Felger & Mazz: Three plays we liked … and three plays we didn’t
In the aftermath, there is always retrospection.
As such, we on the Felger & Mazz show are hoping to add to our expanding web content here at 98.5 The Sports Hub, offering a new feature at each week during the football season: Three plays we liked … and three plays we didn’t. (Hopefully, it lasts.) These aren’t necessarily going to be the three best or more important plays from the most recent game, though they certainly could fall into that category.
For example, the Patriots already faced a 16-0 deficit when they finally started to awaken on offense late in the second quarter of Sunday’s 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium. By then, the Pats already had committed a handful of legitimate candidates for the plays that we (and many others) vehemently disliked. But given our propensity for fairness – ahem – we’re actually going to begin with three plays we liked in a season-opening defeat that had its share of both good and bad.
Oh, and we should mention: this week’s plays are actually more like sequences, but you get the idea.
So let’s start here:
Three We Liked
Second quarter, 6:52 play, Mac Jones to JuJu Smith-Schuster for 15 yards; second quarter, 6:20 to play, Mac Jones to Demario Douglas for 23 yards; second quarter, 4:39 to play, Mac Jones to Hunter Henry for touchdown.
OK, so this covers three plays, not one. But it was when the game changed. Just before this sequence, the Pats threw incomplete deep, at least planting the idea that the Eagles had to defend more of the field. The play to Schuster came on a critical third-and-10 and helped get Jones on a run. He completed the next play to Douglas on the outside before dropping a beauty into Henry for the first touchdown of the season. Nice sequence.
Second quarter, 1:25 left, Jones to Henry on first-and-10 from the NE-48 for 13 yards; Jones to Bourne from the PHI-19 for a touchdown to make it 16-14.
Again, we give you multiple plays during a six-play, 63-yard drive just before half that made it a game. Jones went 5-for-5 on the drive with completions to four receivers. The pass to Bourne made most everyone’s list, but we include the pass to Henry here (his second reception on the drive, on consecutive plays) because it was a textbook Patriots completion. It was one of the first plays of the day that looked well-designed and easy, inspiring confidence from a group that was a mess one year ago.
Fourth quarter, 3:35 left, Eagles first-and-10 from their own 27-yard line, Patriots trailing 25-20.
You want defense? The Eagles were in a good position to kill clock and maybe even close out the game when they took over late. On first down, Hurts ran left and had gained eight yards when safety Jabrill Peppers closed on him like a freight train. In the video below, you’ll see just how far Peppers traveled to make this tackle – and how he jarred the ball loose with a tough, flawless hit and tackle against the bigger, stronger Hurts. Know what this was? An old-school, physical, defensive play – a true, forced fumble – at a critical point of the game. Money.
Three We Didn’t Like
First quarter, 5:12 left, third-and-7 from the PHI-42, Patriots trailing 3-0.
On offense, this was the Patriots’ first third-down play of the season – and it was a disaster. Maybe Jones was anticipating pressure. Maybe he just misfired. F&M contributor Greg Bedard weighed in on this play and believes the timing between pass catchers Mike Gesicki and Kendrick Bourne – no to mention Jones – was disrupted for an assortment of reasons. Whatever the case and wherever the screwups, it was an ugly play. The ball was high. Bourne deflected it to the opposition. And defensive back Darius Slay basically ran 70 yards untouched. The Patriots offense basically gave away 13 points in this game – and it would have been 14 had the Eagles converted the second extra point.
That said, the play before the pick-6 was equally noteworthy. Jones had Demario Douglas open for what felt like an easy pitch-and-catch on second down. But as was the case on the next throw, the ball was high. This was an easy play and the receiver was open – the definition of a team beating itself.
Fourth quarter, 9:39 to play, fourth-and-3 from PHI-17, Patriots trailing 22-14.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has taken a lot of heat for not kicking a field goal here – and rightfully so. Much has already been dissected about the fourth down play in which JuJu Smith-Schuster appears to turn the wrong way on an option route, but the Pats prior two plays also left something to be desired.
After a five-yard gain to Smith-Schuster on first down, the faces faced a second-and-5 at the Philadelphia 19. They then ran consecutive plays into the middle of the line behind right Sidy Sow, who was starting in place of the injured Michael Onwenu. On the second play, Eagles defender Fletcher Cox abused Sow and killed the play.
Bottom line: the Pats had three plays – and not one – to gain five yards. They gained only two.
Fourth quarter, 1:02 to play, first-and-10 from the PHI-19, one timeout remaining, Patriots trail 25-20.
Again, the final plays drew all the attention when Kayshon Boutte failed to get both feet inbounds after Jones fired a strike toward the sideline on fourth-and-11. But the three prior plays also felt like a completely wasted opportunity and failed execution.
On first down, Jones looks for Boutte down the left sideline and throws one of his worst passes of the game, sailing the ball out of bounds. (It had no chance.) On second down, Jones was sacked, forcing the Pats to burn their final timeout. On third-and-13 – with no timeouts – the Pats ran a screen pass to Rhamondre Stevenson that gained just two yards.
As such, when the Pats lined up for fourth down, they needed 11 yards and couldn’t stop the clock. Somewhat incredibly, the play would have worked if Boutte could have simply gotten his feet down. He didn’t.