Patriots - Eagles: Game Balls & Goats

The Patriots fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-17 Friday night in a game that was as out of hand as the previous two. With no Tom Brady to save them, New England looked like any other NFL team – just average. So even with the loss, some players deserved a game ball while others deserved a goat. Who got what?

GAME BALLS:

Ray Ventrone -- The versatile defender has continued to improve on offense. Considering Ventrone was a practice squad special teams player who filled in at safety, his ability to morph into a pass catcher is even more amazing. Ventrone finished the night with 4 catches for 49 yards, standing out as one of the few bright spots for the Patriots.

Matt Gutierrez – Although this is unfair to Matt Cassel, Gutierrez looked like a real possibility as the Patriots backup quarterback tonight. He was able to find the receivers deep downfield. He managed to check off on the blitz, though not always successfully. He used his feet on a couple of occasions to escape the pass rush. 14/20 for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns earns Gutierrez a game ball, even if he did it against the second and third string defense.

C.J. Jones – Excellent elevation on the first deep sideline pass he caught. Jones more than made up for his bonehead plays from last week. He finished the night with 3 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. A solid performance compared to the rest of the roster.

Honorable Mentions:
James Sanders – knocking the ball out of Hank Baskett’s hand as he crossed the goal line was an excellent play. Had sanders just gone for the tackle, it was a sure touchdown, or at least a first and goal. As it turned out, Sanders turned the play into a 10 point swing.

Bill Belichick – For not completely blowing a gasket at that ugly performance by his offense. The coach deserves another compliment for challenging the ruling on Sanders’ play.

Mike Vrabel – maybe you missed it, but Vrabel is back in shape for the season The team shut him down early, but his pressure is what forced Donovan McNabb to step up into Tedy Bruschi’s arms for the sack.

GOATS

Offensive line -- Bad... no, really bad. There were breakdowns everywhere. Nick Kaczur and Wesley Britt not only struggled, they were abused by the Eagles pass rush. Tom Brady should skip the preseason until Matt light returns to the lineup.

Josh McDaniels – We have to give the coordinator the blame here. The eagle knew almost exactly what defense to call against the Patriots. That is either a sign of lack of creativity, or a vanilla offense that offers the backups no chance to be successful. Even when things went poorly, it was far too long for McDaniels to get things changed up. Sorry Josh, we have real concerns, and we haven’t seen enough to dispel any of them.

Special Teams – two plays, two touchdowns. There is no reason the Eagles should have had touchdowns on two plays in the second quarter to blow the game wide open. Horrible coverage on both punt and kick return units. As valiant as Stephen Gostkowksi’s tackle was, he whiffed. If he only wrapped up, it would have saved 7 points.

Honorable Mentions:
John Lynch -- for getting flat out beat on that kick return for a TD. Lynch looked slow.
Fernando Bryant – for giving and giving and giving at corner.
Antwain Spann – ditto for Bryant in coverage.

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