PHILADELPHIA – If you’re a fan of the Madden video game series, you’ve probably pulled off a play like it once or twice, but it’s not the type of play you see on an NFL field very often.
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount received a handoff from Ryan Mallett in the second quarter and started running for the left sideline, just as the play was drawn up.
One problem: there was a roadblock in Blount’s way, in the form of numerous Eagles defenders.
So he circled back toward midfield, cut between the hash marks, and then started chugging toward the end zone, tight end Zach Sudfeld running alongside him and clearing out the last defender in Blount’s way.
The fourth-year back, traded to New England from Tampa Bay during draft weekend, dived into the end zone, capping a run that went 51 yards north-south but was probably closer to 80 when his east-west moves were factored in.
“I remember it was an outside zone, and they had it blocked pretty well at the end,” Blount said after the Patriots opened their exhibition schedule with a 31-22 victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. “I saw a lot of green grass on the other side and I took it. Then I saw a lot of pursuit, so I took it back.”
It was an unconventional play, one that Blount admitted wouldn’t have ended well for him if he’d been taken down quickly.
“If you do it and it’s a tackle for loss, you’re going to get cussed out when you get back to the sideline. But if you do it and it’s a touchdown, there’s not a lot you can say about it,” he said.
It was the first of two touchdowns on the night for Blount, who added a 1-yard dive in the third quarter. He had a team-high 11 carries for 101 yards.
The Patriots dressed 74 of their 90 players for Friday night’s game.
Highlighting the list of absentees were defensive backs Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard, who had been limited in practices during the week, pulled up after a one-on-one rep on Thursday and spent the rest of the practice on the sideline.
McCourty took part in practice, but was still wearing his red non-contact jersey because of offseason shoulder surgery. It was probably in his best interest not to play in a game with live tackling.
The only player who was not in uniform that was expected to be was fullback James Develin. Develin was on the field all week for practice, including Thursday’s walkthrough.
The other players not in uniform: CB Ras-I Dowling, WR Michael Jenkins, DB Nate Ebner, TE Brandon Ford, OLs Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Markus Zusevics, Tyronne Green, and Kevin Haslam, and DL Jermaine Cunningham.
Rob Gronkowski, rookie receiver Mark Harrison, and defensive lineman Armond Armstead remain on the physically unable to perform list, rounding out the group of 16 players.
With so many offensive linemen injured, free-agent pickup Will Svitek , who started 10 games at left tackle for the Falcons in 2011 (he missed all of last year with an arm injury), was at right guard Friday.
For the Eagles, embattled receiver Riley Cooper was in uniform and on the field with the first-team offense. Cooper left the team for counseling after video of him making racially insensitive comments at a concert surfaced. He caught one pass for 19 yards.
New Hampshire native Chip Kelly may have spent 2007 to 2012 in Oregon, but by the looks of his coaching staff, he hasn’t forgotten his New England roots.
Defensive line/assistant head coach Jerry Azzinaro’s resume includes stops at American International, Westfield State, UMass, Boston College, Maine, and New Hampshire; outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern was a four-year starter at defensive back at Holy Cross, coaching at his alma mater, UMass, and BC, where he was defensive coordinator from 2009-12; former BC tight end Bob Bicknell, son of former BC coach Jack Bicknell, is Philadelphia’s receivers coach; defensive backs coach John Lovett had stops at Brown and Maine; and Mike Dawson, a three-year starter at linebacker and defensive end with UMass before coaching at his alma mater, UMass-Lowell, BC, and with Kelly at New Hampshire, is the Eagles’ defensive quality control coach.
Friday was the 21st preseason meeting between the Patriots and Eagles. They went into the night with a 10-10 series split. Their last exhibition in Philadelphia was Aug. 13, 2009, known more for the Eagles’ finalizing a one-year deal with Michael Vick that day — his first post-prison contract — than the 27-25 New England win . . . The Patriots will not practice Saturday or Sunday, returning to the field for training camp Monday at 2:20 p.m. They will hold joint practices with the Buccaneers on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (walkthrough) at Gillette, all of them open to the public.
The Eagles held a moment of silence for former owner Jerry Wolman before Friday night’s game. Wolman, who owned the team from 1963-69, was 86. The team said he died Tuesday at his home in Potomac, Md. Wolman was the youngest owner in the NFL when he bought the Eagles from James P. Clark at age 36 in December 1963. The Eagles were 28-41-1 during his five seasons as owner.