The Philadelphia Eagles dropped their second preseason game to the New England Patriots in a 42-35 shootout. After the two teams practiced against each other earlier in the week, the game was a penalty fest and sloppy at times. Despite those issues, there were plenty of positives and negatives to take away for the Eagles performance.
Quarterback Nick Foles bounced back in a strong way from his sub-par outing against the Chicago Bears in the preseason opener, where he tossed two interceptions in three series. Against New England, Foles was in rhythm, completing 8-10 for 81 yards and a touchdown strike to tight end Zach Ertz. He was far more careful with his decision making and showed command of the offense. Mark Sanchez relieved Foles and continued his solid preseason play. Despite one ill-advised interception, Sanchez completed 11-12 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He is showing tremendous improvement, but has to stay away from those bad decisions.
Running back Henry Josey carried the rushing load for the Eagles with success. He averaged seven yards per carry and scored on a 27 yard screen pass. He showed very good patience and effort of the touchdown while contributing eight carries for 56 yards on the ground. The Eagles used wide receiver Damaris Johnson at running back, showcasing his versatility. He caught a touchdown on a wheel route from the backfield, but also had a ball hit off his body that ended up getting intercepted.
The Eagles played against the Patriots without wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. That gave opportunities for the younger Eagles receivers to step up. Rookie Jordan Matthews answered the call with nine catches for 104 yards. After some issues in the preseason opener, Matthews caught every ball thrown his way against New England. He displayed his strong hands and ability to make big plays. Arrelious Benn was also a standout. He blocked a punt on special teams and made a terrific touchdown reception that bounced off the hands of Ifeanyi Momah. Momah and Jeff Maehl both lost fumbles in the game, which are blows to their pursuit of making the roster.
Zach Ertz continued his terrific preseason with a touchdown catch and Brent Celek made two huge catches. On the second, Celek got his helmet blasted off and was still able to hang on for the reception.
The Eagles defense struggled throughout the night. They allowed New England quarterbacks to throw four touchdown passes. They also had problems stopping the run as the Patriots racked up 250 rushing yards.
On the positive side, cornerback Cary Williams made an interception and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. Williams read the miscommunication from Tom Brady and his tight end to step in to make the pick. He received great blocks for Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry en route to the endzone. Williams did exit the game after the interception with a hamstring injury.
With Williams out, cornerback Curtis Marsh received more playing time. He did not take advantage. On the Patriots first touchdown drive, Marsh was called for defensive holding and pass interference. He was then beat on a touchdown to Kenbrell Thompkins, where Marsh did not get his head around to locate the ball. He steadied his play for a while, but was beat again for a touchdown by Brian Tyms is the third quarter in a situation where he did not locate the ball again.
Defensive linemen Vinny Curry showed well for the second straight game generating pressure. Philadelphia's entire second team defensive line was able to put pressure on the quarterback. Linebacker Brandon Graham did not get into the game until the second half, but did record a sack. He also spent time on the Eagles kickoff coverage unit.
In the second preseason game the Eagles found plenty of things they can build on and plenty more they need to clean up. Philadelphia returns to the field for the all-important third preseason game Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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