The Patriots don't get any style points for their big win Sunday at the Eagles. The offense managed to score enough points in a come-from-behind 17-10 triumph.
With both teams coming off a bye, New England outplayed Philadelphia in a battle of attrition that was decided by one turnover and one trick-play touchdown.
NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: Pats cruising, Birds sinking
Quarterback Tom Brady (26-of-47 passing, 216 yards, no touchdowns, 67.3 rating) was far from his sharpest against the Eagles' blitzing defense, but he still got more help from his receivers and offensive line than counterpart Carson Wentz (20-of-40 passing, 214 yards, one TD, one lost fumble, 74.4 rating) got from his.
Digging deeper into the box score, here are the three most important takeaways from the Patriots' takedown of the Eagles:
1. The Patriots still aren't a big-play offense
Brady did his usual dinking and dunking with plenty of screen passes to his backs, tight ends and receivers to beat the pressure. He averaged only 4.6 yards per attempt and the Patriots' longest play from scrimmage, a 30-yard catch-and-run from running back Rex Burkhead, came off a bad missed tackle in the backfield by Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry.
Rookie first-round wide receiver N'Keal Harry was supposed to help stretch the field against the Eagles' shaky cornerbacks in his NFL debut, but he fell into the short-to-intermediate mode shared by veterans Julian Edelman, Benjamin Watson and Phillip Dorsett with three catches for just 18 yards.
The Patriots were methodical in moving the ball, which led to three field-goal drives and a touchdown, but their running game remained ineffective (21 carries for 81 yards) and they were just 5 for 16 on third-down conversions. At least they were able to convert a third-and-11 when they got their most creative, calling for Edelman to throw a 15-yard touchdown to Dorsett on a double pass.
They were fortunate the Eagles' offense remained compressed around Wentz, with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery joining DeSean Jackson on the shelf. Next week, however, they'll face a red-hot Cowboys offense that has Dak Prescott consistently making big plays downfield to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb and Blake Jarwin. The Cowboys also are a bend-but-don't-break defense that works to not give up big plays. New England will have to find someone to test Dallas deep to keep that defense honest.
2. The Eagles are in trouble should Jeffery miss more time with his calf injury
Wentz was pretty much reliant on Zach Ertz (nine catches for 94 yards) and Dallas Goedert (three catches, 36 yards, TD) in the passing game out of two-tight end sets because, without Jeffery, the Eagles' wideouts were non-existent for most of the game. Nelson Agholor dropped a potential game-tying touchdown.
Jordan Matthews still has trouble getting open and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside isn't ready for a big role in Jeffery's place. After failing to for Josh Gordon or Emmanuel Sanders before the October deadline, the Eagles are extremely thin on playmakers at the position.
That's not a good development going into a matchup with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Week 12, which now feels like a must-win game even with a very favorable schedule ahead, save for the Week 16 rematch vs. the Cowboys.
3. The Patriots remain vulnerable against the run — should a team stick with it
New England came into the game ranked No. 11 in the league with 99.1 rushing yards allowed per game, but they were ranked No. 26 at 4.7 yards per carry.
Those numbers will improve after allowing the Eagles just 81 yards, but Philadelphia had just 21 attempts in a close game. It instead asked Wentz drop back 45 times, with 40 attempts and five sacks, despite the limitations in the passing game.
The Cowboys are a much more dangerous offense overall and tend to stay committed to Ezekiel Elliott on the ground, even even as they're letting Prescott throw more. The Eagles were having success on the ground with rookie Miles Sanders (11 carries, 38 yards for the game) early on while taking a 10-0 first-half lead, but they got pass-happy in the second half despite never being down more than one possession.
It was easy for the Patriots to commit extra defenders to the run with the Eagles not posing any threat deep in the passing game. They will have trouble taking away one thing against the Cowboys with the way Prescott and his wideouts are playing. You can bet Dallas will go in thinking of winning the time-of-posession game with a heavy dose of Elliott next Sunday.