Less than a week ago, the Patriots were chasing an undefeated season. Now, they are simply chasing one of the top two spots in the AFC after a shocking 35-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium.
Philadelphia (5-7) climbed out of a 14-0 hole in the first half by scoring 35 straight points over 30 minutes of game action. 21 of those points came without New England’s defense even stepping on the field, (interception return for TD, punt return TD, blocked punt returned for TD) breathing some life into a Eagles team that had lost three straight games. That assortment of scoring opportunities helped the visitors build a 21-point lead (35-14), a margin which was sizable enough to prevent a late comeback by Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in the fourth quarter. The hosts did have a chance to tie the game in the final minute of action, but turned the ball over on downs at their own 37-yard-line.
Brady threw for three touchdowns on the day, but only completed just over half of his attempts (29-of-56) while passing for 312 yards. He also tossed two interceptions. James White led a shorthanded Patriots offense with a career-high 115 receiving yards out of the backfield, while Danny Amendola posted seven receptions and 62 receiving yards plus a touchdown in his return to action following a knee injury.
Sam Bradford only managed to throw for 120 passing yards in the win, but did connect with Jordan Matthews and Jordan Ertz for touchdowns.
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The second straight defeat gives the Patriots (10-2) their first back-to-back losses since the 2012 season.
Three Things We Learned:
1. Tom Brady is mortal after all
The 38-year-old had his first two-interception game of the season on Sunday and both miscues changed the complexion of the contest. Brady’s first ill-advised toss was intended for Danny Amendola at the goal line, as the veteran attempted to squeeze the ball past double coverage to the wide receiver. The decision backfired as the ball was deflected into the arms of Malcolm Jenkins for a 99-yard touchdown return and a 14-point swing on the scoreboard. Two drives later, the Patriots were working their way into Eagles territory once again when a poor throw by Brady on a deep ball led to another costly pick. The poor decisions were uncharacteristic ones from Brady, but helped put the Patriots into a second half hole that was too big to dig out of.
2. Special Teams Proves to be A Game Changer
Bill Belichick prides his teams on competing well in all three phases of the game, but that consistency was lacking on Sunday in the special teams department. Things started to go poorly for the unit when New England tried to get cute with a surprise dropkick from Nate Ebner on a kickoff in the second quarter. The Patriots failed to recover the kickoff, which allowed the Eagles to gain strong field position, eventually leading to Philadelphia’s first touchdown in the second quarter. From there, the Patriots just failed to execute on both sides of the ball in special teams, giving up a pair of touchdowns on a blocked punt and 83-yard punt return by Darren Sproles. Those easy 14 points proved to be the winning difference for a Eagles team that struggled to score on offense for much of the evening.
3. Patriots Now Looking Up at AFC Leaders
Sunday’s defeat drops New England into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC with the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. Due to tiebreaker rules, the Patriots would fall to third place in the conference behind both teams if the season were to end today. The good news for the Pats is that Denver and Cincinnati will face off during Week 15, allowing New England to hop back into one of the top two spots, if they can run the table. With tough road games looming in Houston and New York and several key injuries at skill positions, wins may be tougher to come by for the Patriots down the stretch.