Tom Brady is one of, if not the NFL’s most precise quarterbacks. He’s accurate, smart, and plays behind one of the best offensive lines in football.
The Eagles on the other hand, have been the opposite of late. Just a few short weeks ago, SI’s Peter King called the Eagles, “Sloppy and Dumb“, and despite the Eagles recent success against the Cowboys and Giants, he was right, and still is to a degree.
We’ve seen though that the Eagles are capable of beating good football teams when they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Their roster is packed with talent, and in the NFL, it’s “any given Sunday”.
With that said, beating Tom Brady and the Patriots is no easy task. Here are 6 things the Eagles must do in order to get that “W”…
With the Patriots dead last in pass defense, Andy Reid is no doubt licking his chops, but remember the 49ers game? The Eagles had a 23 point lead in the 3rd quarter but Reid insisted on passing the ball. The Eagles went 3-and-out on consecutive possessions, and had a couple turnovers. At the time, the 49ers had the worst offense in the league, but because they were afforded those extra opportunities, they were able to get back in the game, and ultimately win. It didn’t help that the Eagles defense couldn’t stop anyone.
When you’re facing Tom Brady, you can’t afford to give him extra possessions. The Eagles must, and I repeat must, stick with the running game if it’s working (which it should be). Going 3-and-out against Tom Brady is a recipe for disaster. The Eagles need to keep Brady off the field, and a consistent running attack will do just that.
None of this bullshit where LeSean McCoy has 40 yards on 5 carries and they throw in the towel. Feed that rock to Shady!
Safety Over The Top
Rob Gronkowski has quickly become the best tight end in football. He can do it all– block, run, and catch. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s Tom Brady’s favorite target in the red-zone. Enough said right?
It’s true that one person doesn’t beat a team, but the Eagles tried hard to dispel that cliche’ two weeks ago when they let Larry Fitzgerald beat them almost single handedly.
Historically, the Eagles haven’t been able to cover even the most mediocre of tight ends, let alone a world-beater like Gronkowski. If the Eagles are smart, they’ll either put a safety over the top of Gronkowski the whole game, and/or let Nnamdi Osamugha roam the middle like he did against the Cowboys, in which they held Jason Witten to 28 yards on just 4 receptions.
Step Away From The Zone
Depending on what the Eagles decide to do to contain Gronkowski, there is another player who will absolutely kill them if they don’t play well, and that’s Wes Welker. Under Juan Castillo, the Eagles have been rushing four and using zone looks in pass coverage. That’s all well and good, but zone defenses are especially susceptible to savvy quarterbacks, and good route runners who can find the dead spots in the coverage. With the likes of Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Danny Woodhead, this is child’s play against a zone defense.
The Eagles need to play heavy man coverage and get aggressive with Wes Welker at the line of scrimmage. I’d love to see some press coverage on Welker to take him of his “route-rythym”. Nnamdi Asomugha would be the guy to do it, but first he needs to grow some damn balls and start earning the pay checks the Eagles are giving him (assuming he’s playing since he was carted off the field with a knee injury on Thursday).
As mentioned earlier, the Patriots are 32nd in the league in pass defense. Screens, and short intermediate throws are almost a given against this defense. The Patriots biggest problem is that they lack pass rush, and their secondary isn’t good enough to make up for it. Sound familiar? If Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin play, the Eagles should be able to move the ball through the air. But as I mentioned earlier, they can’t forget about the run game.
Did you notice last week against the Giants, that Vince Young had pretty good protection? It’s because there was almost always an extra blocker, whether a tight end or running back. This is a luxury that has not been afforded to Michael Vick. The Patriots secondary is bad enough that the Eagles can afford to keep someone in the block and they should think strongly about doing that.
Micheal Vick is as accurate a passer as there is in this league (yes…he actually is), but you’d never know it when he’s running for his life back there. This leads me to another question. Why would Andy Reid give his backup quarterback extra time to throw, but not his $100 Million starter? Have you ever seen anyone stay in to block for Michael Vick?
A question Andy would surely dodge in a post game presser.
The Eagles are going to commit penalties because they are indeed, dumb and sloppy. One thing they can’t do though is turn the ball over. It goes without saying that you cannot turn the ball over in the NFL. You especially can’t turn the ball over against a team that averages 30 points per game like the New England Patriots. The Eagles lead the NFL in red zone turnovers, a trend that has undoubtedly killed them this year. Giving the Patriots offense extra possessions will kill them too.
The Patriots do an excellent job of protecting Tom Brady for the most part (because unlike Andy Reid, Bill Bellichek wants to protect his quarterback), so much so that Brady often stands, literally stands still, in the pocket when going through his progressions. In order for the Eagles defense to function, they’ll need to get pressure from their down-four lineman, specifically the defensive ends.
Tom Brady is one of the most immobile quarterback’s in the league, but his footwork is impecable. He sidesteps the rush better than almost any other quarterback in the league. If Trent Cole and Jason Babin can beat their man consistently, the Eagles should be able to throw Brady off his rythym.
Eagles 24, Patriots 34
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts!