By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After one week of the NFL season, the New England Patriots’ defense was a smoldering wreckage.

The Patriots were beaten at home by the Chiefs as Andy Reid’s offense had its way with the New England defense. As in the past, the buzzards were supposedly circling in Foxboro. It seemed as if the Patriots were finally vulnerable with a suspect group on the defensive front.

However, the Patriots once again pulled a Rasputin and rose from the dead to reach pro football’s ultimate game. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is preparing to face as good a defense as any he has seen all season.

“They’re really fundamentally sound,” said Ertz. “They’re really technical in every aspect of their game. They are able to get off blocks extremely well in their front seven. In the back four, those two safeties are extremely smart football players and they have two really good corners.”

The Patriots finished 29th in total defense during the regular season, but those numbers can be misleading. New England improved as the season progressed and also saw their stats drop thanks to a host of blowout wins in which they allowed meaningless yardage at the end of games.

Eagles Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich says the Patriots play at their best when the offense reaches the red zone.

“They do very good analysis of what you are trying to do in the red zone,” Reich said. “That’s his (Belichick’s) M.O. We all know it’s his M.O. They’re going to take that away and that’s why they’re the number one red zone defense.”

The New England Defense will face a Philadelphia offense which shredded Minnesota’s top-ranked defense in the NFC Championship game. Quarterback Nick Foles will have to be at the top of his game once again, and Foles knows he has to control his emotions while dealing with the improved New England defensive unit.

“I don’t know what the feelings will be like,” said Foles. “It’s the Super Bowl. I’m excited to just run out of that tunnel with my teammates on Super Bowl Sunday and play that game. I don’t know what I’ll feel. I know it will be a lot of excitement and I’m looking forward to that moment.”

Even with the improvement of the New England defense, the Eagles offensive players remain confident as they approach Super Bowl LII, and running back Jay Ajayi is confident Foles will once again rise to the challenge.

“That’s our starting quarterback,” Ajayi said. “He’s been leading us since L.A. That’s been a long time to continually call someone a backup. He’s been starting for us a long time now. Leading up to this point, he’s done a lot of great things.”

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