Brady wasn’t perfect in the two series he played against the Eagles’ No. 1 defense, but he was about as close to it as you can get.
He engineered two 80-yard touchdown drives and completed seven of eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots’ win. Had a 140.1 passer rating when he called it a night.
The Eagles’ new 3-4 defensive scheme didn’t have any better luck stopping the Patriots’ ground game on those two series than they did Brady. Running backs Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount combined for 95 yards on eight carries.
Ridley opened the game with a 62-yard run right up the middle that set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
In the second quarter, Blount scored on a 51-yard touchdown run against the Eagles’ No. 2 defense. Ridley, Blount and the Patriots’ other running back, Shane Vereen, rushed for 167 yards on 15 carries in the first half.
So much for the belief that getting rid of Jim Washburn and the wide-nine would make the Eagles much better against the run.
"There were a few missed tackles out there," coach Chip Kelly said after the 31-22 loss. "I’ve seen LeGarrette. I had him at Oregon. He’s a big, strong, physical guy. You’ve got to get a lot of guys to the ball.
"We just missed a gap on that long run at the beginning [by Ridley]. We’ll have to look at the film and make sure we understand exactly what happened and try to correct those mistakes when we come back on Sunday."
The Eagles have done very little tackling to the ground in training camp, something that has prompted a lot of second-guessing, given that they were one of the league’s poorer tackling teams last year. They had 111 missed tackles in 2012. The NFC-champion 49ers had 66.
But Kelly said a lack of practice wasn’t the reason for the missed tackles last night.
"We have been tackling to the ground in isolated drills," he said. "We’re just not doing it in 11-on-11. We were going to do it with the Patriots [in their joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday], but Bill [Belichick] didn’t want to. They don’t tackle in practice.
"We believe in tackling in practice when you do it in isolated drills. The biggest [reservation] isn’t the guy tackling [getting hurt]. It’s the pileup that occurs. But we do need to live-tackle."
The one area on defense that Kelly was pleased with was his pass rush. The Eagles had three sacks, including 1.5 by linebacker Chris McCoy and half-sacks by defensive end Vinny Curry and linebacker Jake Knott. Defensive end Fletcher Cox had a near-sack on Brady on the Patriots’ second possession, forcing a hurried incompletion.
"I think we generated a pretty good pass rush with that first group," Kelly said. "If we can generate a pass rush with three defensive linemen and four defensive linemen, it helps you from a coverage standpoint."
The Eagles put a lot of time and money into improving their defense in the offseason. Seven of the nine veteran free agents they signed were defensive players. Five of their eight draft picks were defensive players.
But four of those five draft picks – safety Earl Wolff, cornerback Jordan Poyer and defensive linemen Joe Kruger and David King – were taken in the fifth round or later. The only one taken in the first 2 days of the draft was third-round defensive lineman Bennie Logan.
Four of the seven free agents they signed were defensive backs, which made a lot of sense, given the fact that the Eagles gave up a league-worst – and a franchise-record – 33 touchdown passes last season.
But two of those DBs – safety Kenny Phillips and cornerback Bradley Fletcher – came with significant injury baggage. Fletcher so far hasn’t had any problems. But Phillips, whose career has been hampered by knee problems, doesn’t look anything like the player drafted in the first round by the Giants 5 years ago. He is by no means assured of a season-opening roster spot.
Cary Williams started 16 games for the Super Bowl-champion Ravens last year, but has spent most of this summer, including last night’s game, on the sideline with a hamstring injury.
On Blount’s 51-yard second-quarter touchdown run, the 6-foot, 250-pound running back started left, reversed to the right, then cut back to the left before heading upfield. There were numerous missed tackles on the play and several Eagles defenders wound up on the ground.
A big reason the Eagles gave up 33 touchdown passes last year was the frequent miscommunications in the secondary. That wasn’t supposed to happen this year, because the safeties don’t have to be as worried about run responsibilities as they were in the wide-nine.
But early in the second quarter, there was Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce wide open in the end zone, nobody within a $10 cab ride of him. Should’ve been an easy touchdown, but Brady’s backup, Ryan Mallett, overthrew him.
After the ball fell incomplete, Phillips and cornerback Brandon Hughes, who were the closes defenders to Boyce, looked at each other, trying to figure out who blew the coverage.
The Eagles’ offense didn’t look half bad against the Patriots. Michael Vick and Nick Foles combined for nine completions in 11 attempts. Vick teamed with DeSean Jackson on a 47-yard touchdown pass, and the Eagles averaged 4.1 yards per carry in the first half.
They will score points this season. Maybe a lot of them. But the defense will have to play better than it did last night.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans seems confident they will.
"It was good work for us," he said. "We gave up some big plays here and there. But if you take them out, I thought we played OK.
"The preseason is when you work and build for the season. We definitely can do better. You don’t want to give up big plays. We can do better from that standpoint. But it’s definitely something to build off of for a new unit coming together."
Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.
On Twitter: @Pdomo