March 24, 2019
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Special teams spark Eagles’ stunning upset of Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — Somehow, some way, the Philadelphia Eagles, lucky enough to be in the NFL East, are still alive in their hunt for the postseason.

At 5-7.

Philadelphia rallied from a 14-0 deficit, scoring 35 consecutive points, 14 on special teams and seven on defense, and then held on for a wild 35-28 victory over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

“Anybody who said our confidence was low was probably outside our building,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said after his 99-yard interception return was a key to the win.

The Eagles moved into a tie for second place in the division, a half-game behind the Washington Redskins, who play the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

Philadelphia, which lost three straight and four of five coming in, begins a three-game homestand next Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

“It’s just wasted energy to talk about the playoff picture,” Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly said.

The Patriots (10-2) dropped their second game in a row and are in a three-way tie for the best record in the AFC. Cincinnati holds the No. 1 spot by virtue of its AFC record, Denver owns the tiebreaker over New England thanks to a head-to-head overtime win last Sunday. Denver and Cincinnati finish the season against each other.

With New England down 35-14, quarterback Tom Brady, with the help of an onside kick, led the Patriots to two late touchdowns, the second with three minutes left.

Philadelphia wide receiver Riley Cooper batted the ensuing onside kick out of bounds and then caught a 14-yard pass from Sam Bradford on third-and-11, seemingly allowing the Eagles to run out the clock.

However, running back Darren Sproles fumbled the ball back to New England at its 25. Even so, the Patriots could move only 12 yards before a pair of dropped passes helped end the home team’s hopes.

New England took a two-touchdown lead before a strange series of plays, starting with a failed drop kick (by former rugby player Nate Ebner) led to the Patriots allowing 35 unanswered points for the first time since 1993.

Strange?

Eagles linebacker Najee Goode scored on a 24-yard return of the first New England punt block in 97 tries.

Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins tackled Patriots running back James White for a 4-yard loss at the New England 1, then returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown.

Sproles ran a punt back 83 yards for a score.

Oh, and Bradford, back after missing two games with a shoulder injury, threw two touchdown passes.

“You give up 21 points when your defense is not on the field, you’re going to lose 98 percent of those games,” New England coach Bill Belichick said.

Brady, who got wide receiver Danny Amendola back but was missing tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman, threw three touchdown passes, one to Amendola, ran for one and even caught a 36-pass from Amendola.

The New England quarterback was under pressure for the third consecutive game — this time by a defense that allowed 45 points to the opposition in each of the previous two games. Brady, clearly having communication trouble with the ever-changing cast of receivers, finished 29 of 56 for 312 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.

He took the blame for the interceptions, calling the first one “bad quarterbacking” and the second “just a bad mental error.”

Bradford completed 14 of 24 passes for 120 yards.

Sproles not only returned the punt for a TD, but he also ran 15 times for 66 yards and caught four passes for 34 more before the fumble.

“Sometimes they don’t see in them what I see in them,” Kelly said of his players. “I know we have a good football team. They showed it today.”

The win was the second for the Eagles in Foxborough, their first since 1987. It was their first victory over the Patriots in five games, including a Super Bowl, since Dec. 19, 1999.

Brady’s second-quarter touchdown pass was the 421st of his career, breaking a tie with Dan Marino for third place on the all-time list. His second TD pass gave him 30 for the year, his sixth 30-TD season, fourth all time. He also registered his 71st 300-yard game, third all time.

White caught a career-high 10 passes for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown.

NOTES: While the Patriots were without Gronkowski and LB Dont’a Hightower (both out with knee injuries), New England also got back Amendola (knee) and LB Jamie Collins (illness, four games). … Eagles WR Miles Austin, who had just two catches in the previous five games, was inactive. WR Jonathan Krause, who was on the Patriots’ practice squad last season, made one catch for 4 yards in his NFL debut. … Eagles DE Cedric Thornton was inactive because of an ankle injury. … Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater left with a stinger in the first half but returned after halftime. … Philadelphia DE Fletcher Cox left, passed the concussion protocol and returned.

 



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