Patriots begin preparations for showdown with Eagles

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — When the New England Patriots take the field on Feb. 4, they’ll be facing a Philadelphia Eagles team they don’t have much experience against.

The last time the two teams met was Week 13 of the 2015 regular season, and the Eagles walked away with a 35-28 win. But at that time, Sam Bradford was under center, DeMarco Murray was their top rusher and Chip Kelly was nearing the end of his tenure as Philadelphia’s head coach.

In other words, it was a completely different Eagles team.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. Obviously this is a team we don’t know very well at all,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday, in his first news conference since advancing to the Super Bowl.

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Belichick praised the Eagles on their ability to persevere through injuries, notably the loss of star quarterback Carson Wentz late in the season.

“They really have played well all year, have dealt with some things that really haven’t gone their way injury-wise, and had to make some adjustments and have done a great job of that,” Belichick told reporters.

“They have a lot of explosive players that can score on defense, they score a lot on offense, good in the kicking game,” he continued. “They’re pretty good at everything, which is what we’d expect. That’s why they’re in this game.”

After Wentz suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 14, journeyman Nick Foles took over at quarterback and finished what Wentz started: getting the Eagles to their first Super Bowl since the 2004-05 season. (Remember who won that game?)

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Foles looked particularly strong in the NFC Championship last weekend, completing 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns against the league’s top defense.

Belichick said the change at quarterback doesn’t affect how they’ll get ready for Philadelphia.

“The offense is the offense,” he said. “They didn’t change the offense when they changed quarterbacks.”

The biggest question on fans’ minds is the status of all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was taken out of the AFC title game last Sunday after he was laid out by a helmet-to-helmet shot from Jaguars safety Barry Church.

Gronkowski was put into the league’s concussion protocol as a result. Belichick offered very little on this topic Wednesday, saying we’ll have to wait for the team’s injury report to be released.

“We’ll be compliant with the NFL injury report,” he stated. “Whatever his situation is, whatever his status is, that’ll be put in the injury report.”

Though he didn’t provide many specifics on their game plan, the coach made it clear the Patriots will just keep doing what they’ve been doing, in typical Belichickian fashion: “We’re going to try to score. We’re going to try to keep them from scoring.”

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