Editor’s note: Steve Fini breaks down the five players most critical to New England’s lopsided bludgeoning of the Eagles last Sunday.
Tom Brady (NE/QB) – I know he’s getting older and he just pummeled your favorite team in a big game, so, you probably don’t want to hear my about my man crush on Brady. But as a true football fan you have to respect what this man can do. We know by now he was an afterthought coming out of Michigan and that he’s been the one of the game’s premiere quarterbacks over the past decade. But we got a first-hand look at just how good Brady is on Sunday.
I don’t want to say Brady is unstoppable because they have lost this season and sputtered occasionally on offense, but he’s back to playing at an elite level. He looks simply unstoppable. When he is on target he can pick apart a defense and leave defensive coordinators speechless. The Eagles threw a lot of different looks at him and it didn’t work. I could say why Brady was able to pick apart the defense, the scheme sucked, players didn’t play, etc., but it’s all pointless. The only thing that mattered was Tom Brady was on target and there is really no defense for that.
Wes Welker (WR/Patriots) – Similar to Brady, it’s hard to see how someone like Welker can be so dominant given his physical limitations. He is the best slot receiver in pro football and he’s beginning to reach the level where he may be a Hall of Famer before it’s all said and done. He’s hard to press, runs exceptional routes, and the coaches do a great job of getting him in the right position. Maybe if Welker didn’t have Tom Brady delivering him the football he wouldn’t be this good. Who knows? Who cares? Because he does.
Welker is an established star receiver who can get open against any corner in the league when put in the right position. He is exactly what a short-range, timing based offense needs to be successful.
It’s absolutely stunning that the Eagles left Welker so wide open on multiple occasions. We are used to seeing an offense’s third and fourth options torch this defense, but to let a guy like Welker run free is baffling.
Rob Gronkowski (TE/Patriots) – Something tells me over the next ten years there are going to be discussions over who the most dominant tight end in football is. Gronkowski or the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Gronkowski is simply unstoppable because he does so many things well. He never has to be taken off the field because he can catch and block. He’s a matchup problem regardless of how the defense opts to play him. I actually liked that the Eagles placed Nnamdi Asomugha on him for some of the game since Asomugha is tall and lanky, but it didn’t work out well in general. Gronkowski didn’t have the game that I expected him to have, but he still managed to be an impact player. And surprise, surprise, he found the end zone.
Lesean McCoy (RB/Eagles) – In what was a critical, must win game, the leading rusher in the NFL and best player on the Eagles offense had a total of…14 touches? Hey Andy Reid, “You have to do a better job.” That isn’t going to cut it at all. First, the Eagles trot out a turnover prone backup quarterback in Vince Young, so it’s beyond puzzling that the Eagles wouldn’t take pressure off of him in this scenario. Forget that New England is dead last against the pass this season, there was no way Vince Young was going to out duel Tom Brady in that scenario.
What’s more, the Eagles had a two possession lead in this game. It’s not like Reid had to throw the ball a ton early on to play catch up. There’s also that one other tiny factor, you know, the one that McCoy is the THE BEST PLAYER ON YOUR BLEEPING TEAM.
DeSean Jackson (WR/Eagles) – Another week, another sob story with Jackson. I just want to make it clear that I still think Jackson is underpaid. I also really like him as a player. So while everyone in the city of Philadelphia roasts him this week, I’m going to at least make those concessions before we break down his performance.
Jackson is immature. He doesn’t deserve the money he wants and I don’t think the Eagles should give in. His performance Sunday was embarrassing. I understand he’s small and he’s taken some big hits which has him thinking about his long term future, but to short arm a touchdown the way he did Sunday isn’t going to earn you a big payday in this town. Not when your team is battling for their proverbial lives and that catch could have dramatically altered the game’s complexion. And you certainly can’t give up on a play like that to save your own ass when you’re asking for big bucks and want to get paid. I think he’s an outstanding weapon and he makes this offense much more dynamic than anyone else can. But he’s not a number one target and if he isn’t going to go all out for his team now when they need him the most, can they really count on him to do it next week? Or next year?