Pats, Eagles have no defence

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

The most alarming sign of the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles move towards average is not the ongoing injury to Donovan McNabb.

The most alarming sign of the AFC and Super Bowl champion New England Patriots regression is not the weekly additions to the ranks of the wounded.

Rather, for both teams it's the sudden inability to play defence and run the football -- the dual keys to consistent, long-term success in the NFL.

To varying degrees, both the Patriots and Eagles made it to last year's championship game by seeing their defence rise when needed most. Specifically for Philadelphia, it happened in the NFC championship when shutting down Mike Vick and the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots, meanwhile, stopped both the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers on their way to a third Super Bowl win in four seasons.

But in the past two weeks, the Patriots and Eagles have surrendered a combined 71 and 70 points respectively. Each team went 1-1 through that stretch in part because they still have offences that can produce. Sort of.

Against the Cowboys, the Eagles had just 19 yards on the ground and with hurting McNabb less able to scramble this is a concern. With the Patriots, there have been whispers that Corey Dillon has been hurting and he watched the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over Atlanta from the sidelines.

When it comes to defence, meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts have given up just 29 points on their way to a 5-0 record as the NFL's only remaining undefeated team.

Before the Indy wagon gets too jammed, remember that the defence has yet to stop a prolific offence. Let's just say, it's going to get a little tougher than the 49ers, Titans and Browns as the season rolls on.

With joint 3-2 records, meanwhile, both the Eagles and Patriots have plenty on their plates just to stay in their respective divisional races.

The road win in Atlanta on Sunday allowed the Patriots to move back into first place in the AFC East. But with the injuries -- add Dillon to that mix -- staying there will be a chore.

The Eagles share the basement of the NFC West with the Cowboys, a game behind the Giants and Redskins.

They too will have their share of tests in the only NFL division in which all four teams own a winning record.

QUESTION PERIOD

Explain to us again how the winless Packers can beat the Saints by 49 points? Can't blame a loss so complete on the tough schedule ... Will Vick ever start all 16 games in a season? Now in his fifth year with the Falcons, Vick's absence Sunday kept the imperfect record intact ... How is it that two of the strictest coaches in the NFL get flagged for a sick amount of penalties? Brian Billick's Baltimore Ravens got called for 21 in a big loss to the Lions. And the Dolphins got flagged 18 times in a winnable game against the Bills ... How does Texans quarterback David Carr stay alive? Sacked 14 times in his past two games, Carr has helped the Texans lay claim to the title of the NFL's worst team ... Will Terrell Owens ever get it? The latest head-scratching moment from T.O. occurred following Sunday's 33-10 loss at Dallas when he wore a Michael Irvin throwback jersey for the quiet ride home ... Should the Bills have had their battle for starting quarterback in training camp, like most teams do it, rather than in the first four games of the season? J.P. Losman may yet be a good quarterback, but since he didn't earn the job, he also didn't earn the respect of the team's veterans.


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