While the Eagles didn't beat the Patriots, the game tape might have provided a few clues about what things can be successful against New England. But as one of the Ravens player said to me hours before their Monday night game with New England, "We never even talked about the Eagles during the week."
Listed below are five things New England learned about themselves from their victory over the Eagles.
1. The clock in Tom Brady's head
Brady is the best at what he does, but there have been weeks where he gets enough time to wait on Randy Moss or anyone else he wants to throw to. Brady was sacked just three times in the first five games. The Eagles sacked him three times, and got hits on him another four times. Brady knows he has less time in the pocket than he had earlier in the year. The Ravens believed they could get to Brady, and they were right, sacking him three times and getting hits on him another half-dozen times. The clock in Brady's head will be ticking loud and clear from now on and he will get the ball out of his hand faster than ever. He knows his team isn't going anywhere if he's on the sideline with an injury. The Steelers will bring pressure in Week 14.
2. Balancing up the offensive attack
The Patriots don't necessarily look to be balanced on a game-to-game basis. If they go against a run defense like the Vikings have, they are capable of passing 80 percent of the game. Thus far into the season, the Patriots have run the ball 45 percent of the time and passed it 55 percent of the time. Against the Eagles, they were closer to passing it 80 percent of the time. Baltimore has a top run defense, but the Patriots attempted to balance their attack by running the ball on 37 percent of their plays. Laurence Maroney averages just 10 rushing attempts a game; look for that to go up in the next few weeks. Until New England demonstrates that they are a threat to run, teams will overplay Randy Moss and the rest of the receivers, which will lead to sacks and hits on Brady.
3. Route and formation adjustments
When you watch the game tape from the Eagles-Patriots matchup, it appears the Eagles' plan to disrupt Moss off the line of scrimmage was an effective way to interfere with his release and timing. Look for the Patriots to adjust and start putting Moss in motion in order to set up a clean release. Look for them to also work some pick plays at the snap of the ball in what will look like a bunch series where three eligible receivers are close to each other when the ball is snapped. It was a staple of the Patriots' offense in years past and it has its place again after watching the Eagles concentrate on Moss. The Ravens restricted Moss to four catches for 34 yards and a TD. In the past two games Moss has nine receptions for 77 yards and only one touchdown.
4. Work on their first-down defense
Opponents will look at the Eagles' game plan against the Patriots and realize that Philadelphia went 13 for 16 and 120 yards on first down before the Pats ended the game with an interception on the 17th first-down pass. The Patriots are a very effective blitz defense when they want to be and had 21 sacks and seven interceptions heading into their game with the Ravens. First down has been one of their least blitzed downs. I expect to see a few more pressure schemes on first downs after the Eagles completed 81 percent of their first-down passes for 7.5 yards an attempt. The Ravens ran it 18 times, while throwing it only twice, on first downs. The Patriots need to tighten up their first-down defense. The Steelers will mix up their calls on first down.
5. Clean up the third-down pass defense
A.J. Feeley came into Foxboro and threw a pick six on the game's first third-down situation. After that he went 7 of 9 on third-down pass calls. The Patriots gave up 126 yards and three touchdowns on those seven completions. Bill Belichick will study how and why Feeley was so productive. If it's more man coverage or better disguises in the coverage, we should see the revised package shortly. Baltimore ran it three times and passed it eight times on third down. Outside of giving up a 53-yard bomb and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Baltimore, the Patriots have their third-down defense headed in the right direction.
It's a challenge to keep any group of people grounded when they are experiencing the amount of success New England has had thus far. Every week, Belichick points out the things the players have to improve. The players I speak with say they hear the message loud and clear. But after being tested by the Eagles and Ravens, the message is easier to deliver and accept.