1) THE EAGLES BEAT THE PATRIOTS IN FOXBOROUGH
I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around this one. What a crazy game. The Eagles weren't supposed to win this one. Most people, myself included, didn't even really give them any kind of chance to come out of this game with a victory. But they won. And it was weird! A weird failed onside kick attempt by the Patriots ... a blocked punt returned for a touchdown ... a punt return for a touchdown ... Tom Brady getting picked off TWICE and once for a 100-yard return ... Riley Cooper making clutch plays at the end of the game ... just insane. If I could go back in time with the knowledge of this game's outcome and write about it in advance, there's zero chance you would believe it. I can't stress enough how big of a win this is. Beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is hard enough, but doing it at Foxborough is even more of a challenge. Give the Eagles lots of credit for rising to occasion and shocking everyone. I mean just look at this stat!
Patriots were 94-0 at home since 2001 when leading by eight or more points at any time.— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) December 7, 2015
And now, 94-1.
2) Chip Kelly didn't lose the locker room
Things were looking REALLY bad after Philadelphia's loss to Detroit on Thanksgiving. The team had been outscored 90-31 in their last two games at that point. The offense was terrible and the defense looked broken. It was easy to expect more of the same awfulness going into this game, but Kelly found a way to rally the troops and accomplish a big task. Kelly deserves a lot of criticism for how poorly things have gone this season, but he also deserves a ton of credit for this performance. He made sure his players didn't quit. This was arguably the biggest win of his Eagles tenure, with Philadelphia's Week 17 win over the Cowboys in 2013 also being up there.
3) Sam Bradford wasn't perfect, but he was good when it counted most
First, some numbers.
For the first time in his career, Sam Bradford has exceeded a passer rating of 99 in 3 straight games.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 7, 2015
Sam Bradford’s last 3 starts: 57/85 (67.1%), 4 TD, 0 INT, 105.6 rating.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 7, 2015
This was a weird game for Bradford. It had the potential to be a lot more uglier than it was. His accuracy was still an issue, especially early on. He had at least two throws that could have been surefire picks. The one where we overthrew a wide open Zach Ertz in the middle of the field (which he's done multiple times this season) was terrible. He was lucky it hit the ground before the Patriots defender could fully secure it. His throw directly at Jerod Mayo was also bad because it was as if he didn't see the linebacker just standing there.
That was the bad. The good is that he made two really nice touchdowns throws in the red zone. His strike to Riley Cooper on third down late in the game was also really impressive. He stood in the pocket and delivered a strike despite the pressure.
I'm still not at the point where I can think Bradford is the franchise guy. But he's clearly the best starting option for this team for now.
4) The revamped running game worked
Darren Sproles (11) and Kenjon Barner (9) each had more carries than DeMarco Murray (8), and that's a good thing. Giving Murray the ball has been a waste of a snap for the Eagles. Sproles and Barner were clearly much more effective players. Murray had one or two good runs, but otherwise he just looks too slow out there. It doesn't matter that Murray is being paid more than anyone else. The Eagles need to go with what works. Credit to Kelly for doing just that. It'll be interesting to see how this running back rotation works out moving forward, especially if/when Ryan Mathews is able to return.
5) Benching Miles Austin was a great decision
Signing Miles Austin was a bad decision by Kelly. Giving him a lot of snaps and relying on him as a significant part of the offense was even worse. It took long enough, but benching him was definitely a "better later than never" situation. Austin belongs on the bench. The Eagles have to keep him there. They are 1-0 when he doesn't play!
6) The Eagles got a ton of pressure on Tom Brady
Philadelphia's pass rush has been hit or miss this year, and I still think they need to do a better job of finishing plays. Too often they'll have the quarterback seemingly wrapped up only for him to break free. But for the most part, the Eagles' pass rush did great stuff in this game. They made Brady uncomfortable. You could even tell he was frustrated with how often he was getting hit. Very big games for Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, and Vinny Curry here.
7) Malcolm Jenkins came up huge and Eric Rowe had a good first start
Jenkins drops more interceptions than you'd like to see. That wasn't the case on Sunday, however. His pick-six returned across the length of the field was such a huge play. Jenkins has been such a key part of this defense.
After getting torched repeatedly by Calvin Johnson in Detroit, Rowe really settled in nicely against the Patriots. He didn't exactly have to cover any top receivers but he did still have to go up against Brady. Rowe even made a really big hit at one point. All told, the rookie cornerback seemed to have a solid first start.
8) Darren Sproles is still awesome
Good job by the Eagles to get the ball to him on offense early and often. And then he had that huge punt return ... just such a special player.
Darren Sproles is the only player in NFL history with at least 25 receiving TD (28), 15 rush TD (18) and 5 punt return TD (7).— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 7, 2015
9) Special teams showed up
I already touched on Sproles, but an unheralded guy like Chris Maragos deserves a lot of credit. What a great effort to block the Patriots' punt. He also made a few key special teams tackles. Seyi Ajirotutu did a great job of recovering the Patriots' weird onside kick. Cooper was very smart to tip the Patriots' last onside kick attempt out of bounds. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp sure earned his paycheck in this one.
10) THE EAGLES ARE STILL ALIVE IN THE AWFUL NFC EAST
Man, I feel like I say this every week no matter if the Eagles win or lose. But it's true. A victory here means the Eagles can be tied for first place in the NFC East if Washington loses to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. There's no guarantee that happens, but it's not impossible, right?
Here's what I'll say about the Eagles moving forward ... for now, just enjoy the win. You have to realize that this was really a special win. Not just any team goes up to Foxborough and does what the Eagles did on Sunday. Soak it in for tonight and tomorrow. Then start looking ahead to the rest of the season. The Eagles have four games left and they won't be easy. But they're alive and anything can happen. This Eagles win over the Patriots proved that much.