Patriots vs. Eagles: Brady overcomes early deficit and powers New England to victory

November 27, 2011

The Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t slow down quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots’ offense here Sunday, and the chances that they might be able to repair their broken season seemed to all but dissipate. An early lead disappeared quickly and the Eagles lost to the Patriots, 38-20, at Lincoln Financial Field.

Brady amassed 361 passing yards and threw three touchdown passes, two to wide receiver Wes Welker and one to tight end Rob Gronkowski, before giving way to backup Brian Hoyer with just less than seven minutes remaining in the game. Tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for two touchdowns for the Patriots, who improved their record to 8-3 and maintained a two-game lead in the AFC East.

The Eagles, trying for a second straight win behind fill-in quarterback Vince Young, got a touchdown run by tailback LeSean McCoy on their way to a quick 10-0 advantage. But it all unraveled from there for the Eagles, as the Patriots scored 38 of the game’s next 41 points before Young’s touchdown pass to wide receiver Jason Avant in the final minute.

“To sit up here after a game like that, I’m disappointed in a lot of things, starting with myself,” Eagles Coach Andy Reid said. “I didn’t have my team ready to go. That’s why I start with me. You can ask me any type of disappointment question that you want and I’m probably there.”

Young threw for 400 yards, a career high, but even that was not nearly enough for the Eagles. Their record dropped to 4-7, leaving them three games out of first place in the NFC East and three games back in the conference’s wild-card chase with five games left in the season.

The Eagles are 1-5 at home this season and fans showed their displeasure Sunday, with some chanting for Reid to be fired and the stadium emptying steadily as the fourth quarter progressed.

Reid, who has led the Eagles to five NFC title games, said he didn’t hear the “Fire Andy!” chants. But Reid also said, “The way we played, I can understand it.”

Young defended Reid, saying: “You can’t really put it all on Andy. Us players have to go out and play the game as well. . . . We’re going to always continue to keep fighting hard, playing hard for him.”

Other Eagles players also vowed that the team wouldn’t give up in a season that has gone so unexpectedly wrong.

“We’re not going to stop fighting,” defensive end Trent Cole said. “Anything can happen. This is the NFL. I’ve seen it all happen over the years.”

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, suffering from broken ribs, missed his second straight game. He was joined on the Eagles’ inactive list by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. But cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who suffered a knee injury on the practice field during the week, was in the lineup.

Young, the former Tennessee Titans starter brought in during the Eagles’ post-lockout shopping spree to serve as Vick’s backup, engineered a triumph over the New York Giants in his previous start. He had early success Sunday, connecting with tight end Brent Celek for a 22-yard completion on the Eagles’ first play and finding wide receiver Riley Cooper for a 58-yard gain soon thereafter. That set up McCoy’s two-yard touchdown run.

The Eagles got the ball back and Young’s 44-yard completion to wideout DeSean Jackson led to kicker Alex Henery’s 43-yard field goal.

The Patriots were committed to running the ball early, and it paid dividends on their second possession when Green-Ellis scored a four-yard touchdown on his 10th carry of the first quarter. A 63-yard catch and run by wide receiver Deion Branch on New England’s next drive gave the Patriots a first down at the Philadelphia 1-yard line, and Green-Ellis scored on the next play.

“I thought today we did a good job of really maximizing all of the guys out there,” Brady said.

A deep pass by Young, intended for Jackson, was intercepted by Patriots cornerback Antwaun Molden. But New England failed to capitalize when the offense couldn’t move and kicker Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 39-yard field goal try wide right. That was only a temporary setback for the Patriots. The next time they had the ball, Welker got open in the middle of the field and caught Brady’s on-target pass for a 41-yard touchdown.

Henery’s 22-yard field goal got the Eagles to within 21-13, but the Patriots answered with a 45-yarder by Gostkowski less than a minute before halftime and Brady’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Welker early in the third quarter. The Eagles couldn’t keep up, as Young threw incomplete on a fourth-and-one pass from the New England 2-yard line.

The crowd became increasingly disenchanted and the booing intensified when Jackson had a would-be touchdown pass bounce off his hands for an incompletion later in the third quarter. Many fans began heading for the exits when Brady threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski in the fourth quarter. Jackson wasn’t on the field for the Eagles in the game’s late stages, but Reid declined to call it a benching.

“I just wanted to give the other guys an opportunity,” Reid said.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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