Patriots Edge Eagles in Ugly Affair
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles came into Sunday's Super Bowl LII rematch with the New England Patriots short-handed from a playmaking standpoint and that reality manifested itself during a 17-10 setback to Bill Belichick's team.
An early 10-0 advantage couldn't be sustained after All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson left with a head injury early in the second quarter
An impressive 16-play, 95-yard drive with Johnson paving "Lanes." along with his cohorts up front, which included returning left tackle Jason Peters, was the outlier, not an indication of a top offense, clicking on all cylinders.
With top rusher Jordan Howard unable to go with a shoulder injury and top receiver Alshon Jeffery down with an ankle injury, Carson Wentz did have many bullets and the Philadelphia offense amassed just 255 yards, much of that in desperation mode late.
Overall Wentz was less than usual when it came to his accuracy, completing just 20-of-40 passes for 214 yards with a five-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert early in the second quarter.
As expected the tight ends were Wentz's biggest weapons but even that was hit and miss later in the game when the stakes were highest. Zach Ertz, though, caught nine of 11 targets for 94 yards while Goedert snared three of six for 36.
The receivers struggled as expected with Jeffery (ankle) joining DeSean Jackson on the sideline. The starters in 12 personnel were Nelson Agholor and the just returned Jordan Matthews with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins mixing in from there.
Agholor caught four of nine targets and traced the ball poorly again when Wentz lofted a pass for him in the end zone late while facing a zero blitz. JJAW's highlight was a 29-yard reception in the fourth quarter and Matthews simply got no separation, hauling in only one pass in six targets for six yards.
The Howard-less running game was less than effective as well with Miles Sanders piling up 38 yards on 11 carries and Boston Scott adding 26 on seven carries. Jay Ajayi, who was re-signed Friday, was dressed only in case of emergency and did not play.
The defense kept Philadelphia in the game by making Tom Brady uncomfortable and went the full 60 minutes not allowing a TD pass to perhaps the greatest QB in NFL history.
"We didn't play well enough to win the game," star safety Malcolm Jenkins lamented. "I thought we played well and definitely battled but there were some drives that we needed to win the game and we didn't make the plays. We had a solid game but just didn't make enough plays."
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THE DEFENSIVE LINE: The Eagles only had one sack and it came from linebacker Nate Gerry but Tom Brady is too smart to take many sacks so the goal was to keep the veteran uncomfortable and the front four did that consistently as Brady finished just 26-of-47 for 216 yards with the only Pats TD coming on a trick play from college QB/turned receiver Julian Edelman.
JALEN MILLS - Mills has been a Godsend on the outside since returning against Dallas and the corner continued his stellar play against New England, shutting down Edelman early.
"We played a whole bunch of things," Mills said when asked about the plan Jim Schwartz had. "With a guy like Tom Brady you can't just line up in one thing. They're going to pick you apart. The gameplan was good. We did a good job as far as showing different looks."
LANE JOHNSON - The Eagles were up 10-0 when Johnson was forced to leave with a concussion and after he left New England scored 17 straight to finish the game and Wentz was sacked five times,.
CARSON WENTZ - Wentz was far too inaccurate on short and intermediate throws and continues to hold onto the football too long on too many occasions. His WRs are obviously not playmakers but the QB needs to understand that and maybe give up on a play now and again.
THE RECEIVERS - The fact that Matthews was used more than Arcega-Whiteside and Hollins is an indictment on the young receivers and the group as a whole was exposed further when the Eagles had under 40 seconds to go 88 yards to tie the game late and Doug Pederson still kept Ertz and Goedert on the field instead.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen