It was really hard to evaluate everything … except maybe Curtis Marsh. Him, you could evaluate, as he was getting beaten for three touchdowns, by three quarterbacks.
The final score was New England 42, Eagles 35, leaving the Eagles 0-2 in the preseason and facing some questions, particularly about a defense that gave up 35 first downs and allowed the Pats to convert 10 of 15 third downs, a week after Chicago went 10 for 17.
Eagles coach – What now? I was scratching my chin. How is that “illegal hands to the face”? I’m calling security – Chip Kelly was asked afterward whether he graded the defense on a curve, given the way the game was called.
“There is no curve,” Kelly said. “Those are the rules, and we’ve got to play by them. Whoever ends up being the most disciplined team in this league is going to win. But the rules aren’t going to change. That’s what I told those guys in the locker room. We had 10 [penalties], they had 11.
“I don’t think tomorrow or on Sunday Roger [Goodell] is going to say, ‘we’re going to change it.’ We’ve got to not get our hands in people’s faces and we have to understand that after 5 yards, it’s illegal contact. And if you can’t play within the rules, you can’t play in this league. That’s the bottom line. You’re just handing people first downs. We better figure it out.
“You don’t have to agree with the speed limit, but if the cop is out there with the speed gun, you better take your foot off the gas, or he’s going to pull you over.”
It was an odd game right from the start. Tom Brady was driving the Patriots down the field, four first downs on the opening drive, when tight end Steve Maneri seemed to turn one way, and Brady’s pass went the other. Williams reacted first, picking off the ball and zipping down the right sideline, 77 yards for a touchdown. In the process, Williams hurdled an attempted Brady tackle. Either there or somewhere else in his journey, Williams suffered a hamstring pull, an event that would have serious repercussions.
Williams said after the game he didn’t know when in the play he suffered the injury, and couldn’t tell how serious it was.
So New England got the ball back and drove 74 yards in nine plays for the touchdown that made it 7-7. The Birds took four penalties on the drive, including one that was offset by a flag on the Pats, and the Eagles had another declined. Marsh and Brandon Boykin were the corners, and Marsh took two penalties, then was victimized for the TD.
“You just have to adapt and adjust. I think it’s going to be a process,” Marsh said afterward. “I think eventually, everybody will be on the same page.”
Marsh has been having a good camp, but as Kelly has noted, there’s a reason why you also play these games.
Marsh said: “There’s some things I can get corrected in my technique. The first touchdown catch, fade-stop, really difficult route, but I know how to play it; there’s things I could have done to play that better. The second one, I felt like I played well, I actually got my hands on the football. I went for the pick, tipped it, and the guy ended up catching it anyway. The third one was a really good throw. I got my head around and was looking to play the ball, but it was such a good throw that I had to go back to [playing] the receiver’s hands. He got his feet [down] right in the corner.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t make any of those plays, but it’s not going to stop me. I’m going to learn from it … I’m going to get extremely better from this game.”
The Eagles finally got the ball with 5 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first quarter. Their drive lasted 8 seconds. Nick Foles hit Ifeanyi Momah coming across the middle, Momah caught the pass, took a few steps, and was stripped by Donta Hightower. Tommy Kelly recovered at the Eagles’ 28.
Jimmy Garoppolo then took over for Brady, and it was 14-7 four plays later. The Eagles were flagged twice, one of the penalties declined.
Foles finally got the ball back for the Eagles’ second snap with 2:39 left in the first quarter. They kept it for five plays this time, but when Allen Barbre was beaten for a Rob Ninkovich sack, they had to punt.
This time it took Garoppolo 13 plays to go 75 yards. Marsh was beaten on the touchdown pass, Boykin called for holding just to put the capper on it.
Boykin said the crackdown is especially difficult in the middle of the field, because “when you get a quarterback scrambling,” the natural move is to put your hand out to see where the receiver is. Now, that’s a flag.
“That’s the hard part about it,” he said. “You see how many are going up. It’s crazy. We gotta adjust. When we get back on Sunday, I’m sure that’ll be something we’ll practice hard. These past two games haven’t been good. This next one at home [Thursday against the Steelers], we gotta make a statement.
“We’ll have to change our technique, I guess, somehow, and be cognizant of that 5-yard marker. At 6 yards, you’re gonna get a flag … Either the game’s gonna be really, really long, or you’ll adjust.”
More misery ensued for Eagles fans when Alex Henery missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, but then things started to look up. Arrelious Benn boosted his stock by blocking a punt. Four plays later, Foles hit Zach Ertz for a 6-yard TD.
Kelly said he has confidence in Henery, but he also said, “You’ve gotta make 47-yarders in this league.”
Mark Sanchez got the next Eagles series and ran a sparkling 2-minute-offense drive, needing only five plays to go 61 yards, the TD pass blooping out of Momah’s hands as he hit the ground, to be caught by Benn.
The second half was more of the same. Penalties, turnovers, Eagles defensive confusion, regardless of the Pats QB. Matt Barkley took over for Sanchez and saw Jeff Maehl fumble away a possession. Then Barkley hit Johnson in stride, only to see the ball punched into the air and intercepted.
But Barkley also found Henry Josey for a TD pass, Josey bulling through defenders to finish a 27-yard scoring play.
“I don’t actually know how I got in there,” Josey said. “There were three guys in front of me, and I was just trying to make sure I set up the one guy that was [directly] in front of me. I ended up sneaking under the guy, and I was able to get to the other sideline. It was just crazy how it happened.”
Other notable takeaways from the night:
* The Eagles wore black jerseys last night and will wear either black or white “throughout the early portion of the season,” the team announced, because Nike hasn’t finished the body-contoured, high-tech jerseys in midnight green yet.
* There was an extra official – gee, that’s what this game really needed – and Maia Chaka, the back judge, was one of two women to make their NFL officiating debut this weekend.
* Vinny Curry got just about all the pass rush pressure the Eagles mustered in the first half. This was good for Vinny, bad for the guys who are supposed to be Davis’ starters. The Birds did not notch a first-half sack.
* Foles was 8-for-10 for 81 yards and a TD, Sanchez 11-for-12 for 117 yards and two TDs. Sanchez’s only incompletion was an interception. Barkley was 9-for-12 for 132 yards, a touchdown and a pick that wasn’t his fault.
Foles, in particular, needed to show that his two-picks-in-three-series stumble in Chicago last week was nothing to worry about, and he did that about as well as he could in the snaps he was allotted.
“I thought Nick bounced back. Unfortunately, the first play we fumbled, couldn’t get them off the field,” Kelly said. “It took a while to get into rhythm.”
“It was definitely an interesting game,” Foles said. “The Patriots had the ball for quite a bit in the first quarter … I just wanted to play a clean game and be efficient.”
* Boykin left the game with cramps, the Eagles said. Neither Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) nor Riley Cooper (foot) played. Both should practice tomorrow, Kelly said.
* Josh Huff suffered a left shoulder injury on a kickoff return. Kelly said he didn’t know how serious it was.
* Among the officiating misadventures was a penalty announced against DeMeco Ryans, who was minding his own business on the sideline at the time. The penalty might have been on Nate Allen. If there really was a penalty.
* Eight carries for 56 yards for Josey.
* Yes, in the fourth quarter, Kelly really did run DamarisJohnson, 5-8, 175 pounds, up the middle four times in a row, the last three from the Patriots’ 1. No, he didn’t score.
* Asked about the third down problems, Kelly said: “We’re not getting to the quarterback. We have to do a better job of creating pressure on the quarterback.”
On Twitter: @LesBowen