PHILADELPHIA - Early? Ugly. On their first two drives Sunday in Philadelphia, the Eagles put the Patriots on notice. A 22-yard completion on the game's first play from scrimmage, a 58-yarder two plays later and - two LeSean McCoy runs later and it was 7-0. On their next drive, the Eagles did it again. A 44-yard completion on the first play of the drive led to a field goal and New England was down 10-0. But what looked to be shaping up as a long evening, turned quickly. The Eagles didn't score another touchdown until late in the fourth quarter with the game hopelessly out of reach. What happened? "Just settled down," said Vince Wilfork. "We knew this team came in with a script (of offensive plays) and we just had to settle down. Once they got through their script, we knew how they wanted to attack us and we knew how we wanted to attack them. A lot of credit goes to the defense and sticking through it even though they went up(10) points."It wasn't that long ago that the Patriots came unhinged on the road on the regular. Remember 2009 when they only won one road game in theUnited States? That thisdefense - a patchwork one without Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung - stayedon task andsimply fixed their mistakes says something about the mentality of this team. The Eaglesare - despite the result - a dangerous team. Running back LeSean McCoy needs to be defended in a particular way. He needs to be hemmed in and controlled. Same with Vince Young and DeSean Jackson. The Patriots did that. "It was a disciplined game," said Wilfork. "We had to stay disciplined with our rushes, in the run game with McCoy and not give up big plays. We gave up big plays on the first two drives and it cost us. Once we settled down we locked in and we focused and we started rolling. Sometimes it won't be pretty."The Patriots wound up holding McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher coming into the game, to nine carries and 33 yards. Jackson, aside from his 44-yard reception, dropped two touchdown passes and wound up benched. It's worth noting that the Patriots have now allowedthree touchdowns in the last12 quarters when the game was in the balance. Are they playing against the iron? Well, not exactly. But it's hard to tell who, outside of the Green Bay Packers, really qualifies as "iron" these days. That the Patriots are playing well defensively now and that the New England offense appears to have figured some things out on Sunday recreates some of the optimism about this team's chances that we saw in September. "We prepared well on the short week but its just one step in the right direction," cautioned Wilfork. "Everyone says football starts after Thanksgiving so it started today for us. We have to be able to win ballgames at the end of November and December. One game at a time. At the end of the day that don't mean anything. 8-3? You prepare well and the results take care of themselves."And that's what's happening right now for the Patriots.
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