Eagles Defense Overmatched In First Live Action
By Frank Irving
It didn't take a perceptive read by Tom Brady to put the Philadelphia Eagles in their first defensive hole of the 2013 NFL preseason. Instead, the New England quarterback handed off to featured back Stevan Ridley on the Patriots' initial play from scrimmage on what should have been a routine probe to the interior of the Eagles new 3-4 alignment.
LB DeMeco Ryans overran the play and found himself pinned out of position by Patriots G Logan Mankins. S Nate Allen compounded his lack of run support with a missed tackle and, suddenly, Ridley was gliding free inside the Eagles' 40-yard line. CB Bradley Fletcher finally caught Ridley from behind at the 18, but the damage was done.
Three consecutive carries by LeGarrette Blount gained 12 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the Eagles’ six-yard line. Ridley followed with a five-yard run up the middle, then a one-yard push through the left side into the end zone.
Six plays, 79 yards and 3:12 off the clock.
The Patriots jumped to a 7-0 lead without showing so much as a glimpse of their aerial attack, which led the AFC with an average of 291 yards per game during the 2012 regular season. To their credit, the Eagles responded in short order with Michael Vick leading the home team on a five-play, 77-yard scoring drive — the last 47 of which came on a well-timed strike down the right sideline to DeSean Jackson.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, a short pass intended for Ridley fell incomplete; it would be the Patriots last unsuccessful play of their second possession. Brady mixed two Ridley runs among seven completions, including a perfectly thrown lead to Shane Vereen who beat Mychal Kendricks to the left corner of the end zone.
New England's first-team offense had cashed in for two touchdowns in two drive opportunities with no negative plays out of a total of 16.
"I was hoping to be further along at this point, but the film is the truth," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis told reporters after practice on August 12. "The game tells you everything that you need to know about where we are."
Head coach Chip Kelly, in his postgame press conference, wasn't quite as harsh. "I liked our effort," said Kelly. "I liked how hard our guys played, but there are obviously fundamentals that we need to continue to work on as a group. I like their attitude. There are a lot of guys in there that aren't very pleased. They didn't take this like it was just a preseason game and it doesn't matter. It matters every single time you step on the field, whether it's in practice or in a game. I liked their mindset and their effort, and I think the fundamental part of the game is what we have to continue to work on as coaches."