- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots' 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in preseason action at Gillette Stadium:
Belichick’s approach with personnel the big Patriots story: This game was as notable for who didn’t play as who did. Facing a three-games-in-10-days preseason stretch, Belichick had 26 players not dress (list here), a group including quarterback Tom Brady, receivers Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker, tight end Aaron Hernandez, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and cornerback Devin McCourty. With this approach, Belichick is focusing more on the third preseason game at Tampa on Friday, as well as the joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday with the Buccaneers in Tampa.
Brady not even spotted on sideline: While some players who didn’t play were dressed on the sideline, Brady wasn’t one of them. Just a guess, but this could be a similar situation to 2008, when Brady was injured and wasn’t on the sideline as the club transitioned to backup Matt Cassel. That was believed to be a directive from Belichick so Brady wouldn’t become a focal point of media attention on the sideline.
Second unit hangs with Eagles starters: With many of the team’s second-string players seeing extended action and the Eagles playing their top personnel into the third quarter, the Patriots had to feel pretty good about the results. The Patriots opened an 11-0 lead early in the second quarter, and it was 14-14 at halftime.
Rib injury knocks Vick out of game: Although not specific to the Patriots, the big storyline from the game was Eagles quarterback Michael Vick getting knocked out of the game in the first quarter on a crunching hit by defensive end Jermaine Cunningham. Vick left for X-rays, which the team reported were negative. The Eagles turned to rookie Nick Foles as Vick’s status figures to be a huge story leading up to the season opener.
Chung leaves with shoulder injury: The Patriots lost starting safety Patrick Chung to a shoulder injury on the team’s second series. Chung needed some help coming off the field -- he appeared dazed after making a tackle -- and went back to the locker room for tests. Unlike some of the other top starters on defense, Chung was playing in the game to continue the process of working alongside free-agent signee Steve Gregory as the team’s top pairing. He was replaced by veteran Will Allen.
Mallett shows improvement: Second-year man Ryan Mallett got the start at quarterback and showed improvement after a shaky appearance in the preseason opener. With the Patriots favoring a short passing game that included screen passes, he was 8-of-15 for 87 yards and a touchdown in the first half (an interception was negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty). One of the positive aspects of his performance seemed to be footwork, as he kept plays alive when the pocket broke down, in addition to effectively managing the offense (e.g., no delay-of-game penalties). He led the team’s first touchdown drive, a 13-play, 80-yard march that ended with an on-the-mark 7-yard touchdown to tight end Alex Silvestro. Mallett finished 10-of-20 for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive tackles struggle: Left tackle Nate Solder and right tackle Marcus Cannon played throughout the first half, and they struggled on the edges. If there was a main downer to the performance, this was it. Cannon figures to be replaced by Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle now that Vollmer passed his physical and is coming off the physically unable to perform list, but if Solder continues to struggle, the left tackle spot could become an even greater concern.
Ebner flashes ball skills: Rookie safety Nate Ebner, the sixth-round draft choice from Ohio State, built off his strong week of practice and showed good ball skills in snaring an interception at the end of the second quarter. Ebner returned it 34 yards. This was a big week for Ebner, who is carving out a roster spot for himself as a core special teamer and reserve safety.
Quick turnaround to Tampa: The Patriots travel to Tampa on Tuesday, where they will practice in the heat and humidity on Wednesday and Thursday, which Belichick said would be a benefit leading into the season opener Sept. 9 at Tennessee.