It took only until the second possession to see what was so sorely missed all of last season—a beautiful rainbow from Tom Brady to Randy Moss along the right sideline. And though it ended in a pass-interference by ex-Patriot Asante Samuel, one almost expected to hear Guy Lombardo strike up "Seems Like Old Times" with his orchestra.
Omitting the company script, Brady chose to be frank at the press conference, afterwards: "We are on a mission."
Indeed, the first half unfolded with a sense of purpose, a crisp execution not seen in a Patriots pre-season game in quite a few years. The Patriots opened with a shotgun max protect with a H-back formation in the backfield to protect Brady since it was the first live rush he'd faced in over a year; in a two TE, two WR, and a H-back with David Thomas being the assigned fullback to block (a H-back is a hybrid fullback/tight end).
On the next few plays, the Patriots went to a three wide formation, and with the help of a new-look, pass-rushing 4-3 front with a scary front featuring Burgess, Wilfork, Pryor and Seymour, the Patriots held Philadelphia to six points in the first half while Brady engineered two drives with both touchdowns coming courtesy of Chris Baker who was acquired because of his vastly underrated blocking ability.
Brady's last drive before the half once again proved beyond a doubt why he is an elite quarterback. With 5:07 the Patriots went to it's patent hurry up offense, eating up 75 yards in 10 plays, with one surprising play where Brady ignored the audible and called his own sneak to convert a third and one, then correctly diagnosed an inside safety blitz which he assigned Faulk to cross-block, buying himself time to fire a 35-yard bullet to a falling Moss to move the offense to the 12-yard line where he promptly found Baker again for his second touchdown of the game.
The second half, however, was cause for Patriot Nation to worry again about the steep drop-off in bench talent that contributed to the misleading close-victory score 27-25. With No. 2 quarterback Kevin O'Connell put in idle, Belichick chose to throw newly-acquired Andrew Walter to the sharks. Walter, who was easily confused by the blitz-happy Philadelphia defense, wasn't helped much by his weak grasp of the Patriot playbook.
Judging from their sense of purpose and dedication, even to the smallest assignments, it is clear that this team is on a mission, led by a hungry and vengeful Brady, eager to return after a season away from the field. Despite a flaw here and there, which is to be expected of preseason when teams mix up personnel- rookies with veterans, the executions were overall good.
TOM BRADY: For obvious reasons. Other than tentatively stepping through his long throws (he must throw all his weight on his surgically repaired knee in order to complete the follow through, a very hard mental task to complete), Brady performed well, especially on the mental level, in pre and post snap reads.
JULIAN EDELMAN: Playing in place of Wes Welker, the rookie put on an one man show, exhibiting his versatility and eluding skills when he successfully returned a punt.
PAT CHUNG: Already demonstrating his game-changing talent by registering five tackles and blocking a kick attempt. His subsequent hustle on another kick attempt at the end of the game was enough to cause kicker David Akers to go wide left which is an usual indication that he kicked too quickly. This affected the outcome of the game.
MYRON PRYOR: It was hard to ignore his motor. His explosion and power was surprising for a man of his size, and helped him to register a sack and several hurried passes.
CHRIS BAKER: Acquired for his underrated blocking, Baker reined in two touchdown passes, taking advantage of undue attention to the receivers.
THE DEFENSE: Only the solid performance of the four-man front and the nickel and dime pass rushing (Tully Banta-Cain and Burgess, et al) prevents the defense from ending up in the "Who's Down" category. While the secondaries performed good, and certainly better than last year, the squad still has trouble containing the dink and dunk, and closing down the slot and taking away the short intermediate passes.
JEROD MAYO: An unremarkable night, but this will probably change.
JOEY GALLOWAY: It's bad enough being motioned on the line of scrimmage by a rookie (Edelman) on a three wide-out formation, and while he did decent blocking, looking hesitantly and generally at a loss did not help him any better. This, in my opinion, has put him on the bubble. With the depth chart at wide receiver very plentiful, Galloway has plenty to do.
ERIC ALEXANDER: Poor tackling and play execution has moved this linebacker down the depth chart. It looked at times as if he were taking plays off, especially plays not happening in the flat.
ANDREW WALTER: Easily confused by the Philadelphia defense, he did not make a correct pre-snap diagnosis of the Eagle's coverages or fronts at any point in the game, and obviously bad things happen, including an unblocked sack that put him on the ground. His tentative grasp of the playbook is probably an impediment at this point. A lot of work for this man to do if he wants to win the No. 3 quarterback position.
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