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Eagles-Patriots Postgame: What Just Happened?
The Eagles scored 3 non-offensive TDs on Sunday, on a 24-yard return by Najee Goode after a blocked punt, a 99-yard interception return by Malcolm Jenkins and a 83-yard punt return by Darren Sproles and still only beat a New England Patriots team without their No.1 WR, No. 1 RB, No. 1 LB and TE Rob Gronkowski, by a score of 35.28? Amazing.
Equally amazing is the fact that if the Washington Redskins lose to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, the Eagles will be tied with the Redskins and NY Giants at the top of the NFC East with matching 5-7 records. Yes, that really is as pathetic as it sounds.
NFC East Standings
New York Giants
OK, let's start with the positives. As in, I was positive that there was no way the Eagles could beat the Patriots in Foxboro. Well, Vegas and anyone with a brain agreed with me, but sometimes strange things happen in football games. There certainly were some strange occurrences in this one.
Besides getting two special teams TDs and one defensive TD, the Eagles actually ran the ball more than they threw it: 33 rushes, 25 pass attempts. Even more outrageous is the fact that Darren Sproles started and played the majority of the offensive snaps over DeMarco Murray. Chip Kelly said the game plan was to get Sproles singled up on New England's bigger LBs in space, but Sproles actually dominated the rushing attempts as well. Sproles ran 15 times for 66 yards, while Murray only had 8 carries for 24 yards. And 19 of those yards for Murray came on one carry late in the game. Kelly also gave Oregon alum Kenjon Barner 8 carries, but the last one was a fumble that nearly lost the Eagles the game.
Sproles also caught 4 passes for 34 yards, as Sam Bradford had an efficient game in spite of his low yardage total. Bradford completed 14 of 24 passes for only 120 yards, but he threw 2 TDs passes and, most importantly, no interceptions. Bradford obviously wasn't the reason the Eagles won this game, but for once, he wasn't the reason they lost, due to him throwing multiple horrible INTs. Sadly, that constitutes progress for Bradford.
Jordan Matthews didn't put up big yards, but one of his 3 receptions for 36 yards was a 10-yard TD catch. The surprising word there is catch, since Matthews has had trouble holding onto the ball most of this season. And in the most surprising development of the day, we had a Riley Cooper sighting. In fact, there were two sightings of the infamous Eagles WR. Cooper not only caught a 14-yard pass on the Eagles last possession that extended a drive on 3rd down, but he was also the one who batted the football out of bounds on the Patriots last onside kick, after they had just scored to make it a 35-28 game. It was an incredibly smart play after Zach Ertz botched the previous onside kick that New England recovered.
Is this the biggest upset in Eagles history?
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles looked like an entirely different team than the one who had given up 83 points the last two weeks. Not only did they get their first turnover in the last four games on Jenkins' INT, but they also sacked New England QB Tom Brady 4 times and had him under constant pressure most of the game.
Speaking of Brady, he had one of the worst games of his career in this game. He completed 29 of 56 passes for 312 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. The INTs are the thing that sticks out here, because this is the first time Brady has ever been intercepted by the Eagles in five games against them. He had also thrown only 4 INTs all season before this game. Brady has a habit of making average receivers look good, but his average receivers looked downright average in this game. New England's leading receiver was RB James White with 115 yards on 10 catches, including a TD. Danny Amendola chipped in with 7 catches for 62 yards and a TD and Gronkowski's replacement at TE, Scott Chandler caught 4 passes for 61 yards and a TD.
Honestly, that's a lot of passing yards to give up against most teams, but not against Brady. The Patriots can't run the football and LeGarrette Blount led the team with only 54 yards rushing against the Eagles. Sure, the Patriots got behind early in the 3rd quarter, but the Eagles were stuffing the run in the first half.
But the most amazing thing to come out of this game is the fact that Bill Belichick made the worst coaching decision in a game where Chip Kelly was coaching.
The Patriots weren't dominating, but they went up 14-0 in the middle of the 2nd quarter and were clearly in control of the game. At that point, Belichick decided to do something I had never seen before in an NFL game. Instead of kicking deep, or even trying an onside kick, he had his team execute a drop kick. It made no sense at the time, unless you think that Belichick was so confident that he could still beat the Eagles without most of his best players that he was just screwing around, but it makes even less sense now. After that boneheaded play, the Eagles proceeded to score 35 unanswered points. To put that into perspective, that was the first time that the Patriots have allowed 35 unanswered points since 1993, or 360 regular season games. It was truly the turning point of the game.
Oh sure, that Eagles blocked punt at the end of the first half was a huge momentum swing too, but Belichick's brain fart opened the door for the Eagles to get back into a game they were getting ready to quit. If you doubt they were about to quit, then you obviously missed their last three games. Luckily for them, Belichick either got too cute or too cocky for his own good. And it led directly to the Eagles winning their most improbable game in a generation.
A few other strange stats in this game:
- That was the first blocked punt that New England has allowed in their last 97 games.
- Tom Brady caught a 36 yard pass. That was the same amount of yards that Eagles' No. 1 WR Jordan Matthews had in the game, which led the team.
- LT Jason Peters actually played the whole game.
- When the Eagles took the lead in the 3rd quarter, it was the first time they had a lead in 9 quarters.
- The last time the Eagles intercepted a New England QB before today was back in 1999, when Drew Bledsoe was still the QB.
- The Eagles had a delay of game penalty on the first play of their second drive, right after a TV timeout. I'm not sure if I've ever seen that before.
- The Eagles had 7 penalties for 92 yards in the first half, including 5 penalties in their first two drives alone, yet somehow only had 8 for 97 yards for the whole game.
- The NFL's only female referee, Sarah Thomas worked this game.
- This officiating crew was actually scheduled to work the Sunday night game in Pittsburgh, but they have been so bad, they got "demoted" to the Eagles-Patriots game.
- This was the Eagles first win in New England since 1987. The head coach was Buddy Ryan and it was the year the NFL used replacement players in three games, although not this game.
- Did I mention that Riley Cooper did something positive for once?
Now I know this win is going to cause Eagles fans to lose their minds and claim that they're going to win the Super Bowl and that anyone, like me, who was ever critical of the team is "not a real fan." Well, those people are delusional.
Sure, the Eagles aren't dead yet because the NFC East is so bad, but this team has been so maddeningly inconsistent, there is no way to know how they will play week-to-week. Odds are that they will get blown out again at home next week, since they have been terrible at home, with a 2-3 record.
Plus, anyone who is honest with themselves must admit that they assumed that Brady was going to drive the Patriots down the field for the tying score after Barner fumbled the ball away with 1:20 left in the game and then win the game in overtime. After all, these are the Eagles and that's Tom Brady, the greatest QB in the history of the NFL. Ultimately, Brady's collection of backup receivers couldn't hang onto any of the nice passes he threw on that last drive and the Eagles held on for the shocking win.
Enjoy this win now Eagles fans, because I'm sure this team won only because it's more cruel to get your hopes up before they crush your spirit with a couple of mind-numbing losses. Hey look, is that LeSean McCoy up next on the schedule..................