New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive dominance, another trick play decides Super Bowl LII rematch

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New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles - Defensive dominance, another trick play decides Super Bowl LII rematch 1

New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles: Defensive dominance, another trick play decides Super Bowl LII rematch

In a Super Bowl LII rematch – one of the most offensively-charged title tilts of all time – it was the defensive-minded Patriots who came out with the win on Sunday, capturing a narrow 17-10 victory over the Eagles in Philly.

The New England Patriots were able to hold off the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling Super Bowl LII rematch on Sunday, defeating the Eagles 17-10 in a defensive battle that featured another game-defining trick play, this time going in the Patriots favor.

On a third-and-11 at the Eagles’ 15-yard line with 10:55 to play in the third quarter, wide receiver Julian Edelman (a former quarterback at Kent State) threw a touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett to give the Patriots their first lead of the game, and the subsequent successful two-point attempt pushed the margin to 17-10. New England would never relinquish that lead, holding off a dormant Eagles offense that was missing Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Howard.

The Eagles didn’t do much on offense after taking a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. That included a stretch where they had 18 plays for 22 yards on their five possessions after Dallas Goedert scored their first touchdown of the game (Philadelphia finished with 255 yards of offense).

To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson in the second quarter with a concussion. Without Johnson, the offense wasn’t the same, as quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked a total of five times.

Video: New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles Week 11 Highlights | NFL 2019

Philadelphia still had an opportunity to win the game, driving to New England’s 26-yard line before a fourth-and-10 heave by Wentz went in and out of the hands of Nelson Agholor in the end zone. The catch was a tough one to make, but Agholor had a step on the defender, and the score would have pulled the Eagles within one with 1:05 left and the extra point pending.

Tom Brady wasn’t at his best, but the Patriots have found ways to win without their quarterback playing at a Hall of Fame level. New England did struggle in the red zone and averaged just 4.2 yards per play, but Edelman’s pass ended up being the difference in a game that needed a trick play to get any offense going. Brady finished 26 of 47 for 216 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions on a windy day in Philadelphia.

Here’s what you need to know about the Super Bowl LII rematch, one the Patriots were able to get revenge on the Eagles in beating Philadelphia for the first time since 2011.

New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles - Defensive dominance, another trick play decides Super Bowl LII rematch 1
New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles – Defensive dominance, another trick play decides Super Bowl LII rematch

Why the Patriots won

The Patriots had the No. 1 defense in the NFL and fully took advantage of a depleted Eagles offense after spotting them 10 points in the first 17:24. After New England allowed a 16-play, 95-yard drive that took 9:33 off the clock and resulted in a Goedert touchdown, the Patriots held the Eagles to 152 yards and 3.45 yards per play.

The Eagles were held to 19 plays for 22 yards in the six possessions after the touchdown, which was enough to allow the Patriots to erase a 10-0 deficit and score 17 unanswered points. The defense held the Eagles to 10 points, 3 of 13 on third down attempts and 3.9 yards per play, while sacking Wentz five times. It’s the top-ranked defense in the league for a reason.

Why the Eagles lost
The Eagles were behind the 8 ball with Jeffery and Howard out, then Johnson and left tackle Jason Peters left the game, then running back Miles Sanders missing nearly half of the fourth quarter with an injury, but this one was lost when head coach Doug Pederson abandoned the game plan.

The Eagles averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the first half and scored 10 points early, but Pederson decided to get pass happy with a wide receiver unit that had six catches for 75 yards. Total. The Eagles ran the ball just twice in the first half after the Goedert touchdown, averaging four yards per carry, and just seven times for 18 yards in the second half. Just nine running plays to 34 pass plays after the touchdown, against a defense that allowed 5.6 yards per carry over the last six games. Unacceptable.

Turning point
The Eagles offense was moving the ball well on two of their first three possessions, but injuries did play a role in their offensive inefficiency. One player the Eagles couldn’t afford to lose was right tackle Lane Johnson, who left the game with a head injury in the second quarter.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (who was the starting left tackle for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run) entered the game and did not perform well in relief, as Wentz did not have enough time to get rid of the ball with immense pressure from the right side. Wentz wasn’t good in this game, but losing both his tackles in addition to all the other injuries the offense endured was a recipe for disaster.

Play of the game
The Patriots won a game on a trick play that ended up being the winning score. New England went 1 of 3 in the red zone, but the lone touchdown was one of Bill Belichick’s best play calls of the year.

Against an excellent Eagles defense on this day, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had Brady throw a backwards pass to Edelman that allowed the former college quarterback to throw. Edelman had enough time to get rid of the ball before taking a punishing hit by Malcolm Jenkins, finding a wide open Dorsett in the end zone for the touchdown to give the Patriots their first lead of the game (and the lead for good).

The Patriots got Jenkins to bite on the backwards pass, allowing Dorsett to get open and throw the touchdown, which was the sole purpose of the play. Running that play after “Philly Special” defined the Eagles’ Super Bowl win? Call it irony, call it karma, call it whatever you’d like, but it was the play that ended up deciding the game.

Quotable
“Yeah, he was crying. He did that on film a lot. If you get into him, he don’t get the ball, or if he don’t get a call, he’ll cry. But, he’s a good receiver. He’s a good tight end.” — Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz

Ertz was targeted 11 times in this game, securing nine catches for 94 yards. Those are still interesting words by Gilmore, who had the responsibility of covering Ertz at times throughout the game with the Eagles using Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and JJ Arcega-Whiteside as their top wide receivers in the game.

Ertz is a challenge for Gilmore, but he wouldn’t be on him as much if the Eagles have better (and healthier) wide receivers. Gilmore is still one of (if not) the best cover corners in the league.

New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles: Here are three things that stood out from this game.

1. Fireworks were few and far between: The rematch of Super Bowl LII featured very few of the fireworks that made that 41-33 Eagles victory an instant classic. Instead, both teams struggled offensively while looking like shells of themselves.

Carson Wentz was still injured back in that February 2018 game, so this rematch meant nothing to him. Tom Brady told reporters this week that he’s still not over the loss to Philly, but he was unable to translate those emotions into a dominant performance on Sunday.

Neither offense managed to settle into a rhythm despite multiple approaches. No-huddle didn’t bring the tempo either unit sought. Misdirection produced mixed results, as did gimmick plays.

Both quarterbacks struggled with accuracy, and it showed the most on third downs. Wentz and the Eagles converted only 3 of 13 attempts on those money downs while Brady and the Patriots were 5-for-16. For the game,

Wentz managed to complete just 20 of 40 passes for just 214 yards and a touchdown, and he was sacked five times. Brady, meanwhile completed 26 of 47 yards for 216 yards and no touchdowns and the Patriots’ lone touchdown came on a trick-play pass from wide receiver Julian Edelman to Phillip Dorsett.

2. Familiar needs all around: Both the Eagles and the Patriots’ offenses are struggling because of a common deficiency: talent at wide receiver. Philly’s most explosive weapon, DeSean Jackson is on injured reserve, and Alshon Jeffery was sidelined with an ankle injury.

New England has yet to find a contributor to fill that void caused by Rob Gronkowski’s retirement, and we’re more than halfway through the season.

Both teams have talented quarterbacks, and guys like Brady and Wentz can help elevate their supporting. But they still need targets capable of winning 1-on-1 matchups.

Edelman remains a special player, but it’s easy for defenses to focus on limiting his production when they don’t have to worry about his teammates. Dorsett left the game with a head injury, and Mohamed Sanu has yet to settle into a comfort zone.

Brady had to throw balls away more often than he would have liked because guys just weren’t getting open before pressure came. We keep waiting for a new threat to emerge for the Patriots, but thus far, it hasn’t happened.

Wentz, meanwhile, missed his top targets even more. Far too often he held onto the ball too long, hoping something would open up downfield, only to get sacked. Adding to Wentz’s struggles was the head injury to right tackle Lane Johnson. Protection issues really cropped up once Johnson left the game.

Wentz never could get comfortable. There were even times when he did have sufficient protection, but no one was open. There were some rare occurrences when targets did get open, but the quarterback looked jumpy and his passes sailed high or fell short.

3. The defenses deserve credit: We shouldn’t completely pin the offensive struggles on a lack of wide receiver talent. Both the Eagles and Patriots cooked up and executed effective game plans.

The Patriots looked like their usual dominant selves, and they recorded their league-leading 28th takeaway on a sack-fumble of Wentz in the first half. New England’s pass-rushers overwhelmed the Philly line throughout the game.

Both units did a good job against the run, and they did a nice job of limiting big plays. The Patriots has a couple of near-interceptions. Both teams can thank their defenses for keeping them in Sunday’s game.

New England’s defense is so dominant that the Patriots will have a chance to win any game they’re in. The Eagles’ defense give them a chance as well, but a loss like Sunday’s will sting. Philly held the vaunted Patriots to just 17 points and around 300 net yards.

That’s usually a recipe for success. But they couldn’t get the offensive production necessary for a victory. Meanwhile, the Cowboys won on Sunday and improved to 6-4 to remain atop the NFC East.

After New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles, Up next: 

The Patriots return to Foxborough for a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys (6-4), their second consecutive game against a NFC East team. New England is 3-0 against the NFC East this season. The Eagles play the final of three consecutive home games against the Seattle Seahawks (8-2), their lone matchup against the NFC West this season.

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