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Buzzards have their feathers plucked 24-6 by the Patriots

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Posted on Sat, Aug. 14, 2004

Eagles are duds in preseason debut

By Bob Brookover

Inquirer Staff Writer

FOXBORO, Mass. - The Eagles weren't at Lehigh anymore.

Gone last night were all the good vibrations that the hordes of fans brought with them to the training-camp practice fields on a daily basis. The mention of Terrell Owens here in the land of the Super Bowl champions evoked hearty boos rather than chants of praise.

The unbridled enthusiasm that the Eagles are ready to clear that NFC championship hurdle and play in the big game in February was replaced by a powerful dose of reality. There is much work to be done if they want to achieve the same level of excellence that defines the New England Patriots.

Add in 14 penalties, a blocked punt that led to a field goal by Adam Vinatieri, and eight injuries, and the Eagles' 24-6 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium qualified as a miserable start to the preseason.

"That was a disappointing performance," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "It was a preseason game, so we know we can learn some things from it. Number one, we had way too many penalties. We'll go back to the drawing board and have a better performance next time."

Owens caught three passes in his Eagles' debut, but the longest was for 7 yards and the average of the three catches was 4.7 yards, which didn't make anyone forget about James Thrash.

Defensive end Jevon Kearse didn't have a sack or a tackle.

Donovan McNabb completed six of his 11 passes, but the longest was for 8 yards, and the Eagles' first offense did not advance beyond midfield on any of its four possessions.

McNabb tried to put a positive spin on it all, but he knew it was a disappointing evening after an exciting two weeks of training camp.

"I think we had some good plays and some bad plays," McNabb told sideline reporters. "I think that's what the preseason is all about. What we did out here doesn't exactly show how good of a first two weeks we had. It's good to get out here so we can get a chance to go back and watch the films and get ready to go again to change things up for next week."

The Eagles didn't lose any of their first-teamers to injury, but eight players were forced to leave the field, while the Patriots did not have to deal with a single injury.

"It seemed like a lot of injuries to me, too, but I don't have an answer for it," Reid said. The worst of the injuries was to second-year safety Quintin Mikell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Second-year defensive end Jamaal Green left with a sprained right ankle, the same one he fractured in a preseason game against New England last year. Last year's injury cost him his entire rookie season.

Rookie cornerback Matt Ware departed with a lower left-leg contusion. X-rays were negative, but he was on crutches when he left the locker room. Rookie running back Thomas Tapeh left with a high right-ankle sprain, wide receiver Greg Lewis aggravated a shoulder injury, and defensive tackle Sam Rayburn aggravated a sprained ankle. Rookie linebacker Greg Richmond left with an MCL sprain and rookie running back Bruce Perry aggravated a shoulder injury.

The Patriots turned the game into a rout with two second-half touchdown passes by backup quarterback Rohan Davey.

Positives for the Eagles?

Rookie J.R. Reed had a couple of nice kick returns, and Reno Mahe ran 10 times for 52 yards. The best news of all for the Eagles is that they will see the Patriots again this season only if the teams meet in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla.

Sloppy best describes the Eagles' first offensive possession of the preseason.

It started nicely enough, with McNabb finding Owens for a 7-yard completion on a first-down slant pattern and Brian Westbrook following with an explosive 12-yard run around the right side of the line.

After Owens turned a quick pass from McNabb into a 6-yard gain on first down, the Eagles proceeded to self-destruct.

On third and 4, McNabb found Todd Pinkston for a 40-yard completion. It was the first offense's best play of the night. Too bad it didn't count.

Pinkston was flagged for an illegal touch because he went out of bounds before he caught the ball. The Eagles were charged with four more penalties by the end of the drive, which stalled at their own 40.

"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot," Reid said. "We did some good things, then we killed ourselves with penalties. That's what is disappointing. We pride ourselves in being disciplined, and we were not a disciplined team."

If the first drive was sloppy, the next three resembled the "Gone South Offense" that the Eagles have run in their last seven quarters of NFC championship games. McNabb and company went three-and-out on their second possession, which included a Westbrook run that was blown up by 340-pound defensive tackle Keith Traylor and a McNabb third-down pass that wasn't anywhere close to Pinkston.

The Eagles at least managed a first down on their third possession, with McNabb finding Freddie Mitchell - who else? - for a 7-yard completion on a third-and-6 play. That drive ended three plays later with offensive tackle Jon Runyan being charged with a 15-yard, late-hit penalty.

Reid gave the first offense one last chance to get something going at the start of the second quarter. By that point, the Patriots' second defense was on the field.

It didn't matter. McNabb completed a pass to Correll Buckhalter for an 8-yard gain on first down, then made two errant throws to kill the drive and end the first offense's evening.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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