Just when the Eagles looked like they were hitting an all-time low, they string us out on a heaven’s high. Would you prefer to be an even-tempered, slightly above average Chiefs fan? Not me. This is the payoff that makes it worth it.
Everything was unpredictable about this game, to everyone except Kyle (who called the win).. Except that the NFL seems to work that way. As soon as something is obvious to everyone, you can be sure it isn’t going to happen. This is a Sunday where Blaine Gabbert not only led his team to victory, but also had a higher quarterback rating than Tom Brady and four times more rushing yards than Adrian Peterson.
So yeah, it’s crazy that the Patriots even struggled, much less lost, but it was sort of predictable. And their near-comeback from 21 points down was predictable, too. Tommy Lawlor called it:
But even given all that anti-logic, this was a crazy game. Here are five especially surprising miracles from today’s game.
1) The heroes of the game
Malcolm Jenkins and Connor Barwin did well, which is no surprise. It’s great that Jason Peters rallied despite injuries to throw a crucial block on third down and allow Bradford to extend the Eagles’ final drive. But he’s a stud. You expect that. Ditto Sproles’ big plays.
But no one predicted Riley Cooper would make two clutch, late plays to seal the victory — first, slapping an onside kick out of bounds, then catching the 14-yard pass that Peters’ block made possible.
We knew Tom Brady would try to pick on rookie Eric Rowe, since Nolan Carroll is out for the season with a broken ankle. We did not expect Rowe to break up the first and last plays of the Patriot’s final drive with two crucial shutdowns.
2) The Patriots Got Flustered
Sure, they fall behind sometimes, and Gronk and Edelman were injured for this one. But the Pats looked seriously rattled in the third quarter, and Bill Belichick was forced to call a totally unnecessary time out that came back to bite him when the Pats needed to rally for a comeback. THAT was weird.
3) Chip acknowledged reality
Or was it his offensive and defensive coordinators, whom Chip claims decide the snap rotations? Either way, it was refreshing to see the coaches finally acknowledge who has been sucking out loud and bench them. Miles Austin was inactive, DeMarco Murray played limited snaps, and Sproles, Kenjon Barner and Rowe got a lot of playing time (and made the most it).
Sure, it sucks that Barner got stripped of the ball late in the game. If he had hung on to it, the Birds would have had a field goal attempt from New England’s 25, which is well within Sturgis’ range.
But Murray and Austin have simply not carried their weight this year, and the Eagles need to evaluate the other players on the roster so they can tell who is even worth keeping when they rebuild the roster this spring.
It’s not like the team has a lot to lose by trying different players. Murray may actually do better next year if the Birds can put together a solid offensive line in front of him, but he’s got nothing right now. Even when he came in at the start of the fourth and picked up 19 yards on his one good carry of the game, he ran out of bounds on two successive plays later on when the Eagles were killing clock. That’s an inexcusable mistake for a veteran.
4) Malcolm Jenkins can run in the open field
It was also surprising that he hung on to the ball for his interception after dropping several should-have-been INTs over the last two years. But the remarkable thing about Jenkins’ pick six was his skillful return. It was more of a Huff-like cut-cut-sprint than a jitterbuggy Sproles run, but the result was 99 yards and six points. This wasn’t his first, either — he had a great 53-yard TD return on an INT against the 49ers last year.
Maybe the team should consider rotating Jenkins in on kick returns, especially if Huff is dinged up.
It’s also worth noting that Jenkins made several great tackles against the Patriots’ run game. Limiting LaGarette Blount to 54 yards was a big part of this victory, with receiving options limited.
5. The refs didn’t ruin the game
They sure tried, calling penalty after penalty on the Eagles in the first half. After the first touchdown brought the Birds back within 14-7, Jimmy Kempski noticed how much those calls were obscuring an improved Eagles offense:
But when it mattered, they did not call the sketchy pass interference calls that the Patriots were so obviously counting on at home, especially against rookie Rowe.
Given that this is a famously bad officiating crew that has been disciplined twice this year for incompetence and was moved to this game because the NFL figured the Eagles couldn’t possibly win, that is less of an early Christmas gift than a cause for belated Thanksgiving.