Breaking it down: How the Eagles really beat the Patriots on Sunday


The Philadelphia Eagles did the unthinkable on Sunday when they defeated the New England Patriots.

I saw very few people who even gave the Eagles a chance in the game, including me, who had zero expectations going into the game. I figured it would go a little bit like the past two games had gone, where it didn’t take long for the Eagles to be looking at a huge deficit on the scoreboard.

Boy, were we all wrong.

Essentially everything that has represented the Eagles’ 2015 season went differently than it had up to that point. Some of those were positive things for the Eagles, but others were a few big breaks they had. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Eagles’ win and how they did it:

No Rob Gronkowski/Julian Edelman for Pats

It seems like the piles and piles of injuries to key players finally caught up to the Patriots. It was their first full game without Gronkowski, and it seemed to clearly impact them. Without their two surest targets on the team, Brady was left throwing to a bunch of scrubs, many of which dropped the ball at critical times. If you think the Eagles still would’ve won if the Pats had both of those players, you’re kidding yourself. Playing without your top two receivers (they were also without Dion Lewis, their top receiving running back) is brutal.

Special teams/defensive touchdowns

The Eagles are the only team in NFL history to have a punt return touchdown, interception return for a touchdown and blocked punt for a touchdown all in the same game (which the franchise has actually done three times). The team’s defense and special teams had combined for three touchdowns in 11 games before doubling that output in just one game. This was arguably the biggest aspect of the Eagles’ entire win, and this type of production from things other than the offense is what they need more of going forward.

No Miles Austin for Eagles

Instead of wasting a bunch of snaps on a wide receiver who can’t catch or make any sort of positive contribution, the Eagles decided to give Austin a healthy scratch in favor of Jonathan Krause, a guy they just recently signed off the practice squad. And to make it even better, the Eagles cut Austin the next day!

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Eagles stopped giving DeMarco Murray touches

It still took them too long to figure out that those stretch plays with Murray don’t work, but by the second half, Chip Kelly was giving Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner the ball nearly exclusively out of the backfield. Murray has essentially been ineffective for the Eagles this year, having more bad runs than good ones. Chip finally swallowed his pride and stopped looking at which running back was getting the most money and started looking at which ones were actually contributing. This was a huge breakthrough for this team. Too many times Kelly failed to make adjustments mid-game, but the fact that he finally did was game-changing.

Eagles forced turnovers

The Eagles had never intercepted Tom Brady going into Sunday’s game, and they managed to do it twice. If that’s not enough to make Eagles’ fans happy, I’m not sure what will. They had a multi-game streak without forcing a turnover, another huge reason why they were unable to do anything against the Lions or Buccaneers. Malcolm Jenkins‘ pick-six on the goal line was one of the best plays of the Eagles’ entire season.

Patriots dropped passes

And when I say they dropped passes, it was a lot of them and at very key times. They had two key drops in the final drive of the game that ruined any chances of them completing their comeback. It was obvious the Eagles weren’t 21 points better than the Patriots, so the comeback wasn’t too surprising, but it’s unfair to suggest that the Eagles won based on pure skill. There was some luck involved too.

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Missed penalty calls

Another thing to go in favor of the Eagles was the multiple missed false start penalties that many people noticed after the game ended. The Eagles already seemed to have 100 penalties after the first quarter, stunting any chance of scoring points. The refs, who struggled in their game last week, seemingly missed a lot of calls where it seemed like the Eagles’ offensive linemen were jumping early. Had one or two more of those been called, it may have tipped things slightly differently.

The Eagles pressured Brady

The Eagles have been criticized heavily recently for a lack of pressure on the quarterback, especially their edge rushers. Even without Cedric Thornton, the Eagles sacked Brady four times and hit him on a number of other plays. Brandon Graham, who seemingly has been having a quiet season, but as usual, is actually doing a great job, had two of those sacks. And Connor Barwin had the other two, the team’s other outside linebacker. Fletcher Cox also had 14 total pressures in the game, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s absolutely insane. It’s further proof of how good Cox really is.

Mark Sanchez sat on the bench

This one’s pretty clear. Sanchez is bad and should feel bad. Keeping him off the field was a positive for the Eagles.


Eagles fans deserve to celebrate this win, but this by no means suggests that their season is saved. They played with a fire under them and need to keep this up. It’s not the exact same situation, but I somewhat equate this game to their win over the Packers at Lambeau Field two years ago where Green Bay had to play with Scott Tolzien for most of the game. The Eagles got lucky and didn’t have to face Aaron Rodgers, and it paid off. Randall Cobb didn’t play either.

I’m not saying the Eagles didn’t deserve to win, but one has to acknowledge that a lot of things went in their favor that could’ve easily gone the other way. Time to take this momentum and keep moving forward, because no game is easy.

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