PHILADELPHIA — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field:
— The game concluded with a failed Hail Mary bid by the Eagles, with Devin McCourty swatting down quarterback Carson Wentz’s 60-yard heave as time expired.
The Patriots sent seven defensive backs onto the field on that final play, plus one player who hasn’t played defense in years: special teams ace Matthew Slater.
Why Slater? Because he’s an experienced open-field tackler, and the Patriots didn’t want a repeat of what happened when they faced this same situation last season.
“I’m sure everyone had flashbacks to the Miami Miracle, but we figured that out,” McCourty said after the game. “That’s something we don’t really worry about. We’ve practiced that before. Everyone has their position and a role. I thought we did a good job. They were far out, but there was still that last play. We had a mentality of knowing exactly what we wanted to do.”
The Miami Miracle — the Dolphins’ last-second, multi-lateral touchdown that handed the Patriots a shocking late-season loss last December — remains burned in the collective memory of New England’s defense.
On that fateful play, the Patriots positioned Rob Gronkowski as a deep safety to protect against a pass into the end zone. Instead, Miami went the schoolyard route, and Kenyan Drake beat the lumbering tight end to the pylon.
On the final play of Sunday’s game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick used McCourty and Jonathan Jones — two of the team’s fastest players — as the deep safeties. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, safety Duron Harmon, linebacker Jamie Collins and Slater formed a secondary line 10 to 12 yards off the line of scrimmage to protect against another circus play, had Philadelphia chosen to run one.
“(The Miami Miracle) shaped everything,” McCourty said. “When you lose a game in seven seconds and 70 yards, it’s safe to say, as long as Bill is coaching here, I highly doubt that happens again — knock on wood. We’ve talked about it, and we’ve executed it.
“Everyone out there knows exactly what they’re doing. If it doesn’t work, we can find exactly what went wrong. As long as we execute each guy’s role, we should be good on that play.”
— It’s a small sample size, but Nick Folk has given the Patriots what they needed at the kicker position since joining the team three weeks ago.
Folk converted all three of his field-goal attempts against the Eagles, hitting from 22, 35 and 39 yards in the second quarter as New England repeatedly stalled in the red zone. The 39-yarder was the longest made field goal by a Patriots kicker since Week 1.
In his two games for the Patriots, Folk is a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points, though he has yet to attempt a kick longer than 39 yards. The 34-year-old credited punter/holder Jake Bailey and long snapper Joe Cardona for quickly integrating him into New England’s field-goal operation.
“I think that it all starts with Joe and Jake,” Folk said. “They make my job pretty easy. They’re excellent professionals. They do their job, and they take it seriously. They’re asking questions all the time — ‘How was that? What do we need to do better?’ — so it makes it easier for me. And then the line does a great job holding their ground. I know they don’t like field goals too much because they’ve just got to take a beating, but they’re doing awesome.
“I just want to go out and keep a good rhythm. I have a great rhythm with them right now. We keep building on that every day in practice and game to game.”
The Patriots placed longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve with a hip injury after Week 4. His initial replacement, Mike Nugent, made it four lackluster games before being released.
— All five of the Patriots’ sacks came after Eagles star right tackle Lane Johnson left the game with a concussion midway through the second quarter. Philadelphia led 10-0 when Johnson went down and did not score again.
“Obviously, losing Lane probably was a factor,” Eagles tight end Zach Ertz told reporters.
“You just don’t replace a Lane Johnson,” guard Brandon Brooks added.
— Safety Patrick Chung, running back Damien Harris, receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski, offensive tackle Korey Cunningham, defensive lineman Byron Cowart, tight end Ryan Izzo and quarterback Cody Kessler were inactive for the Patriots.
Tight end Matt LaCosse returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a knee injury. He caught two passes on two targets for three yards.
Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images