FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Two touchdowns on special teams. One more on defense. Not to mention a couple of touchdown passes from Sam Bradford, who returned after missing the previous two games.
“It takes those things to win in this stadium against that coach and that quarterback,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on Sunday after Philadelphia beat the New England Patriots 35-28 on Sunday.
“You’ve got a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach and a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback — and maybe the best quarterback to ever play in this game. So you’re aware of that.”
Najee Goode scored on a blocked punt, Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception 99 yards for another touchdown and Darren Sproles took a punt return all the way as the Eagles (5-7) snapped a three-game losing streak.
After giving up 45 points in back-to-back games, the Eagles fell behind 14-0 lead before scoring five straight touchdowns. Then New England (10-2) came back, taking advantage of an onside kick and a fumble to turn a 21-point deficit into a one-score game in the final minute.
That’s when the Patriots receivers dropped three passes in a row to turn the ball over on downs.
“Sort of had a chance there at the end. A comeback,” coach Bill Belichick said unenthusiastically. “But when you give up 21 points when your defense isn’t on the field, you’re going to lose 98 percent of those games.”
Just eight days removed from talk of an undefeated season, the Patriots’ injuries began to take their toll. Quarterback Tom Brady was without tight end Rob Gronkowski, top receiver Julian Edelman and No. 1 running back Dion James, and playing behind a reshuffled offensive line that couldn’t protect him.
Brady completed 29 of 56 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but also had his first multi-interception game since the Super Bowl.
Sproles had 66 yards rushing, 34 receiving and 115 more on punt returns — including an 83-yard touchdown that made it 28-14 with 4:18 left in the third quarter. Bradford completed 14 of 24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Here are some other things we learned from Sunday’s game:
THE RACE: The Eagles moved into a tie for second in the division with the New York Giants, just a half-game behind Washington, which plays Dallas on Monday night.
“It has been crazy thus far, after 12 weeks. We’re still in the hunt to make the playoffs,” said Bradford, who missed the previous two games with a concussion and left shoulder injury. “Obviously, we would like our record to be much better. But we’ve got a shot.”
The Patriots hold a three-game lead over the New York Jets in the AFC East. But if the season ended today, they would not have a first-round bye for the first time since 2009.
PEP TALK: After a three-game losing streak, Bradford thought it was time to say something to his teammates.
The message: “Just to have that belief. Have that confidence, to know that we can go out there, and if we do play well, we will win. … That it was going to come down to the end, but just continue to fight.”
That’s what happened, and the rest of the Eagles echoed his message.
“Anybody who said our confidence is low is probably outside of our building,” Jenkins said. “We were confident in what we do because we have seen it in the past.”
TURNING POINT I: The Patriots took a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter before deciding on the ensuing kickoff to have former rugby star Nate Ebner drop-kick the ball off. It floated behind the first line of defenders, where Seyi Ajirotutu fielded it at his 41.
It took eight plays for the Eagles to go 59 yards, with Bradford connecting with Zach Ertz from the 5 to make it 14-7.
“We threw stuff at them and they handled it,” Ebner said. “They threw stuff at us that we didn’t.”
TURNING POINT II: The Eagles led 35-14 when the Patriots mounted their comeback.
Brady made it a 14-point game on a 14-yard pass to Scott Chandler, then the Patriots recovered an onside kick. Brady’s 1-yard sneak with 3 minutes left made it 35-28.
The ensuing onside kick attempt by Ebner went out of bounds, and Philadelphia ran the clock down to just over 1 minute. On third down, with a chance to run off all but 20 seconds, Kenjon Barner fumbled.
DROPS: The Patriots have had problems with dropped passes before, but never at such a bad time.
With a final chance to tie the game or win it after Jamie Collins stripped the ball from Barner with 62 seconds left, Brady completed just one of seven passes. One was spiked to stop the clock, then the next three went through the hands of Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola and Keshawn Martin.
Kelly joked that it was all part of his plan “for them to drop it a couple times.”
“(We had) a voodoo thing going.”