MINNEAPOLIS -- The New England Patriots bend-but-don't-break defense shattered. Repeatedly.
In a subdued Patriots locker room after the loss, defensive lineman Trey Flowers slowly removed his pads, methodically cut off the wraps on each hand, often pausing to take a sigh, lamenting a loss in which his defense couldn't stop Nick Foles.
"It was frustrating not being able to get off the field," Flowers said. "Not being able to make those plays. Not being able to get off on third down and it is what it is. Just got to work harder to get back."
The Eagles converted 10 of 16 third downs, keeping drive after drive alive. Philadelphia punted just once in 10 possessions, with six of the eight scoring drives earning at least 65 yards.
Flowers, the Patriots leading sack man this season, said the defense's struggles stemmed from lack of execution.
"Yeah it's stressful, just to not be able to get off on third down," he said. "I don't think they did a lot of things different, they just executed well and made the plays that we didn't make and capitalized us lacking on fundamentally and that's what good things do."
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia watched his D get repeatedly gashed by Foles through the air, and by running backs on the ground. The Eagles stand-in quarterback completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards, one touchdown, one interception, an 8.7 yard per pass average. He also caught a TD on a trick fourth-down play near the end of the first half.
"Obviously, I didn't do a good enough job here with the defense," Patricia said. "Look, that is a great offense and they are extremely talented. I have been talking about it all week how good they are. They just played really well and we didn't get enough stops. I give them all the credit. They played outstanding."
Patricia's D was torched for big plays, earned zero sacks, and missed a boatload of tackles. The Pats surrendered five passing plays of 20-plus yards -- including a 55-yarder to Clement -- and three runs of 20-plus yards in the first half. Despite halftime adjustments, Patricia's D couldn't slow the Eagles.
"We certainly tried everything we could to get a stop and then do everything we could to adjust and go from there. We didn't execute," the presumptive future Detroit Lions head coach said.
Player after player said their lack of execution on third down was the team's downfall.
"Both offensive just moved the ball up and down," safety Devin McCourty said. "We looked back and it was third down. I don't know what happened at the finish, but we just couldn't get off the field on third down. It was just man coverage. They kept making plays. We just didn't do a good job on third down."
"Defense just didn't come to play," a terse Kyle Van Noy said after the loss.
With Brady dominating the second half, it seemed that surely the Patriots would get one stop to secure the victory. It never happened. Sunday's loss from New England is a reminder that football is the ultimate team game. Even with the greatest quarterback of all-time playing at his peak, the Patriots got beat because their defense couldn't stop Nick Foles.