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Pats' Past: The Eagles are Coming to Town

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In 1977, the two franchises met for only the second time – and the first one in New England.

Mike Haynes, Hall of Fame cornerback.
Mike Haynes, Hall of Fame cornerback.
boston.com

Boston and Philadelphia, two of the birthplaces of the United States' democracy. Great cities with great history. Yet, when it comes to football, the two towns rarely meet. This, of course, has to do with the fact that the Patriots were a founding member of the American Football League, while the Eagles were playing in the National Football League.

Three years after the 1970 merger of the leagues, the two franchises met for the first time, a 24-23 Eagles win at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. Three years later, the Eagles would have to travel to the north east to face the Patriots on their home turf for the first time: Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

New England entered the week 11 match-up with a 6-4 record and needed a win to keep up with the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins in the divisional race. The Eagles, on the other hand, were 3-7 and tried to avoid losing their third straight game.

58,000 spectators saw a relatively close but very sloppy game, played in harsh conditions. This led to both offenses struggling to move the ball consistently. The home team adapted best and took a 7-0 first quarter lead when quarterback Steve Grogan (10/20, 173 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) connected with rookie wide receiver Stanley Morgan for a 64-yard touchdown.

The Patriots would pull away even further in the second quarter, when Grogan threw his second touchdown pass of the day – this time it was a 16-yarder to Darryl Stingley. While New England's offense was able to score twice in the first half, the Eagles were shut out. In fact, the visitors would not score until the fourth quarter to make it a 14-6 game.

Neither team was able to generate an offensive rhythm throughout the game due to the weather, and the defenses – particularly New England's – made the best out of this. Chuck Fairbanks' unit registered eight sacks, intercepted Ron Jaworski (15/33, 190 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs) two times and recovered an Eagles fumble. Overall, the Patriots defense limited its opponent to only 217 yards of offense and – most importantly – six points.

While the Patriots fared only a little better in terms of offensive yardage with 282 yard gained, they were able to score two touchdowns and thus won the game with a score of 14-6. The win kept the team alive in the AFC East playoff race. New England, however, would ultimately miss the tournament with a 9-5 record. The Eagles finished the year 1977 with a 4-10 record.

Philadelphia would also lose to the Patriots the following season before winning the next five contests against New England. Recently, however, the Patriots have held the upper hand against the Eagles: the team has won the last four meetings – among them Super Bowl XXXIX – and will try to extend that streak on Sunday.