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Eagles stun Patriots in New England with return magic

The Philadelphia Eagles are alive and well in the NFC East after one of the more surprising upsets of the season, a 35-28 win over the New England Patriots. Here's what we learned:

  1. The Patriots led in this game 14-0, but some disastrous special teams turned the game around. Bill Belichick tried a dropkick for an onside kick try, which failed and gave the Eagles a short field to set up a touchdown. Then the Eagles added a punt block touchdown to close the first half and a Darren Sproles punt return touchdown in the second half. A 99-yard pick six by Malcolm Jenkins at 14-14 added to the insanity. It's only the third time in NFL history that combination of return touchdowns came in the same game.
  1. While the Patriots will be tempted to chalk this up to "one of those days," there are real concerns about this Patriots offense. Tom Brady was hit 13 times in the game. Many of his mistakes -- including his pick six -- came from rushing a throw. He rarely seems to be on the same page as Brandon LaFell, who is exceptionally inefficient on deep throws. Take away all the big plays and the Patriots' frenetic finish, and these teams looked rather even until midway through the fourth quarter. That's not a great sign for New England.
  1. Chip Kelly said he would make some changes after the long post-Thanksgiving stretch, and he notably used DeMarco Murray less. Darren Sproles was more active early in the game. He had 19 touches and Murray had 8. Murray had fewer carries and yards than Kenjon Barner!
  1. Sam Bradford's numbers were not great; he averaged five yards-per-attempt on 24 throws. But he came through with two of the biggest plays of the game on third-and-long, both under pass rush pressure. His 20-yard throw to Jordan Matthews midway through the second quarter helped turn around a 14-0 game. And his 14-yard toss to Riley Cooper with more than two minutes left burned clock and should have ended the game. (Until Barner fumbled and gave the Patriots one last chance with the ball.)
  1. Now 5-7, the Eagles could be tied for first place in the NFC East if the Redskins lose on Monday night. With three straight home games coming up, including one against Washington, Philadelphia is alive.
  1. Brady was the team's second leading receiver midway through the fourth quarter Sunday because of a trick play. James White finished the day with the team's most yards with 115. This is not a sustainable offense.
  1. The Patriots would currently be the third seed in the AFC, although the Bengals and Broncos play each other in Week 16. The Patriots have tough games remaining on the road in Houston and against the Jets. The seeding matters less than how the team is playing. Belichick's best teams close strong. The Patriots are 0-2 after Thanksgiving.
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