Patriots score early, hold off Eagles, 31-22

Patriots score early, hold off Eagles, 31-22
August 9, 2013, 10:30 pm
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It isn't unpredictable that the Patriots scored on their opening drive, but the way they did it - a drive completely on the ground - might be.

It also isn't unpredictable that they gave up a 47-yard touchdown through the air just a few plays later.

Nonetheless, the Patriots ended up as winners Friday night in Philadelphia, 31-22.

Tom Brady did play - two drives - in this one. But it wasn't until his second drive that he threw a pass - eight of them to be exact. The Patriots drew first blood on the ground, largely in part to a Stevan Ridley run on the first play of the game for 62 yards. Three straight rushes by LeGarrette Blount set up a 1st-and-goal at the 6-yard line. Two plays later Ridley pounded it home.

But the lead was short lived. Eagles QB Michael Vick completed two deep passes, one to Jason Avant for 22 yards over rookie cornerback Logan Ryan, and the long-bomb to DeSean Jackson for 47 yards and a touchdown.

Jackson got inside of Aqib Talib and flat out beat him down the sideline for the touchdown. Vick finished the game 4-for-5 for 94 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots saw the Eagles' weakness and exploited it, and the Eagles simply returned the favor.

But Brady play a much bigger role in the Patriots' answer on the ensuing drive. After an incomplete pass to Ridley on the first play from scrimmage, Brady connected on all seven of his next passes. He hit Danny Amendola before connecting with undrafted rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins four times. He also hit rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson on a play-action pass for 23 yards. Brady capped off the drive with a 13-yard pass to Shane Vereen, who had split out wide, in the corner of the end zone.

Brady finished the game going 7-for-8 for 65 yards and a touchdown before Ryan Mallett took over.

It wasn't all offense in this game, despite the score. Patriots defensive linemen Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly combined for the strip sack of Eagles QB Nick Foles late in the first quarter that was recovered by Brandon Spikes.

Spikes also stuffed Eagles running back Chris Polk for negative yards.

Philadelphia tied things up at 14 early on in the second quarter on a Bryce Brown 8-yard run, but New England scored the next ten points to go up 24-14 at the half.

While Ridley exploded and scored the team's first TD, and Vereen caught the second one, it was fellow running back LeGarrette Blount who may have made the best impression. Blount rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yard run in the second quarter from one side of the field to the next, and all spots in-between. He then pounded in another one in the third quarter.

Mallett went 9-for-18 for 97 yards but left the game late in the second quarter with what the team called a head injury after he was hit in the pocket on a 22-yard completion to Julian Edelman. Before the injury, Mallett looked to gradually get comfortable on the field, but he did throw behind Dobson and ahead of Vereen on his first drive, and missed Dobson again along the sidelines in the endzone later in the game. His best pass was to rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld for 22 yards as he was running away from the line of scrimmage. Sudfeld put in a great effort after the catch.

Tim Tebow took over once Mallett went down, and the results were mixed - but expected - to say the least. Tebow was just 4-12 for 55 yards through the air, missing on a number of makeable throws, and holding onto the ball too long on other opportunities.

He also rushed for 31 yards on four carries.

Former USC QB Matt Barkley connected on a 12-yard pass to Greg Salas on the first play of the 4th quarter. A great catch by Salas set the Eagles up with a goalline situation with seconds left in the game, but Jeff Tarpinian stuffed running back Matthew Tucker.

Ten different Patriots caught a pass, with Thompkins leading the way with four catches, and Dobson leading the way in yardage with 35.