Things are beginning to stack up against the Patriots; Tom Brady is getting angry at radio hosts, both he and Bill Belichick are releasing documentaries with details into their (*gasp*) private lives, and Bill even smiled at media week. That’s right, some cracks in the stone wall around the Patriots are becoming bigger and bigger, and there’s a Madden curse pressing down on all of it. Despite what Brady’s dentist says, the Patriots do, indeed, have imperfections. They aren’t 18-0 going into this game. In fact, there are three losses that the Eagles are no doubt wearing down on game film heading into Sunday. From these three losses to the Chiefs, Panthers, and Dolphins, the Eagles will find all the keys they need to take down the seemingly perfect Patriots.
- Make the receivers work.
Kansas City pulled off a surprising Week 1 victory over the defending champs in a variety of ways. One of the glaring successes for the Chiefs came in the secondary, where their tight coverage forced Brady to find the open guy. Eric Berry did a helluva job shutting down Rob Gronkowski and bringing the pain early in the play to knock him off his routes. The Eagles will no doubt dispatch Malcolm Jenkins to do the same. Covering Brandin Cooks is no easy task, but it may be as simple as keeping up with him, like the Dolphins were able to do in December. Kansas City didn’t force any interceptions or turnovers in their win, but the focus on the wideouts with more men dropping back in coverage and conservative pass rush forced a dismal 16-36 passing day from Brady. The Eagles have the tools to get this done.
2. Win the fourth quarter.
This is a major cliché and a favorite phrase among awkwardly emotional high school football players, but it’s something the Patriots always do. Their amazing comeback victory over Atlanta last year showed not only their determination to take the fourth quarter, but their ability to adapt to their opponent’s play from the first half. Once Brady got his first touchdown pass in that game, the Pats rolled and forced overtime. Philadelphia can’t get complacent with their success in the first half, they have to stay a step ahead. Carolina was able to hang with the punches and take advantage of holes in the New England defense to eventually hit a last-second field goal to win it. Just a three-point win, but a win nonetheless.
3. Run. The. Ball.
The Patriots will come into this game with every move the Eagles have ever made programmed into their DNA. They will absolutely be prepared. One thing they haven’t been great at is stopping the run. They rank 31st in the NFL in opponent yards/attempt, and oddly 2nd in opponent rushing touchdowns. They’ve shown an inability to stop the run, and with a talented athlete in Jay Ajayi in the Philly backfield, the Eagles have the ability to take it right at them, and the passing game will only benefit from a strong, established running game. Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake posted 114 yards against them in Miami’s victory over New England, and the Patriots allowed at least 120 rushing yards in each of their losses this year.
With so many people watching for the Evil Empire to collapse, the Eagles need to perform. If they follow these steps, they’ll be heroes forever.