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December 06, 2015

10 reasons why the Eagles upset the Patriots

Eagles NFL

Normally, I stick to five reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles won (or, in most cases, why they lost). But after they knocked off the New England Patriots Sunday, I couldn't really narrow it down to five.

Maybe that's because for the first time in a while, the Birds played a complete game, with contributions from almost everywhere on the roster. More likely, however, it's because I'm still trying to wrap my head around just what happened in Foxborough.

With that being said, here are five 10 reasons why the Eagles were able to pull off the upset over New England.

Belichick's drop-kick

The Patriots went up 14-0 in the second quarter, and then Bill Belichick decided to show everyone how much smarter he was than them. Instead of kicking it off -- or even attempting an onside kick like the one they converted late in the game -- he opted for a drop-kick. Only the Eagles recovered it, in great field position, and went down to score the first of 35 unanswered points.

Finally, some turnovers

Tom Brady's first career interception against the Eagles was a costly one, to say the least. Malcolm Jenkins took it 99 yards for a touchdown. It was the first turnover by the defense since their Week 9 win over the Cowboys.

Prior to the pick, the Eagles were the only team in the NFL that had never intercepted Tom Terrific. Not any more.

They got Brady again later in the game, this one belonging to Byron Maxwell.

The 2014 special teams returned

Last season, the Eagles scored seven touchdowns on special teams, and that's something that's been missing most of this season. Until Sunday, that is. Against the Patriots, the Eagles scored three non-offensive TDs, two of which came from the special teams.

The first came just seconds before halftime, when Chris Maragos blocked a punt and Najee Goode ran it in for a score to tie the game at 14-14. 

The second came courtesy of Darren Sproles, who picked up his second return TD of the season.

Both of those plays -- and I think this goes without saying -- were huge reasons for the upset in Foxborough. 

DeMarco who?

Despite the fact that Ryan Mathews was out for the third straight game with a concussion, we saw very little from DeMarco Murray Sunday. Instead, it was a healthy dose of Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. Both looked much better than Murray, who finished with eight carries for 24 yards, 19 of which came on one play in the fourth quarter. 

Meanwhile, Sproles finished with 15 carries for 66 yards and a team-high four catches for 44 yards. Barner finished with nine rushes for 39 yards and two catches for seven yards.

After the game, Kelly said he opted for speed over strength because of the size of the New England linebackers, even though it's been clear for some time now that Murray is possibly the third-best RB on the roster.

After the win over the Patriots, he may be the fourth best.

Bradford was good enough

After missing two and a half games with injury, Sam Bradford was back in the lineup Sunday against the Patriots. Although he didn't have the best game, he didn't turn the ball over -- and that was enough to help the Eagles to a unexpected win in Foxborough.

Here's a look at Bradford's final line, side-by-side with that of his counterpart on the other sideline, Tom Brady:

*three passing, one rushing

As you can see, Bradford finished the game with just 120 passing yards, but all the good Brady did was essentially negated by the 99-yard INT return by Jenkins.

Here's Bradford's first TD pass to TE Zach Ertz:

Getting to Brady

Tom Brady was sacked four times by the Eagles, but it sure felt like a lot more than that. He was under pressure most of the day, and it was obvious that the Birds front seven was getting to him.

Perhaps that's part of the reason Brady threw multiple INTs for the first time in over a year and just the third time in the last three seasons.

Riley Cooper

Yes, you read that right.

After being quiet all day, Cooper made two big plays late in the game to help the Eagles fight off the Patriots' comeback attempt. After Ertz dropped an onside kick attempt by New England, which lead to a TD and cut the lead to one score, Cooper tried something a little different. Instead of going for the catch – as Ertz did, Cooper batted the ball out of bounds – ensuring the Eagles maintained possession.

On the ensuing drive, Bradford connected with Cooper for a big third down conversion to extend their drive. It was Cooper's only catch of the day, but it came a big time.

Protecting Bradford

The Eagles offensive line didn't get off to a great start Sunday.

But it rallied, and the aforementioned third-down conversion to Cooper wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for a clutch block from veteran Jason Peters.

The Patriots were really hurt

No Rob Gronkowski. No Julian Edelman. No Dont'a Hightower. And that's just the tip of the Patriots injury iceberg. I'm not pointing this out to rain on Eagles fans' parade -- that's why I saved it for the end -- but it certainly needs to be mentioned.

Any given Sunday...

... or something like that.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin