The game started off in dominating fashion for New England, and it looked like they would cruise to an easy victory.
Tom Brady threw touchdown passes on consecutive drives in the first half. The first was a five-yard out to James White. The score was set up by an acrobatic 30-yard catch and run by Scott Chandler. The second came on a beautiful catch and throw on a corner route from Danny Amendola.
Then, the wheels came off.
New England got greedy, and overly cute. On the kickoff following the second touchdown, New England tried a drop kick onsides kick with former rugby player Nate Ebner. It didn't work.
The Eagles received the ball in New England's territory for the first time all game. They promptly scored a touchdown.
After trading three-and-outs, the Patriots received the ball with just over 90 seconds to go in the first half. They couldn't decide whether or not to run out the clock or go for the score, and eventually, they stalled. However, disaster would hit on the Ryan Allen punt. Jonathan Freeny missed his assignment, and Chris Maragos of the Eagles blocked the kick. Najee Goode would scoop up the loose ball and bring it to the house to inexplicably tie the game heading into the half.
New England would get a long drive going with the game tied at 14 in the third quarter. Danny Amendola dropped a potential touchdown, but the Patriots got the ball back to the one yard line after a James White catch and run. However, a play after that, Brady threw an indefensible interception at the goal line to Malcolm Jenkins, who returned the ball 99 yards for a touchdown. The play was another huge momentum swing and was arguably the key turning point in the game.
The Patriots would go three and out on their next offensive possession. They proceeded to continue their terrible special teams play, allowing an 83-yard punt return touchdown to Darren Sproles.
Just like that, despite allowing just seven points on offense to this point, the Patriots trailed 28-14. Things got worse.
Josh McDaniels would pull out a trick play to try and give the Patriots back some momentum (a Danny Amendola reverse pass to Tom Brady). However, they would give momentum back on the very next play as Brady then lofted a throw into the end zone that was intercepted by Byron Maxwell. Brandon LaFell, who had a terrible game, was clearly not on the same page as Brady on the play. But Brady heaved the ball into double coverage one play after gaining back momentum and there is no excuse for that.
The Patriots would allow their second defensive touchdown when they desperately needed a stop. Down 35-14, this one seemed like it was over.
But then, the Patriots rallied. Tom Brady turned around his day, and began to make plays with his feet once again. New England got back two quick scores. The first was a seven play, 71 yard score that ended with a Brady to Scott Chandler end zone lob. The second, after a successful onsides kick, was a one yard Brady sneak.
The Patriots did not recover the onsides kick following the touchdown. The game seemed like it was over after an Eagles 1st down. However, after Jamie Collins stripped the ball from Darren Sproles, the Patriots would get the ball back with just over a minute to go with a chance to tie the game. They would pick up a first down, but three straight drops on the following series would end the game and the rally for the Patriots.
This game is not the end of the world. The sky isn't falling. The Patriots are 10-2, and still in good position to win a first round bye. There were even a couple of positives from this game: Jamie Collins returning to action and forcing a turnover, James White emerging as an offensive threat, and the team showing great resiliency and grit in rallying to make the finish to this one interesting.
Nonetheless, there are serious concerns about this team's ability to score the football without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Tom Brady has tried, but he can't do it all by himself. The fact that the pass protection has failed in three consecutive weeks is also concerning.
For now, we're on to Houston.