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Top 20 Games of 2015: No. 10 -- Eagles at Patriots

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Final score: Eagles 35, Patriots 28

All too often (especially in the NFL), our expectations don't align with reality.

Perhaps the best representation of this on film comes from the 2009 indie hit, "500 Days of Summer," when the main character Tom goes to meet a girl at a party, and we see his expectations and reality play out simultaneously.

But if we're looking for the best recent example, we need only look back to Week 13 of the 2015 season to our 10th top game of the year.

The 4-7 Eagles were cursed with a trip to Foxborough to face the 10-1 Patriots, albeit a Rob Gronkowski-less, Julian Edelman-less Patriots. Nevertheless, the resounding assumption in the media was that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would take care of business. ESPECIALLY since they just lost in overtime the previous week to the Brock Osweiler-led Denver Broncos. The Patriots hadn't lost back-to-back games in three years ... they certainly weren't going to fall to Sam Bradford, right?

That's how it looked out of the gate, with the Patriots jumping out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Eagles had racked up six penalties for 87 yards at this point. The Pats? A clean sheet.

This, however, is when our expectations and reality started to diverge.

Sam Bradford led a nice scoring drive capped off by a Zach Ertz touchdown. (Huh?)

The Eagles remained aggressive before the half, calling timeouts for one last shot at a score. It worked out, as they blocked the Patriots' punt and tied the game mere seconds before the half. (What?!)

The Eagles pass-rush bullied Brady, and the team leaped out to a 28-14 lead on the backs of a 99-yard pick six from Malcolm Jenkins and an 83-yard punt return touchdown from Darren Sproles. (Is this real life?!?)

After another effective Bradford drive, capped off with a Jordan Matthews touchdown, the viewing audience at home and in the stadium were left slack-jawed. It was 35-14 ... Eagles. Not a single person expected this result, yet, here we were.

Of course, there was one thing we've come to expect with Brady that held true -- you can never count him out. With time dwindling in the fourth quarter, Brady led a surgical scoring drive to make it 35-21. Staying aggressive, the Patriots converted an onside kick and quickly found paydirt again.

In the end, however, our expectations were shattered by the cold fist of reality. The Eagles survived the late Patriots onslaught and walked out of the stadium victorious in what was one of the most unexpected, and best games 2015 had to offer.

Play of the Game

In the third quarter, Sproles had let a punt bounce in front of him, only to watch it roll and roll until it was a few yards away from the goal line, setting up the Eagles in a deep hole. He made sure that didn't happen on his next attempt. He fielded the soaring punt and juked defenders en route to an 83-yard score. This put the Eagles up by two scores, and signaled that the Patriots were getting more than they bargained for.

Kudos to my NFL Media colleague Charles Davis, who in the broadcast noted the heads up play of Chris Maragos, who avoided a costly block in the back penalty, but still shielded Nate Ebner, helping spring Sproles for the score. Maragos was also the one who blocked the punt for Philly's second touchdown. And who says special teams don't matter?

Head Scratcher

We know Bill Belichick is never afraid to mix it up with a unique play call. Heck, Tom Brady was on the receiving end of the longest pass play of the day (a 36-yard lob he caught from Danny Amendola). Seriously. However, the strange, fake-kickoff/punt play the Patriots pulled in the second quarter was ... bizarre. The Patriots had been dominant on defense, allowing just 3.4 yards per play by the Eagles over their first four series, and were kicking off after taking a 14-point lead. The Eagles were prepared for the trickery, and got the ball in great field position. This set up a shorter field, which Sam Bradford was able to exploit for the Eagles' first points of the game. This wasn't a decision that lost the Patriots the game, but it was more evidence that even Belichick can be prone to over-thinking things.

Why This Game is No. 10

Parity is commonplace in the NFL, so upsets aren't all that surprising. However, it was the total team effort from the Eagles in this contest that allowed them to accomplish the near impossible and escape Gillette Stadium with a victory (Brady has won almost 86 percent of his career regular season home games). While on the flipside, the Patriots never gave up, and rallied back on the strength of the play of the likes of Scott Chandler and James White. An expectation dismantling of this magnitude simply couldn't be ignored by this list.

Visit NFL Game Center for more highlights and analysis from Eagles at Patriots, Week 13.

-- by Alex Gelhar. Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar.

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