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Patriots soar past Eagles

Brady throws three touchdown passes in rout of Philadelphia

Wes Welker hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the second quarter. (Associated Press) Wes Welker hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the second quarter.
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / November 27, 2011
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PHILADELPHIA – Early on – very early on – it looked like the Patriots would be challenged by the backs-against-the-wall Eagles.

But then Vince Young showed why he’s been relegated to backup status, Philadelphia showed the type of undisciplined play that’s led to a talented roster being now a near-certainty to miss the playoffs, Tom Brady showed that he is still the reigning NFL MVP, and New England rolled to a 38-20 win at Lincoln Financial Field.

New England is 8-3 and tied with Houston and Baltimore for the best record in the AFC.

"I thought (the players) really played the game the way we wanted to play it today, and did a good job in all three phases of the game," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Eagles fans grew so frustrated by their team’s ineptitude – the squad Young himself called a “dream team” in the preseason thanks to the high-profile free-agent signings and trades Philadelphia made – that they began chanting “Fire Andy” in the third quarter, calling for longtime head coach Andy Reid to be cut loose.

Reid is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, having been at the helm in Philly since 1999.

Brady hit 24 of 34 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

"It's a team that has, obviously, a lot of very good players, and I thought we, you know, getting down 10 nothing and then rallying, coming back like we did showed a little bit of mental toughness which we've really shown consistently throughout the year," Brady said.

Deion Branch and Wes Welker both had more than 100 yards receiving for the Patriots. Branch caught six passes for 125 yards and Welker had 8 receptions for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"Our guys were getting open," Brady said. "We got some good quickness in the underneath part of the field, I thought we took advantage of some plays there. I thought we should have hit some other ones, though."

Young completed 26 of 48 passes for 400 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once. Jason Avant was the Eagles' top receiver with eihgt catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

The Eagles took a 7-0 lead just 2:17 into the game following a 58-yard bomb from Young to Riley Cooper on the third play of the game. Cooper, a 6-foot-3 second-year wideout, was on the field because Philly’s top receiver, Jeremy Maclin, was injured and unable to play.

Cooper was brought down at the four, and after two handoffs to NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy, the Eagles were in the end zone.

New England did little on its first drive, and the Eagles went up 10-0 on their second possession after another long play, this one Young to DeSean Jackson for 44 yards over the middle that put Philadelphia well into Pats’ territory. They got to the 25 before the drive stalled with a tipped pass and two drops.

Rookie Alex Henery converted a 43-yard field goal to give his team the 10-point cushion with just 8:23 gone in the game.

But New England came out for its second chance on offense and settled in. Aided by two third-down penalties on Philly – one for 12 men on the field and the other for offsides – that gave them a fresh set of downs in each case, Brady was 4-for-4 on the 12-play drive, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis also got the ball six times, the final one for a four-yard touchdown run.

Brady had his seventh 300-yard game of the season and did not have an interception, but he was sacked once and hit several other times. So thorough was the Pats’ undressing of the Eagles that backup quarterback Brian Hoyer played the final six minutes, his first snaps of the season.

New England took the lead early in the second quarter and never looked back.

"We kind of stumbled out of the gate there, but it was good to see us bounce back and kind of fight through it on the road," Belichick said.

Branch, who was questionable for the game with a hip injury, had a pretty 63-yard catch-and-run, by far his longest play of the season. Branch stopped just before stepping out of bounds and cut back toward the middle of the field, gaining 15 more yards before being brought down at the 1.

"That was a huge play in the game," Brady said. "I thought really to kind of stop the momentum they had established, and for us to make some plays like that really softens up the defense."

Green-Ellis got the touchdown, with reserve offensive lineman Donald Thomas acting as fullback.

The play before Branch’s catch, on-again Patriot Tiquan Underwood missed his chance to announce himself to New England fans. Underwood, a long, fast receiver, got snaps over Taylor Price, who was active but essentially glued to the bench.

Brady hit a wide open Underwood streaking down the left numbers with an on-the-money pass – and it went off Underwood’s hands. By his reaction, however, he may have lost the ball in the lights.

Antwaun Molden may have gotten away with pass interference a couple of plays after the Patriots’ touchdown, but he made a nice play on a ball intended for Jackson and returned the interception to the Philadelphia 34. But the turnover went for naught when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Still, the Patriots went into the half with a 24-13 lead after a broken coverage led to Welker finding himself incredibly open near the goal line for a 41-yard touchdown and Gostkowski hit from 45 yards out.

"He said before the play, you know if I get this certain look, then I'm going to fake like I'm running the in-cut and run the post, and he did it, and came to the sideline and he was like 'I told you, I told you'," Brady said.

The Eagles couldn’t get into the end zone from goal-to-go at the 5 and settled for a chip-shot field goal before halftime.

New England got the ball back to start the second half and stayed in the no-huddle it had used with such efficacy late in the first half. Welker scored again, diving over the goal line at the left pylon (he was close enough to being out of bounds that the play was reviewed in the booth but upheld) to give the Pats a 31-13 lead.

It was the eighth touchdown of the season for Welker, tying the career high he set in 2007, his first season with New England.

Things only devolved from there for the Eagles, who fell to 4-7.

Rob Gronkowski caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brady to make it 38-13 in the fourth quarter.

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