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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.

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