Philadelphia, PA – Tom Brady was in midseason form despite New England's tumultuous offseason, and the Patriots held on to down the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-22, in the preseason opener for both clubs.
The Patriots are trying to remain an offensive juggernaut despite a lot of roster turnover that included the release of tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and subsequently charged with first-degree murder in late June.
Brady, who will be without Hernandez and his other top five targets from a year ago until Rob Gronkowski recovers from multiple offseason surgeries, was nonetheless his usual efficient self, completing all but one of his eight attempts while throwing for 65 yards and a touchdown.
The star QB was under center for two possessions, the first resulting in a Stevan Ridley 1-yard plunge after the running back galloped for 62 yards on the first play from scrimmage.
While Philadelphia's defense looked suspect, the Eagles moved the ball early under new head coach Chip Kelly, who made his pro coaching debut and brought with him an uptempo offense that was highly successful at Oregon.
Michael Vick responded to New England's early score by finding DeSean Jackson for a 47-yard TD on the Eagles' first touch. Vick is battling with Nick Foles for starting signal-calling duties, and appears to be the early favorite after connecting on 4-of-5 passes for 94 yards and the TD.
Foles, who Kelly has already deemed the starter for the second game of the preseason, lost a fumble and threw for 43 yards on 5-of-6 attempts.
Brady threw a perfect 13-yard fade to Shane Vereen in the left corner of the end zone for a 14-7 Patriots lead near the end of the first quarter, and Bryce Brown ran in for an 8-yard TD to even things in the second.
It was 24-14 in favor of the Patriots at the break in large part because LeGarrette Blount made the Eagles' defense look foolish when he zigzagged his way for a 51-yard touchdown late in the half.
Blount tacked on a 1-yard plunge over the goal line in the third quarter and finished with 101 yards on 11 carries, one of the few backups who produced for either side.
Ryan Mallett completed just half of his 18 throws for 97 yards behind Brady, while Tim Tebow, whom the Patriots surprisingly signed in the offseason, was an underwhelming 4-of-12 for 55 yards through the air.
Eagles rookie Matt Barkley mostly struggled in his debut, hitting 11-of-22 targets for 103 yards, though he did throw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Greg Salas on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Riley Cooper caught one pass for 19 yards for Philadelphia. Cooper, of course, became a lightning rod for controversy when video surfaced of his uttering an offensive racial slur directed at an African-American security guard during a Kenny Chesney concert in June.