PHILADELPHIA — Jake Bailey was so flipping good in the glooming Sunday.
As late afternoon turned to early evening and with the Eagles desperate to mount a comeback, the Patriots rookie punter kept his foot on the gas, keeping the hosts stuck in neutral.
Bailey did a masterful job of consistently tilting the field in the Patriots’ favor — particularly in the second half — in the 17-10 victory over the Eagles.
Bailey punted eight times the through the brisk and swirling winds at Lincoln Financial Field and landed six of them inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line.
Four of Philadelphia’s last five possessions started inside its 15-yard line thanks to Bailey and his cast of characters on the coverage crew.
Bailey’s last three punts went for 54, 55, and 54 yards and resulted in the Eagles getting the ball at their own 12-, 6-, and 12-yard lines.
He added a 42-yarder in the third quarter that was downed at the 3-yard line.
Bailey’s boomers allowed gunners Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel to storm down the field and stop the Eagles from flying up the field.
“Yeah, it’s always fun [to pin a team] and it’s always fun to celebrate with my teammates down there,’’ said Bailey. “I got a lot of good guys on the outside, playing gunner, Nate Ebner at [punt protector], [long snapper] Joe [Cardona], the whole punt team is full of all-stars, so it makes it fun to celebrate with those guys.’’
Bill Belichick said Monday morning Bailey’s job of flipping the field and pinning the Eagles deep in their own territory was “really important.’’
“Any time you can get the Eagles on a long field, I mean it’s hard anyway because they have a lot of good skill players and they can cause you a lot of problems,’’ said the coach. “But, the more plays you make them run, the further they have to go. Hopefully, you can make some plays in there along the way that will knock them out of those drives.’’
Bailey, who said he develops his confidence in practice, where he prepares as if every day is game day, so when the lights do come on, “the game is just second nature,’’ he said.
Cardona said it’s a mind-set with a proven track record.
“Jake prepared all week to deal with whatever would come, and you want to talk about being put in a big game and coming through in every situation as we practice it,’’ he said. “His ability to step up and make a play when needed to is a testament to the practice hours and preparation of our coaches.’’
“Jake’s had a great year for us and he continues to come in with really big plays there, both flipping the field position and also on the plus-50 of getting the ball up there and making it tough for [returner Boston] Scott to handle,’’ said Belichick. “And then we got the one that went out of bounds and the other one that rolled dead there and put our defense in good field position, which, for the most part, we were able to hold defensively. So that was, again, good complementary football between the units.’’
Cardona added that playing complementary football is a source of pride for the special teams units.
“When the punt team goes on the field, we’re out there trying to make a play too trying to put the defense in a good position. That’s our ultimate goal,” he said. “And when we go out and execute and do those things we prepare to do, it’s very rewarding.”