Three weeks into the 2008 NFL Pre-Season, the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots find themselves with a 0-3 record after falling to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 Friday night at Gillette Stadium. In a game that appeared closer then it was, the Patriots were never able to get it going offensively while they also struggled with their special teams defensive unit, allowing two returns for touchdowns in under a two minute span to end the first half.
The Eagles jumped out first scoring a field goal in their first possession, a David Ackers kick from 24-yards, put them ahead 3-0 with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter of play. The Patriots were only able to pick up one first down in the first quarter which came on a 22-yard scramble by back up QB Matt Cassel. Besides this run, Cassel had an awful night, again failing to lead his team to a TD scoring drive for the third straight game.
Cassel did “some good things, some could have been done better,” Head Coach Bill Belichick said. “Protection at times was a problem.”
On the other side of the field, veteran QB Donovan McNabb looked sharp completing 13 of 17 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown, all coming in the first half.
“My confidence comes from how the team feels and I think the team is really on a high right now,” McNabb said.
The Eagles ended the half with a bang by scoring two touch downs on kick returns, one of a 101 kickoff return by Quintin Demps and the other on a 76 yard punt return by DeSean Jackson to pull away 24-3.
In the second half, the Patriots looked a little better on the offensive end behind the lead of third string QB Matt Gutierrez. He completed 14 of 20 passes and threw two touchdown passes to make the score a respectable 27-17, but this was all against the Eagles second team defensive unit.
“Matt did a good job of leading the team,” Belichick said of Gutierrez. “He hung in there well.”
With the loss, Patriots fans are growing a little nervous because they have yet to see their superstar QB, Tom Brady, in action during any of the pre-season. The reigning NFL MVP has been nursing a foot injury and has only recently begun to practice again with the team. He insists he will be ready to go for the Week 1 of the NFL regular season when the Patriots play the Kansas City Chiefs at home.
“I’ve only been here two games and things haven’t been good,” said Patriots safety John Lynch, who signed after being released by Denver. “I don’t think you put too much stock on results, but we’ve still got to regroup.”
The Patriots will have one more opportunity to try and figure things out before the regular season kicks off in two weeks this coming Thursday when they face the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in a rematch of last years Super Bowl at Giant Stadium.
Whenever an NFL team goes an entire pre-season without posting a win, it’s natural for their fans to panic but in reality, the games do not count and the real purpose of these games is to find what lineups work well together on the field. There’s no need to bail on the 2008-2009 Patriots team just yet, they’ve got a lot of football ahead of them and line backer Heath Evans put it best when he said, “I know one thing, we’re a Bill Belichick-coached football team and we’re going to find a way to get better.”