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Patriots 31, Eagles 28 – What We Learned

Jabar Gaffney ma</li> </ol> <p>de this fine TD catch to put the Patriots ahead 24-21 at halftime. (Courtesy of NFL.com)
Jabar Gaffney made this fine TD catch to put the Patriots ahead 24-21 at halftime. (Courtesy of NFL.com)

Here’s what we learned when the Patriots eeked out a win against the Eagles Sunday night

  1. Asante Samuel is a true play maker: Samuel is earning his money and then some. The Patriots secondary would be lost with Samuel who had two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. He’s not only making athletic plays, but using his football smarts to disguise coverage, jump routes and force quarterbacks into making mistakes. The Pats will have to think long and hard about ponying up the dough to re-sign Samuel at the end of the year.
  2. The Patriots can win despite not playing great football: The defense struggled to get to Eagles QB A.J. Feeley in time and the secondary allowed a ton of passing yards down the middle of the field. Brady played pretty well (34-54, 380 yards, one TD) but was unable to find Moss for most the game. Laurence Maroney scored a touchdown but didn’t seem a part of the game plan as he wasn’t in the game for a single snap in the first half.
  3. A.J. Feeley is a Patriot killer: Many people don’t remember but A.J. Feeley was the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins team who shocked the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 15 back in 2004. The 2-11 Dolphins upset the 13-1 Pats largely because Feeley and the ‘Phins played with nothing to lose. On Sunday, Feeley played above his head. He stood in the pocket and took a lot of hits but delivered the ball on target most of the time. Taking out his three poor throws which ended up being picks, he played a near perfect game (thanks in part to great performances by the Eagles WRs).
  4. The Pressure will keep building on the Pats: Sunday night’s game is only a taste of what the Patriots may face down the road. The Eagles came into the game huge underdogs and had nothing to lose. They played aggressive and loose. As the games go on, more pressure will be on the Patriots and more and more teams will play with almost no pressure on them. The Pats have the veteran leadership to persevere through any hardships, but the pressure will keep building as long as the Patriots keep winning.

Final Thoughts: I, like most people, figured the game would be over by halftime but the Eagles simply played a perfect first half. While the Patriots scored on each possession in the first half, they only had three touches of the ball and the Eagles kept the pressure on. The third quarter pass interference call on an apparent Moss TD and the consequent missed FG by Gostkowski really had me getting worried. But in the end, Wes Welker (13 catches, 149 yards) and the Patriots overcame an Eagles team who played outstanding. Despite some possible secondary problems, I don’t think Sunday is a trend we’ll see for the rest of the season. The Eagles had a lot of the parts to upset the Pats, including a strong secondary duo of safety Brian Dawkins and CB Lito Sheppard. The Patriots spent so much time focusing on taking Brian Westbrook out of the game (which they did, holding him to less than 100 yards of offense) that they made Feeley beat them, which he almost did. Feeley played a hell of a game, and I don’t see Kyle Boller equaling the guts Feeley had for standing in the pocket.

We’ll have more about next Monday Night’s game against the Ravens later in the week.

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