its lead on the next series when Alex Henery hit a 43-yarder to make it 10-0 with 8:19 left in the first quarter. Early on, the Philadelphia offensive line was able to give Young lots of time to throw, and the Eagles’ wide receivers were able to get good separation. That led to an early 58-yard connection from Young to Riley Cooper, and a 44-yarder from Young to DeSean Jackson.

‘€¢ Things turned late in the first and early in the second quarter when the Patriots were able to put together back to back scoring drives, followed by an interception by Antuwan Molden. (By way of comparison, the Eagles’ first two drives netted 139 yards. The three following drives netted 32 yards.)

‘€¢ Meanwhile, the Patriots picked it up on both sides of the ball. Even though Brady was hit steadily throughout the first half, the New England offense got on the board with a steady, physical drive on their second sequence, a 12-play, 80-yard sequence (with two first downs coming via penalty). The drive took 6:52 and ended with a four-yard run from Green-Ellis, who now appears to be completely over any sort of toe problems that dogged him earlier this season. New England followed that up with a quick-strike drive highlighted by a 63-yarder down the sidelines from Brady to Deion Branch (followed up by a one yard scoring plunge from Green-Ellis) to make it 14-10.

‘€¢ Following that, Molden picked off Young, but the Patriots missed out on a big scoring opportunity when Wes Welker dropped a third-down pass attempt and Stephen Gostkowski followed that up with a missed 39-yard field goal attempt that left Brady raging on the sidelines. They found some redemption on their next series when Brady out together another quick scoring drive, finding Welker on a sweet 41-yard touchdown pass that came about after an impressive play-action fake to Danny Woodhead to make it 21-10.

‘€¢ The Eagles put together a long drive of their own, but it stalled out in the red zone when Jackson developed alligator arms on a short, third-down passing play in the end zone, forcing Philly to settle for a field goal. New England then ended the first half in impressive fashion with a drive that ended with a 45-yard field goal from Gostkowski to make it 24-13 with 51 seconds left in the half.

  • The 24 points by the Patriots are the most this year in one half. They scored 21 in Week 3 against the Bills and led 21-10, before dropping the game, 34-31, at the final gun. They also scored 20 in the first half against the Chargers in Week 2 and won, 35-21.
  • Live Blog: Patriots head to Philly to take on Michael Vick-less Eagles

    11.27.11 at 3:07 pm ET
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    Patriots/Eagles Live Blog

    Setting the scene: Patriots-Eagles

    11.27.11 at 11:45 am ET
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    PHILADELPHIA — Clear skies and unseasonably warm temperatures in the low-to-mid 60s are expected for kickoff at 4:15 p.m. ET (WBZ-TV, Ch. 4) today at Lincoln Financial Field as the 7-3 Patriots look for their third straight win against the 4-6 Eagles. With a breeze of 10-15 MPH expected out of the south-southwest, it will feel more like the preseason game these two play every August than a game on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

    The Patriots will do everything in their power to get out to a quick lead and try to take the heart and desire out of the desperate Eagles.

    The fan base in Philadelphia is notoriously quick to turn, especially in games like this.

    Two weeks ago, with a chance to make a move in the NFC East, the Eagles dropped a game to the lowly Cardinals on this very field and the fans called for coach Andy Reid‘€™s job immediately.

    But there will almost certainly be a different quarterback at the helm today as Michael Vick broke two ribs in that loss to the Cards.

    In came Vince Young last week on the road against the Giants. All he did was lead the Eagles on an epic 18-play, 80-yard drive, taking up more than half of the fourth quarter and helping the Eagles to a 17-10 win that kept a pulse in the Eagles’€™ season.

    Various reports have Vick still laboring in practice this week after testing his ribs with several throwing sessions. As a result, Young is expected to get the start for the Patriots with a decision on whether to deactivate Vick not expected until closer to game time.

    Though far less dramatic and ‘€“ to this point ‘€“ significant, the Patriots made their own injury news 24 hours before the game by deciding to leave receiver Chad Ochocinco out of today’€™s game with a hamstring injury.

    Ochocinco showed up on the Patriots injury report on Friday with a hamstring issue and did not practice on the day after Thanksgiving.

    Taylor Price is expected to see significant playing time, filling in for Ochocinco as the third receiver in New England‘€™s three-receiver sets.

    Additionally, the Patriots have already ruled out linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb), Patrick Chung (ankle), Dan Connolly (groin), Devin McCourty (shoulder) and Brandon Spikes (knee). Jeff Tarpinian was placed on injured reserve this week with an undisclosed illness. Read the rest of this entry »

    Read More: Brandon Spikes, Chad Ochocinco, Dane Fletcher, Dream Team

    In Focus: Charting the offensive opportunities for the Patriots’ skill position players through 10 games

    11.26.11 at 11:21 pm ET
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    Every week over the course of the 2011 NFL season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Ten games into the season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2011:

    BenJarvus Green Ellis: 142 (136 carries, six receptions) five touchdowns ‘€” nine negative plays
    Wes Welker: 76 (2 carries, 74 receptions) six touchdowns ‘€” one negative play
    Danny Woodhead: 63 (49 carries, 14 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” two negative plays
    Rob Gronkowski: 52 (0 carries, 56 receptions), 10 touchdowns
    Aaron Hernandez: 42 (1 carry, 41 receptions), five touchdowns
    Stevan Ridley: 39 (36 carries, 3 reception), one touchdown ‘€” three negative plays
    Deion Branch: 39 (0 carries, 39 receptions), four touchdowns
    Kevin Faulk: 16 (11 carries, 5 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” two negative plays
    Tom Brady: 14 (16 carries, 0 receptions) 25 passing touchdowns, zero rushing touchdowns ‘€” 19 negative plays (all sacks)
    Chad Ochocinco: 11 (0 carries, 11 receptions), zero touchdowns
    Shane Vereen: 8 (8 carries, 0 receptions), one negative play
    Julian Edelman: 6 (3 carries, 3 receptions) zero touchdowns ‘€” two negative plays, both runs
    Matthew Slater: 1 (0 carries, 1 reception) zero touchdowns
    TOTAL: 510 touches (257 carries, 253 receptions) ‘€” 39 negative plays (excluding kneeldowns).

    Read More: Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Chad Ochocinco, Danny Woodhead

    A closer look at what the early inactives mean for the Patriots

    11.26.11 at 8:51 pm ET
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    The Patriots announced Saturday night that safety Patrick Chung, center Dan Connolly, cornerback Devin McCourty and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco have all been downgraded to out for Sunday’€™s game against the Eagles. The foursome joins linebackers Dane Fletcher (thumb) and Brandon Spikes (knee), who were already announced as out on Friday and already have missed the last couple of weeks.

    Chung has been struggling with a foot injury he suffered in the waning moments of the Nov. 6 loss to the Giants, and had missed the last two games as a result. Connolly was on the injury list this week with a groin injury, while McCourty suffered a shoulder injury on Nov. 13 against the Jets when he collided with teammate Sterling Moore and has been out since then. And Ochocinco made his first appearance of the season on the injury list this week with a hamstring problem.

    As for what this means for the rest of the roster, let’€™s start in the secondary: First, look for more responsibilities to be placed on the shoulders of James Ihedigbo at safety, while fellow safeties Sergio Brown and Moore will see plenty of snaps. (In an interesting twist, safety Ross Ventrone, who has bounced on and off the roster several times this season because of various personnel moves, will not be part of the active roster for Sunday’€™s game.)

    And no McCourty this week likely means another busy week for Antuwan Molden, who went wire-to-wire at left corner last week for New England on its win over the Chiefs. The Patriots could also give more snaps to Julian Edelman on the defensive side of the football — the former college quarterback has seen some quality snaps on defense the last two games, and could be in line for more on Sunday in hopes of providing depth at the position.

    Up front, Connolly’€™s absence means one thing — Ryan Wendell will see the bulk of the reps in his place. Wendell has stepped in occasionally as the No. 1 interior offensive lineman, and played well last week when Connolly went down. However, without Dan Koppen and Connolly, the Patriots are now very thin at the center spot.

    At wide receiver, Ochocinco’€™s absence should provide an opportunity for second-year receiver Taylor Price to at least more snaps — however, even when healthy, Price has struggled to see the field in his relatively short time in Foxboro, and so this could instead mean more targets for other pass catchers like Edelman and Matthew Slater. (At the same time, it’€™s important to remember that it’€™s not like Ochocinco was an integral part of the offense to this point in the season, so the change on the final scoresheet should be relatively negligible.)

    Read More: Antuwan Molden, Brandon Spikes, Chad Ochocinco, Dan Connolly

    Nuggetpalooza: Patriots vs Eagles!

    11.26.11 at 9:56 am ET
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    It’s Week 12, and the Patriots head to Philly to face the Eagles in what will probably be a much tougher game than the records indicate. Take a couple of minutes between leftovers and gorge on some Patriots and Eagles numbers to get you ready:

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    * – The Patriots had 234 passing yards Monday, with 183 of them coming after the catch (78.2%). It was their 2nd highest percentage since they began tracking the stat in 1992 and both came against the Chiefs AND BOTH CAME ON MONDAY NIGHTS (min. 185 total passing yards):

    85.1% – vs Chiefs (12/4/2000)
    78.2% – vs Chiefs (11/21/2011)
    76.7% – vs Eagles (12/19/1999)

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    * – With seven interceptions, Kyle Arrington has the league lead all by himself so far. Did you know that only one Patriots player has ever led the league in interceptions in a season outright (i.e. not tied)? That’s right. Ty Law led the league in 1998:

    9 – Ty Law, Patriots
    8 – Terrell Buckley, Dolphins
    8 – Kwame Lassiter, Cardinals
    8 – Sam Madison, Dolphins

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    * – The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (168.0) and rushing average per carry (5.64) this season. In their history, they’ve led the league in yards per game only three times: 1944, 1949, and 1990. However, it would be the second consecutive year in which they’ve led the league in rushing average, after putting up a 5.42 mark last season. Since 1970, three other teams have led the league in rushing average in consecutive seasons: 1992-93 49ers, 1998-99
    49ers, and the 2004-05-06 Falcons.

    In addition, their 62 rushes of 10 or more yards, an average of 6.2 such runs per game, is lapping the league (Denver is second with 50) and almost 66% of their rushing yards have come on runs of 10+ yards, another league high. Those 6.2 long runs per game is on pace to be the highest such average since they began tracking the stat in 1991:

    6.2 – Eagles, 2011
    5.4 – Vikings, 2007
    5.4 – Falcons, 2006
    5.3 – Steelers, 2001
    5.1 – Dolphins, 2002

    When they run right, they’ve averaged 6.66 yards (1st), compared to 5.27 yards up the middle (2nd), and 5.18 yards to the left (6th).

    Two last points about the Eagles running game: First, the Patriots rushing defense (104 yards/game and 4.31 yards/rush) both rank around the middle of the pack this season. Second, with Michael Vick not available last week, the Eagles rushed for only 4.1 yards/carry, their lowest average of the season, but it kept alive their streak of 23 consecutive games averaging 4.0 yards or better, the longest current streak in the league.

    ———————————————————————————————————–

    * – Are you one of those concerned with the Patriots’ recent first half scoring woes? Well, they have slumped recently: After averaging 18.0 first half points over their first four games, they’ve averaged just 9.3 over their last six. But guess what? Last season, they averaged 18.3 first half points over their first three games, then just 8.3 over their next six, before rebounding to average a whopping 21.4 over their last seven games.

    Note this: Tom Brady may already be snapping out of it (despite first half completion percentages that have been a bit un-Brady-like). Over the season’s first four weeks, New England’s first half passing rating (my rating, based primarily on net yards per pass play compared to the league average) was +3.50, tops in the league. From Week 5 through Week 9, it was -0.11 (14th in that span). But over the last two weeks, it’s rebounded to +3.92 (3rd over the two-week period).

    ———————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

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