** FOXBOROUGH, Mass. --When you line up against a 10-1 football team, one with four Lombardi Trophies in its pocket, you know you need to play a great football game. The Eagles hurt themselves on Sunday at Gillette Stadium with a flurry of flags and they were costly in the first half.
But it was a total turnaround in the second half as the Eagles cleaned up their act and held on to the critical 35-28 victory.
"Huge that we stopped killing ourselves," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "We've had too many penalties all season. Today, we just took it upon ourselves to play within ourselves and not commit dumb penalties."
Philadelphia was penalized eight times in all, five times in the first quarter. Another two penalties called against the Eagles were declined. On the Eagles' first offensive possession, quarterback Sam Bradford gained a couple of first downs and the Eagles had the football at the 43. On third-and-4 from the 49-yard line, Bradford found Darren Sproles for 8 yards and an apparent first down. But Johnson was penalized for holding and on third-and-14 Bradford threw incomplete over the middle for Jordan Matthews. Drive over.
After the Eagles' defense held New England and quarterback Tom Brady to one harmless first down on its next drive, the offense immediately put itself in a hole. A penalty for delay of game coming out of the timeout moved the ball back 5 yards and then left tackle Jason Peters jumped early for a false-start penalty. Still, the Eagles clawed their way for a first down on a 19-yard Kenjon Barner run and a DeMarco Murray conversion on second-and-1, but a 15-yard facemask penalty on left guard Allen Barbre a couple of snaps later destroyed the drive.
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Early in the second quarter, Brady loaded up and threw the ball for wide receiver Keshawn Martin 42 yards down the field. Safety Malcolm Jenkins had help, but he also reached back and grabbed Martin and was penalized for pass interference. The penalty moved the ball from the New England 15-yard line to the Eagles 43 and changed the tenor of the drive. Six plays later Brady found wide receiver Danny Amendola wide open in the end zone for the touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Penalties were a huge part of the early deficit. And the Eagles, who entered the game with the 11th-most penalties in the NFL, hurt themselves badly with the lack of precision. The Eagles were penalized seven times for 92 yards in losses in the first half, while New England was penalized once for 9 yards. New England declined three penalties against the Eagles in the half.
However, the Eagles were whistled just once in the second half on an illegal formation during a punt. Otherwise, they were clean.
And playing that disciplined made all the difference in the world.
"It was very critical," left tackle Jason Peters. "When you're on the road you can't have those penalties. We knew we had to clean it up at halftime. Some of those penalties were just bonehead plays, but we got it cleaned up in the second half."