Patriots' Offensive Struggles Continue

Brian Westbrook (Rogash/ Getty Images)

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 Friday night at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots first team offense, defense and special teams struggled early, surrendering a 21-point deficit by the half. The Patriots fell to 0-3 in the preseason while The Eagles improved to 2-1.

New England 17 - Philadelphia 24

The good news is that Tom Brady opted not to dress for the game. Had he showed up the score may have been different, but the damage could have been worse. With Brady on the sideline, Matt Cassel piloted the first team offense for nearly three quarters. Cassel struggled against a heavy Philadelphia rush, which forced hurried throws, near interceptions and constant pressure and three sacks. He finished the night completing 8 of 14 passes for 60 yards 0 TDs and 0 INTS.

Cassel's most competitive moment came when he dropped back on a third-and-7 play, stepped up to avoid the pressure, and then took off downfield for a 22-yard scramble. He pumped his arms obviously fired up at making a big play with his feet. The crowd let out a cheer at the display of enthusiasm, and more importantly, success by Cassel. Unfortunately that run was the highlight of his evening.

The Eagles jumped to an early lead on the arm of Donovan McNabb who completed 13 of 17 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. Brian Westbrook was his typical productive self, carrying the ball 9 times for 39 yards and adding a 19-yard reception. DeSean Jackson was the killer for the Patriots. Jackson caught 4 passes for 67 yards, but his return skills put New England behind by 21 points at the half when he ran back a punt 76 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half. When he was on the field, he out ran nearly every Patriots defender, making the New England defense look slow.

Jackson's touchdown come after Quintin Demps scored on a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Philadelphia's previous possession. The Eagles took a commanding 24-3 lead into the half.


New England Patriots QB Matt Cassel looks to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles Aug 22, 2008 (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Cassel returned for the first possession in the third period, a 12-play 28-yard drive ending in a sack on third-and-18 and another Chris Hanson punt. The tackles Nick Kaczur and Wesley Britt each muffed their blocks during the drive, but Britt's inability to slow down Jerome McDougle resulted in the sack.

In five possessions Cassel guided the Patriots to just one scoring drive, a 35-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Cassel gave way to Matt Gutierrez in the third quarter with Philadelphia leading 24-3.

New England's backups played well enough to close the gap, but not before the game was out of hand. After Cassel departed, the Eagles drove their own 4 yard line to the Patriots 6 before stalling and kicking another field goal. 12-plays, 90 yards and another chip shot field goal by the Eagles caused the hometown crowd to groan with displeasure. Even former Patriot WR Bam Childress was in on the drive, catching a Kevin Kolb pass for 9 yards.

Gutierrez took over with four minutes left in the third period, getting to work right away by completing four of his first five passes to get into Eagles territory. Two long third down conversions later, Gutierrez found Chad Jackson in the end zone for New England's first touchdown of the game, and Jackson's first score of the year.

On his next possession, Gutierrez drove the Patriots out of the shadow of their own goalposts into Eagles territory. A breakdown in blocking on a fourth-and-7 play resulted in a sack, and turnover on downs. On his final possession Gutierrez did manage another long scoring drive resulting a second touchdown throw, this time to C.J. Jones.

Gutierrez finished the night completing 14 of 20 passes (70%) for 217 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. It was his best outing of the preseason.

Cassel and Gutierrez will likely get one more opportunity to show what they can do in the final preseason game next week against the New York Giants. The fourth game of the season is typically reserved for just the backups, though New England may be more inclined to play some of their starters - including Tom Brady - due to their lack or participation in the preseason to this point.

NOTES:
New England falls to 0-3 for the preseason while Philadelphia improved to 2-1 … Up next for the Patriots is a Thursday night game against the New York Giants Aug. 28 at the Meadowlands … The first round of NFL roster cuts (from 80 to 75) is Tuesday (Aug 26th) … With his 3 receptions for 70 yards against the Eagles, Patriots WR C.J. Jones leads all New England wideouts with 120 yards through 3 preseason games … Stephen Gostkowksi's 35-yard field goal improves his preseason total to a perfect 5-for-5 … The Patriots have outscored their opponents 30-0 in the fourth quarter this preseason … The Patriots outgained the Eagles 220-38 in the game's final 19 minutes and New England outscored Philadelphia 14-0.

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