The Eagles defense had a rough first quarter with blown assignments and that continued in the second quarter at the start. Fortunately for them one of the plays hurt them and not both of them. Brandin Cooks was running ride open across the middle of the field early in the second quarter and that gave the Patriots a big first down to try and generate some momentum (Cooks took a big hit and had to exit the game with a possible concussion). Fortunately for the Eagles, the Patriots missed the field goal and were not able to capitalize. On the second mixup, the Eagles did not cover Tom Brady on a trick play, but fortunately the ball was overthrown by Danny Amendola. The Eagles defense tightened up from there, making Brady throw into tight windows and he was not able to complete those passes. The Eagles got some breaks on their side, but they also were very fortunate they did not give up more points. The long pass to Hogan and the subsequent run of James White into the endzone on that drive were not exactly the way the defense wanted to end the half.
Offensively, the Eagles continued to keep the Patriots off balance. Doug Pederson and his offensive staff did a masterful job in the first half of two different things. They came out and bucked the trend of running the football on first downs to start the game and then continued to mix things up in the second quarter. And when it comes to mixing it up, that usually leads to a big play. Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount again came up with some big plays to lead another Eagles scoring drive. This time Jeffery made a diving 22 yard reception and Blount finished it off with a 21 yard run off the left side of the line. The Patriots, for most of the first half, looked a step slow and off-balance against what the Eagles were bringing. And although there were some plays the Patriots were there and made good plays, there just wasn’t any slowing down that Eagles offense and they just did not have enough answers for it either. For good measure, the Eagles offense even threw in a reverse pass to Nick Foles for a touchdown to put tem up 22-12 as they closed out the half.
Along with bucking the trends, the Eagles are also able to sustain drives. They were able to convert on five of their eight third downs during the game. That not only allowed them to be in position to put more points on the board, it also allowed them to keep Tom Brady off the field, or at least off it enough for their defense to rest. The more the Eagles continue to put pressure on the Patriots offense to perform, the more it keeps them in the driver’s seat.
While things are going well at halftime and the Eagles are leading this game, it is very imperative to remember who’s on the other side of the field coaching the Patriots. Bill Belichick is known for making halftime adjustments and those halftime adjustments usually generate pressure offensively and stymie the opponent’s offense. The more they mix it up, the more the Patriots will be looking for answer. The Eagles also have to continue to be aggressive despite the incredible interception by Harmon as the ball bounced off Jeffery’s hands. The aggression by the Eagles is a refreshing change from what they saw in the Andy Reid Super Bowl appearance.
Defensively, the Eagles just have to tighten things up a little bit more. Their defensive line depth is getting to the Patriots and moving Brady off his spots, but they have had some issues in the secondary with people blowing assignments. Plays like Chris Hogan getting a 42 yard deep run have got to be stopped. The Eagles also allowed a rushing touchdown at the end of the half by James White where he ran through their entire defense. They cannot allow the running game to get going because if they do, that will make Brady even more dangerous because the Patriots offense will become even more unpredictable. The Patriots have plays there to be made and the Eagles have been lucky to not have given up more points.
We shall see what happens going forward. The Eagles are in a good position, but they have to be wary of those Patriot second halves.
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