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Halftime analysis: Patriots 14, Eagles 14

08.20.12 at 9:49 pm ET
By

FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots and Eagles are tied at 14. Here are a few quick notes:

Stat leaders: Ryan Mallett is 8-for-15 for 87 yards and one touchdown for the Patriots, while Shane Vereen has 10 carries for 20 yards and three catches for 25 yards. Brian Hoyer is 5-for-12 for 55 yards.

As was the case in the first half of the preseason opener between the Patriots and Saints, it was another rough half for both sides, as there was some sloppiness on both sides of the ball. Using mostly backups, the Patriots generated some offense throughout the first two quarters. However, they also took advantage of some poor Philadelphia penalties — holding, unnecessary roughness — to keep drives alive. (Philadelphia had a remarkable 10 penalties for 91 yards yards in the first half.)

The Patriots got on the board first with a drive that consumed 11 plays and went 56 yards and ended with a 51-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. On the drive, Mallett had pass plays of 16 yards (to Julian Edelman) and 11 yards (to Alex Silvestro) that were the highlights of a sequence that included a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on Philly’s Darryl Tapp.

On New England’s following drive, the highlight was a 20-yard completion from Mallett to Deion Branch late in the first to help move the chains — Mallett’s finest moment of the preseason. The quarterback showed poise in the pocket while stepping up and making a nice throw in the face of the Philadelphia pass rush. The Patriots got all the way down to the Eagles’ seven when Mallett found Silvestro on a rollout to the right for his first touchdown pass of the preseason to make it 11-0 (with a two-point conversion that featured defensive lineman Jake Bequette at tight end helping clear the way for Vereen) with 13:44 left in the half. It put the capper on a pretty good drive for Mallett, as the Patriots went 13 plays and covered 80 yards in 5:09.

Before the end of the first half, the Patriots tacked on another three points. Under extreme duress because of an offensive line that rarely gave him a clear pocket, Hoyer put together a drive that ended with a 35-yard field goal from Gostkowski. On that series, Hoyer had a 17-yard completion to Branch, but the drive was kept alive by roughing the passer and defensive holding calls.

It was a good couple of quarters for New England’s starting defensive line of Chandler Jones and Jermaine Cunningham (at defensive end) and Kyle Love and Ron Brace (at defensive tackle). On one play midway through the first, Love got great pressure up the gut, and Cunningham delivered the knockout blow, driving his helmet into Vick’s belly. The quarterback was sidelined, and left for the locker room soon after that to have his ribs x-rayed. He was replaced by Nick Foles at quarterback. The Eagles were forced to punt soon after, and New England’s defensive line continued a solid quarter of play with good pressure and (mostly) good gap discipline, as they won the majority of the one-on-one battles. Nate Ebner put the capper on the half for the New England defense with a pick just before halftime.

The low point of the half for the Patriots came in a midway through the second quarter. Undrafted free agent Brandon Bolden fumbled a punt with just under 12 minutes left in the quarter and the Eagles made them pay, going 24 yards on three plays and making in 11-7. It was the sort of sequence that will undoubtedly make Bill Belichick nuts when he watches the film–a special teams turnover was compounded by bad overpursuit and failure to contain on the edge (at first glance, it appeared rookie Nate Ebner was at fault), leading to the Philly touchdown with 10:07 left in the second quarter.

The Patriots followed that up with a Hoyer fumble where New England tackles Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder were both beaten badly, leading to a strip-sack and fumble. (It has been a very rough preseason and camp for both Cannon and Solder, who have struggled both in practice and in games.) That gave the Eagles the ball at the Patriots’ 12, and Philly punched it in two plays later on a pass from Foles to Clay Harbor to make it 14-11 with 9:06 remaining in the quarter.

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