Patriots

Patriots vs. Eagles Instant Overreactions: New England's dominant defense is back?

Patriots

Sunday's Week 11 game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles was nothing like their previous meeting in Super Bowl LII. 

The Eagles won that Super Bowl 41-33, but points were hard to come by this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field. The Patriots escaped with a 17-10 win in a game that, at one point in the fourth quarter, saw punts on 10 consecutive drives.

There was a lot to analyze despite the lack of scoring, so let's take a look at four instant overreactions and assess their merit.

1. Ben Watson will be a receiving threat at tight end
Verdict
: Overreaction

Watson gave his best performance of the season with three receptions for 52 yards, including a 19-yard catch to set up 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard line in the first quarter. But unless we see Watson put up these numbers on a consistent basis, it's too early to call him a legitimate receiving threat at tight end at 38 years old. He wasn't even targeted once in the Patriots' four trips to the red zone. That's the area of the field where Watson has to help replace the loss of Rob Gronkowski.

2. Patriots' red-zone offense is a huge concern
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Patriots drove into the red zone three times in the first half and scored zero touchdowns. The second trip inside the 20-yard line was the most painful. New England had 1st-and-goal at the 4-yard line and Brady threw three consecutive incompletions to force head coach Bill Belichick to bring on the field goal unit. Brady nearly threw an interception on that second red-zone drive, too. He has two red zone interceptions this season after throwing just two of them in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 campaigns combined.

 

The Patriots averaged just 2.1 yards per carry in the first half, and that might explain the hesitancy to run despite being inside the 5-yard line. Sony Michel and the offensive line as a whole have struggled in short yardage situations throughout the season.

New England finished with four red zone trips overall, and its only touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Julian Edelman to Phillip Dorsett. 

Rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry could emerge as a valuable red-zone threat at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, but it would've been unfair to expect too much of him in this area during his pro debut.

Red zone offense has been a huge issue for the Patriots. They entered Week 11 with a league-high 40 trips into the red zone but had only scored touchdowns on half of them. This weakness must be resolved ASAP if the Pats are going to come out of this difficult stretch in their schedule sitting atop the AFC standings.

3. The Patriots defense is back!
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Eagles scored 10 points in the first half. The first three came as a result of a suspect 49-yard pass interference penalty that put the Eagles in field goal range, and their lone touchdown originally was ruled an interception before replay overturned the call. The Patriots defense dominated for the rest of the game, allowing zero points and only 170 total yards in the second, third and fourth quarters combined.

New England's pass rush was a major factor, and the game shifted toward the Patriots' favor once the front seven consistently put pressure on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Pats tallied five sacks and hit Wentz 11 times. The Patriots also held the Eagles to 3-for-11 on third down and forced the game's only turnover (a fumble).

New England's historically dominant defense was humbled with a 37-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. Critics quickly said the unit was overrated and only had great stats because of a soft schedule. Sunday's performance against a quality quarterback and a good offensive line was a reminder the Patriots defense really is one of the league's best.

 

4. No-huddle should be an offensive staple moving forward
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Patriots ran a no-huddle offense with tremendous success versus the Ravens in Week 9, and they found more to begin the second half Sunday. New England moved at a no-huddle tempo and gained eight yards, six yards and 10 yards on the first three plays of the third quarter. They ultimately scored a touchdown to cap a 10-play, 84-yard drive that lasted just 4:11. The Patriots hurried the line on six of the nine plays on the drive, and the Eagles had little answer for it. Don't be surprised if the Patriots go back to this no-huddle offense plenty more times in 2019.

WATCH: N'Keal Harry hauls in first reception from Tom Brady>>>

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