The wakeup call went off a little late, but once it did there was no stopping Tom Brady and the Patriots as they stormed past the overmatched Eagles, 38-20. The win boosts Bill Belichick’s team to 8-3, two games up on the 6-5 Jets, with New England also holding the tiebreaker.
“We didn’t want to start out the way we did,’’ said Belichick, after his team proceeded to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 38-13 lead by the start of the fourth quarter. “We kind of stumbled out of the gate.
“But it was good to see us bounce back like that, especially on the road.’’
With his offensive line giving him plenty of time to throw, Brady systemically picked apart an undermanned Eagles secondary that played most of the way without high-priced free agent corner Nnamdi Asomugha. Brady spread the wealth too, with wideouts Wes Welker (eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns) and Deion Branch (six catches, 125 yards) and tight ends Aaron Hernandez (six for 62) and Rob Gonkowski (four for 59 and a touchdown) all getting their share.
“Getting down 10 points early we showed a lot of mental toughness,’’ said Brady, who wound up 24-of-34 for 361 yards and three scores. “We knew there was still a ton of football to play. Once we scored and scored again, our defense did a good job stopping them to stem the tide. On offense we were more balanced today, which is how it needs to be.’’
Once the Patriots began to assert themselves, it quickly became no contest. Using the no huddle and empty backfield sets, Brady did pretty much whatever he wanted, while the defense — after getting burned early on a Vince Young-led 84-yard touchdown drive, followed by an Eagles field goal — tightened up. Despite Young throwing for a misleading 400 yards, the Eagles managed just one field goal until scoring a late incidental touchdown.
That led to chants of “Fire Andy’’ to ring out among the disgruntled fan base, referring to longtime coach Andy Reid. Philadelphia (4-7) fell at home for the third-straight time and eighth in the last nine games stretching back to last December.
As for the Patriots, who seem to be peaking at the right time, Belichick let slip where he thinks this club might be ultimately headed.
“We’ve got a long way to go,’’ he replied when asked if he’s looking ahead. “Eight games.’’
The regular season ends in five. Eight, of course, would take them somewhere else.
The Super Bowl.
What went right ...
1. Super Bowl replay
Just as in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Tom Brady and Deion Branch had a field day versus the Eagles defense. Branch had six grabs for 125 yards, including a 63-yard catch and run that helped put New England ahead to stay. Brady, who was 23-for-33 for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, was even better here, going 24-for-34 for 361 yards and three scores.
2. Defense stops resting
The Patriots’ defense was horrible early, allowing Vince Young to drive 84 yards for a score in the first 2:17, then tacking on a field goal to make it 10-0. From then on New England almost pitched a shutout discounting a late, meaningless touchdown. They also sacked Young twice, while holding the NFC’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, to just 31 yards on 10 carries.
3. Law firm cashes in?
While Tom Brady and his receiving corps did most of the preliminary work, it was left to running back BenJarvis Green-Ellis, a.k.a. “the law firm,’’ to twice get the payoff. Green-Ellis scored on runs of four yards and one yard, finishing the day with 44 yards on 14 carries as the Patriots made a concerted effort to run the ball against the Eagles’ wide-nine defensive front.