Before I get to the player-by-player breakdown, a few notes on the defensive performance overall.
The front four was OK. They got pressure early. But as the game went on, Tom Brady just consistently had answers. He scrambled for big chunks of yardage. He avoided pressure, got out of the pocket and found receivers downfield. And he got rid of the ball quickly.
The secondary was another story. There was confusion, miscommunication and blown assignments all game long. The injury factor is a bit overblown if you ask me. Nnamdi Asomugha was limited, but other than that, the Eagles were healthy back there. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn't play, but just last week, everyone was of the opinion that Joselio Hanson was better than him anyway.
On a 3rd-and-2 in the first quarter, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton and Nate Allen were discussing/gesturing as Brady snapped the ball. The Eagles were called for 12 men on the field, and the Patriots got a first down.
Later on the drive, on 3rd-and-1, the Eagles called a timeout because of a personnel issue. After the timeout, Derek Landri jumped offsides, giving the Patriots another first down.
It was that type of game, and it's been that type of year for Juan Castillo's group. Re-watching the game, I really felt like Brady could have completed 60 percent of his passes with a blindfold on.
Having said that, here's the player-by-player breakdown:
Jason Babin - He pressured Brady a couple times. In the first, Babin got close on a third-down stunt, but Brady still hit Wes Welker for a 10-yard completion. He pressured Brady in the third, but Brady scrambled up the middle for 8 yards. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ first touchdown went right between Babin and Mike Patterson. And Babin jumped offsides in the second, for what seems like a weekly mandatory penalty.
Cullen Jenkins - Jenkins was one of the few defensive players who played well. He hustled to bring down Rob Gronkowski after a 5-yard screen in the first. Jenkins got good pressure up the middle and hit Brady on an early incompletion. He stuffed Green-Ellis for no gain in the first. And he dropped Stevan Ridley for a 2-yard loss in the second. Jenkins injured his thumb in the second quarter, but returned in the third. Early on, a 6-yard Green-Ellis run went right between him and Trent Cole.
Mike Patterson - Patterson was solid. He broke through up the middle and sacked Brady in the second. Later, he got good pressure up the middle, but Brady took off for 13 yards. He stopped Green-Ellis after a gain of 1 with the Patriots backed up near their own end zone in the third.
Trent Cole - He was close on a couple occasions, but never really got to Brady. Cole got decent pressure just as Brady released a 16-yard completion to Gronkowski. He made a nice inside move and got in Brady's face, but not before he completed a 10-yard pass to Welker on 3rd-and-5. He pressured Brady out of the pocket before Brady found Deion Branch for the 63-yard completion in the second. Cole was called for offsides in the second.
Juqua Parker - Didn't do much as a pass rusher. Parker played about 27 snaps. He got a hand on Danny Woodhead, but couldn’t make the tackle on a 10-yard run in the second. Parker stopped Stevan Ridley after a 1-yard gain in the fourth, with the game out of hand.
Darryl Tapp - He hit Brady on an early third-down incompletion, but wasn't much of a factor after that. Tapp made a good play against the run, forcing Green-Ellis to bounce it outside in the first.
Trevor Laws - He batted down a Brady pass in the second, but otherwise wasn't a factor. Laws got blocked on Woodhead’s 7-yard carry in the third. He played about 31 snaps.
Derek Landri - He added to the penalties, jumping offsides on 3rd-and-1 in the first and later getting called for illegal use of hands on a rare Brady incompletion. Good hustle and a good tackle by Landri to bring Green-Ellis down after a 3-yard gain in the first. He dropped Green-Ellis for a loss of 1 in the third also. In the fourth, Landri got in the backfield, but couldn’t bring Shane Vereen down on an 8-yard carry.
Jamar Chaney - Didn't notice Chaney much, which is probably a bad thing for a middle linebacker. He had good coverage in zone on Wes Welker on an early third-down incompletion. Later, Brady zipped one right past him to Aaron Hernandez for 11 yards on 3rd-and-3 to set up the Patriots’ first touchdown. He got matched up outside with Gronkowski, allowing Brady to run a QB sneak up the middle for 6 yards. We saw another QB do the same thing this year (Ryan Fitzpatrick, I believe?) when the Eagles left the middle of the field open.
Brian Rolle - He made a few nice plays against the run, but did not look good in coverage. Rolle dropped Ridley for a 1-yard loss in the second. He tackled Green-Ellis after a 1-yard gain in the first. And he chased Danny Woodhead down after a direct snap on third down that picked up only 1 yard. In coverage, Rolle got matched up on Welker and had no shot on a 9-yard gain in the second. On the very next play, he got matched up with Hernandez and gave up a 7-yard completion, which included a missed tackle. Gronkowski got behind him and in front of Allen for the 24-yard touchdown in the fourth.
Akeem Jordan - The Eagles spent very little time in their base defense. Jordan played only 10 snaps and didn't do much.
Keenan Clayton - So much for using him over Rolle in the nickel. Unless I made a mistake (which is always possible), Clayton only played two snaps.
Asante Samuel - This game reminded me of last year for Samuel in that Brady barely threw his way, instead choosing to take advantage of the other members of the secondary. Samuel played off Branch on a 10-yard completion in the third and then missed a tackle. But I believe that was the only completion he allowed.
Joselio Hanson - Welker clearly got the best of his former college teammate. Hanson played RCB in base and moved inside in nickel and dime packages. Welker beat him in the slot for a 14-yard completion in the second. He got beat again by Welker on third down in the second, but Brady’s throw was high, and Welker couldn’t hang on. Hanson bit on the play-fake in the second as Welker ran free for the 41-yard score. Welker beat him for a 10-yard gain in the second; for 12 yards in the third; and for a 9-yard score in the third. Not a good showing.
Brandon Hughes - He filled in mostly at right cornerback and did not have a good game. Hughes got beat for a 63-yard completion to Branch in the second as Brady got out of the pocket and directed him downfield. It looked like Hughes got confused when the Patriots set up in a bunch formation to his side early on. Hughes was supposed to pick up Welker, but was late as Brady completed a pass to him for 10 yards on 3rd-and-5. Hughes was playing off Branch, and Brady targeted him on a WR screen that went for 13 yards. After Nate Allen missed a tackle on Hernandez, Hughes did the same on an 18-yard catch and run in the third.
Nnamdi Asomugha - He played about 17 snaps, generally covering a tight end or inside receiver. Asomugha seemed to do a pretty good job in coverage. I didn't see any passes completed against him. He blitzed twice, but got nowhere near Brady.
Curtis Marsh - He came in for a pair of snaps because of a Hughes injury in the third. Brady targeted him right away, but threw low for an incompletion.
Nate Allen - This game was a nightmare for Allen. He bit badly on the play-fake as Welker ran past him for the 41-yard touchdown in the second. He looked slow to react on Green-Ellis’ first touchdown run. Hanson passed Tiquan Underwood to him in the first, but it looked like Allen was playing a different coverage. Underwood dropped what likely would have been a 64-yard touchdown. Allen got turned around at the 15 yard line on the Branch 63-yard gain, allowing him to pick up 14 extra yards. Later, Brady saw him playing way off Hernandez and threw a quick strike; Allen missed a tackle as Hernandez scampered for an 18-yard gain. The Patriots had a 3rd-and-9 from their own 3 in the third. The Eagles were in zone, and Brady hit Branch for what looked like a 5-yard completion, but Allen took a horrible angle on the tackle, and it turned into a 23-yard gain. Like I said, day to forget for Allen.
Kurt Coleman - He was credited with a game-high 12 tackles (11 solo). Gronkowski made a 16-yard catch in between him and Hanson in the first. He dropped Woodhead for a 2-yard loss in the second, but mssed a tackle on Woodhead’s 10-yard run.
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