Score early - They certainly did score - actually on the third play of the game Asante Samuel cut in front of a pass intended for Brian Westbrook and took A.J. Feeley's pass to the house to put New England up 7 - 0. Unfortunately that lead didn't last long as the Eagles took their second possession and marched down the field on a 14-play 77-yard drive to tie the score 7-7 when Westbrook took a handoff and ran it in from the 1.
Stop Brian Westbrook - For most of the day the Patriots' game plan to stop Brian Westbrook appeared to be working. Unfortunately they left Greg Lewis open. Westbrook remained relatively quiet for the better part of the game. He carried the ball 17 times for 52 yards with the one score and he added 7 catches for another 40 yards.
Provide Solid Rush Defense -- Philadelphia managed just 55 yards on 19 carries for an unimpressive 2.9 yard per carry avg. on the ground. One thing that allowed New England to do was to focus on finding a solution in their secondary. What they didn't expect was Feeley to be able to find open receivers despite the pressure applied up front. Feeley turned in one of the best performances of his career on a night the Eagles really needed one from him. Unfortunately he got greedy late and threw a poorly aimed pass toward the pylon late in the fourth quarter, which was picked off by Asante Samuel. The Eagles ran just two times for 8 yards in their last two drives even with more than 10 minutes left on the clock.
Get the ball to Westbrook - Less than 100 yards from Brian Westbrook didn't seem to matter for Philadelphia's offense. The threat of Westbrook running, or catching passes out of the backfield was enough to get the linebackers to close up on the line, while allowing the receivers to get open in the deep middle of the field. That left New England vulnerable to Greg Lewis (4 rec. 88 yds., 2 TDs), Kevin Curtis (5 rec. 71 yds.) and Reggie Brown (5 rec. 45 yds., 1 TD). Instead of making up the majority of Philadelphia's offense, Westbrook accounted for just 92 of Philadelphia's 391 yards.
Prevent the Big Play - If the goal was to stop Randy Moss, consider the task as mission accomplished. Moss finished the game with just 5 receptions for 43 yards. His one TD was called back for Pass interference. What Philadelphia wasn't able to do was to hold the lead despite giving up on a 40-yard plus play to Wes Welker and just two other big plays to two former Eagles receivers; a 32-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney and a 31-yard pass to Donte Stallworth. Coming into the game the Patriots had 38 passes over 20 yards (over 3 per game) and 7 over 40 yards (almost 1 per game).
Put pressure on Tom Brady - Philadelphia put more pressure on Tom Brady than any other team New England has faced all season. Three sacks on the night by Eagle defenders were equal to total surrendered through the first 10 games of the season for the Patriots. Chris Gocong, Juqua Thomas and Darren Howard each planted Brady on his back, side or other position in the backfield. The constant pressure forced Brady to check down or scramble with the ball. Brady's passer rating of 90.0 was his lowest of the year so far.
What Were the Actual Keys?
Overall the Eagles game plan worked well. A.J Feeley's performance and the Patriots inability to generate their patented Brady to Moss connection almost cost New England their shot at remaining undefeated.
Offense: Wes Welker - 13 receptions for 149 yards. His catches sustained drives at a critical point to allow the Patriots to score late and regain the lead.
Defense: Asante Samuel - 2 interceptions were huge. The first gave the Patriots the lead, the second protected the lead late.
Offense: A.J. Feeley's protection - the time the line allowed for Feeley to find the open receiver was critical to the Eagles success. Had New England been able to get to Feeley, the game would have been the blowout many predicted.
Defense: Pressure Brady - Jim Johnson's defense came up huge for Philadelphia. It was the best pressure any defense has put on Brady all year.