PHILADELPHIA — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 17-10 win over the Eagles:
■ Bill Belichick and the Patriots proved once again that they are the masters of in-game adjustments. The Patriots changed their attack on both sides of the ball in the middle of the game, and the corrections helped the Patriots pull off an important road win.
After the Eagles drove 95 yards for a touchdown and milked 9:33 off the clock, Belichick gathered the entire defense into a huddle onto the bench, just like he did in the Jets game. Whatever he told the defense certainly worked, as the Eagles didn’t score on their next eight possessions, resulting in seven punts and a lost fumble. At one point, the Eagles gained just 21 total yards in their 21 plays following the touchdown.
And the Patriots changed their offensive attack at halftime, switching to the no-huddle, up-tempo approach that they used two weeks ago in Baltimore. The Patriots’ offense certainly wasn’t gangbusters, but on their first drive after halftime, the Patriots marched 84 yards down the field for a touchdown using this new approach.
■ Two weeks after getting torn apart by the Ravens, the Patriots reestablished their bona fides on defense. The Eagles’ offense was shorthanded, but the Patriots still did an excellent job of throttling Carson Wentz and dominating the Eagles’ aggressive attack. The Eagles gained just 255 yards — 90 on one drive — and converted just 3-of-13 third-down opportunities.
The Patriots also finished with five sacks and a forced fumble. The Patriots’ defense was dominant, and this time did it against a good offense and a good quarterback.
■ The run defense had a really nice bounce-back day, holding the Eagles to 81 yards on 3.9 yards per carry after getting gashed by the Ravens and Browns in consecutive games. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton (tied for team-high seven tackles) were really active up front, while Kyle Van Noy and John Simon were excellent in the run game as well.
■ The Patriots did a tremendous job bottling up Zach Ertz. He finished with nine catches for 94 yards, but had tight coverage all day and very few yards after the catch. The Patriots did a great job of mixing up their coverage on Ertz — they used zone coverage, double coverage, Stephon Gilmore, Jamie Collins, Terrence Brooks, and even speedy little cornerback Jonathan Jones to contain Ertz.
Brooks, playing in place of injured safety Patrick Chung, had a great game, finishing with seven tackles, a quarterback hit, and two passes defended. He helped slow down tight end Dallas Goedert (three catches for 36 yards) as well as containing Ertz.
■ The offensive line is still a mess, and it had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the offense. Once again the Patriots struggled to run the ball — and barely even tried to — rushing 22 times for 74 yards and a 3.4-yard average. Tom Brady looked skittish and uncomfortable all game, throwing the ball away quickly and chucking up a few prayers because he didn’t have faith in his blockers up front. Brady also didn’t seem to have much faith in his receivers, like when Jakobi Meyers ran the wrong route on a deep fade.
And when the Patriots needed just one first down to seal the game late in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t get it done.
The Patriots are getting left tackle Isaiah Wynn back next week, but I’m not sure that will be the answer. Wynn has to get his timing back, has to get on the same page as his teammates, and also has to stay healthy, which has been a struggle for him in his short NFL career. The Patriots may just have to deal with the reality that their offensive line isn’t very good this year.
■ The third-down playcalling was quite bizarre for much of the game, though the struggles of the offensive line likely played into it. On the Patriots’ first two drives, Josh McDaniels called a screen pass on third down instead of letting Brady throw it downfield, and neither converted. In the second half, McDaniels called a hurry-up running play on third-and-7, which James White took for just four yards. And midway through the fourth quarter, Brady threw a deep fade to Julian Edelman, his shortest receiver, on third and 10, which landed incomplete.
Overall, the Patriots converted just 5-of-16 third-down plays. This is what happens when the play-caller and the quarterback don’t have faith in the offensive line.
■ The Patriots came in ranked 21st in the NFL in red zone touchdown efficiency, and struggled once again on Sunday — likely due to the inconsistent performance of the offensive line. The Patriots finished just 1 for 3 in the red zone, and wasted great field position in the first half, settling three times for short field goals. The Patriots should have put the game away long before the fourth quarter, but couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone.
And the one time the Patriots did score, it came on a gimmick play — a double pass from Brady to Edelman to Phillip Dorsett for a 15-yard score on third-and-11. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
■ Tough game for Edelman. He had a great circus catch in the fourth quarter to move the chains, and threw a nice pass to Dorsett for the touchdown. But Edelman also had a tough drop down the seams in the first quarter that should have been a big play, and then dropped a sure touchdown in the second quarter. Edelman finished with five catches on 10 targets for 53 yards, but the Patriots need him to come up with a few more plays — or at least not have negative plays.
■ The player of the game may have been punter Jake Bailey. He punted eight times for a 47.6-yard average, and pinned the Eagles inside the 20 six times. In a field position game, Bailey consistently gave the Patriots a big edge. If only he could have recovered a fumble on a first-half kickoff.