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PHILADELPHIA (CBS)— By about the six-minute mark of the third quarter, Tom Brady had turned Lincoln Financial Field into an empty, echo-bouncing cavern. For those that remained, the Linc became a sounding board for sing-song throaty chants of “Fire Annn-deee, fire Annn-deee, fire Annn-deee” that ricocheted off thousands of deserted seats. Maybe the fans’ displeasure with coach Andy Reid punctured the snug cocoon of Jeff Lurie’s owners box.
One thing is certain: Lurie couldn’t ignore the legion of vacant seats for a late-November game, an act in past contending years that was construed as fan sacrilege if anyone even hinted of leaving early. The masses made their message clear in droves on Sunday—apathy has arrived. On the field, another fact was certain: The Eagles couldn’t do anything to stop Brady. The future Hall of Fame New England Patriots’ quarterback picked, nibbled, and dissected the dubious Eagles’ defense for a rather easy 38-20 Pats’ victory. Brady made it look easy. Sometimes too easy.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 4-7, three games behind the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys and may have finally ended any hopes the Eagles have of reaching the playoffs. It also magnified the difference between a team with Super Bowl aspirations and an organization pretending to be Super Bowl contenders. With five games left, including a short week, cross-country trip to Seattle for a game this Thursday and closing NFC East games at Dallas and hosting Washington, Philadelphia now has no room for error.
The Eagles fell to 1-5 at home this season and are 1-8 over their last nine home games dating back to their memorable 38-31 comeback victory over the New York Giants at the Meadowlands on December 19, 2010. This is the worst home record through six games that the Eagles have had since 1983, when they began 0-6 at home. You’d have to peel back to the team’s dark age of the early-1970’s when they went 2-11-1 in 1972 to find a winless home record, going 0-6-1 under Eddie Khayat.
“We have to win at home, it’s that plain and simple and something that we have to get fixed,” Eagles’ tight end Brent Celek said.
Against New England, the Eagles were playing without Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — all sidelined with injuries. Even if they did play, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. New England had the magical Brady, who once he got into a rhythm led the Pats to scoring drives on three of four first-half possessions. The Eagles were plagued by the same recurring issues, like penalties (10 for 60 yards) and red-zone inefficiency (the Eagles were 1-for-3 in the red zone when the game mattered).
“Obviously the Patriots were a better team today than we were,” Reid said. “You obviously can’t have that many penalties and turnovers when you’re playing a good football team. It’s my responsibility and I have to make sure that I take care of it. You have to be more disciplined than that. We’re absolutely [still alive in the playoff picture]. None of us can predict the future and how things will go. There are a lot of different variables there, so you keep fighting. That’s what you do.”
And how do you handle a growing disenchanted fanbase? When asked if he heard the fan’s very loud displeasure, Reid said, “I really don’t hear much down there, so I didn’t hear it, but by the way we played, I can understand that.”
Vince Young did a credible job replacing Vick, but the Eagles defense couldn’t stop Brady. He had a 117.3 rating by halftime, completing 13 of 20 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. And each time the Eagles looked as if they would creep back into the game, there was Brady to squash those plans, driving the Pats back up the field.
The Pats exploited gaping areas through the middle of the Eagles’ defense, which concentrated more on stopping Pats’ tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The two combined for 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles focused so much on that pair that they somehow forgot about Wes Welker, who ran completely uncovered at times through the middle of the Eagles’ defense, posting numbers that almost equaled what Gronkowski and Hernandez did combined, hauling in eight receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady finished by completing 24 of 34 for 361 yards and three touchdowns and a 134.6 quarterback rating. Young was 26-for-48 for 400 yards, with a late-fourth quarter cosmetic touchdown and an interception. Behind Brady, the Eagles yielded 457 yards of total offense. The Eagles were a pathetic 4-for-13 on third-down conversions (31-percent).
Midway into the third quarter, and trailing 31-13, the Eagles looked like they might get within striking distance. Young got the Eagles to the Pats’ two. But his pass to Celek in the end zone on a fourth-and-one play fell incomplete (Young missed a wide open Clay Harbor uncovered in the back of the end zone). That ended that—and dashed the faint hopes of the Eagles getting back into the game.
Young started extremely hot, hitting three of his first four passes, and four of his first seven for 130 yards, averaging an astounding 32.5 yards a reception. Young’s torrid beginning led to an Eagles’ 10-0 lead with 8:19 left in the first quarter.
On their first possession, the Eagles zipped right down the field, using five plays to travel 84 yards, culminating in a LeSean McCoy two-yard touchdown run. The big play of the drive was Young’s perfect 58-yard strike to Riley Cooper, which brought the ball from the Eagles’ 38 to the New England 4. From there, McCoy slipped through the New England front for the first score of the game.
The Eagles followed that with another big Young completion, this time hitting DeSean Jackson for a 44-yard hook-up, which helped Alex Henery nail a 43-yard field goal and gave Philadelphia a 10-0 lead.
New England surged back by scoring on consecutive drives. First, Brady directed a 12-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with BenJarvus Green-Ellis four-yard TD run and Green-Ellis put the Pats up 14-10 with a one-yard plunge early in the second quarter.
The Eagles had a chance to close within 21-17, but a Jackson drop in the end zone on a third-and-goal at the Pats’ four blew that chance with 2:19 left in the half. Consequently, the Eagles were forced into a 22-yard Henery field goal. But again, Brady answered pushing New England up the field and setting up the Pats for a field goal to close the half.
Late in the third quarter, Jackson dropped another apparent touchdown pass when the ball slipped between his hands, stirring a chorus of boos to rain down on the lightning-rod wide receiver.
Jackson was the only starter not on the field in the fourth quarter. When Reid was asked about Jackson’s absence, the coach replied that “I just wanted to give the other guys an opportunity.” When pressed if Jackson was benched, Reid didn’t waver, “I wanted to give the other guys a chance to play.”
Jackson was admittedly frustrated after the game. He dropped two touchdown passes and openly said it was far from one of the his best performances.
“It wasn’t one of my best games,” Jackson said. “As far as a couple of plays, I thought I could have had them, but at the end of the day, I didn’t come up with them. I have to move on and make better plays. I know I’m a better receiver, there are no excuses behind that, but I just didn’t have my best game today. It’s frustrating. But I have to just figure it out. I don’t know [why he wasn't in the game during the fourth quarter]. It was a decision that was made. As a player, I just have to live with it, it happened, and I have to keep coming to work, give my best effort and play hard. Come next week, I am going to make those plays. Me [and Coach Reid] have a good relationship.”
RB LeSean McCoy currently leads the NFL with 1,050 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns … His touchdown total ranks as the sixth-highest single-season mark in team history and his 11 rushing scores are tied for fourth … McCoy has had a 20-plus yard rush in each of the last seven games, which is the longest streak by an Eagle since 1970 … QB Vince Young set career highs in passing attempts (48) and yards (400), becoming the sixth different Eagle to reach 400 yards in a game. Randall Cunningham (3 times), Sonny Jurgensen (3), Donovan McNabb (2), Michael Vick (1) and Bobby Thomason (1) have also done so … Young’s 58-yard completion to WR Riley Cooper was the fourth-longest of his career … WR Jason Avant led the team with eight receptions for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season. It was his fourth-career 100-yard game (second in 2011), and he became the third Eagle this season with multiple 100-yard games … The Eagles scored their second opening-drive touchdown of the season … CB Brandon Hughes made his first NFL start … DT Mike Patterson sacked Tom Brady and now has 2.5 on the season … TE Brent Celek has accumulated 33 receptions for 384 yards in the last six games. He has had at least four catches in each of those games.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito