FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's OK to be dramatic, because that's the way Sunday was for the Eagles. Edge-of-the-seat stuff. Big plays everywhere. A heart-attack final few minutes. And in the end a massively important 35-28 win over the New England Patriots that, really, saves the season for the Eagles.
"We didn't finish up like we wanted to," linebacker Connor Barwin said, smiling, in a super-upbeat Eagles locker room after the win, the Eagles' first at New England since 1987, "but it was a really big win. Great win. I think the feeling in here is a good one, so now let's see what we do with it."
The Eagles ended a three-game losing streak and raised their record to 5-7 and nobody is bragging about that. But in the muck of the NFC East, the Eagles are tied with the Giants and half-game behind Washington, which hosts Dallas on Monday night and ...
OK, enough of the division talk. Sunday's win was one to savor.
Certainly, it was a remarkable performance. The Eagles scored 35 straight points after a 14-0 deficit, scoring touchdowns on a blocked punt return of 24 yards, a 99-yard interception return by Malcolm Jenkins, an 83-yard Darren Sproles punt return and two Sam Bradford touchdown passes.
The defense clamped down on the weapon-challenged Patriots offense, harassing quarterback Tom Brady with four sacks -- two each from Barwin and Brandon Graham -- and a bunch of hits and pressures. Brady threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but he needed 56 pass attempts to do so and his passer rating of 71.4 was the lowest he's had in five games against the Eagles and his 51.8 percent completion percentage was the third lowest of his storied NFL career.
It was a win that, let's be honest, saved the season. The Eagles couldn't afford to fall to 4-8, even in the really-bad NFC East. Now they're 5-7 with three consecutive home games ahead.
A look back at some of the key players against New England that helped lead the Eagles to victory. View the full gallery here...
But there is no sense wondering if this win will vault the Eagles into A-plus mode the rest of the season. It was a waste of time thinking about it after the win in Dallas. For now, we'll just relish a huge win, an unexpected one in the eyes of those outside the NovaCare Complex and one that gives the Eagles some confident vibrations heading back to Lincoln Financial Field.
"It's a big win for our situation and our goal to win the NFC East," safety Walter Thurmond said. "It was important to get back on track after these three games. Those games were very uncharacteristic to the way we were used to playing. To come in here and win, where they win 90 percent, or whatever it is, of their games, and play sound on offense and defense and special teams is huge.
"It gives us momentum and confidence. We can't pay attention to what our record is. We have to know that we're a good football team and today we played like one."
If there was a turning point, it could have been the bizarre choice the Patriots made after scoring to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Instead of kicking off as teams do, the Patriots used safety Nate Ebner to drop kick the ball. He did so, 24 yards in the air, and Seyi Ajirotutu fell on the football at the Philadelphia 41-yard line.
Weird. And ineffective. And at the end of the day, it was the play that changed the entire course of the game. The Eagles drove 59 yards on eight plays after the recovery and scored on a Bradford touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz.
"Any time you can start a drive at the 40-yard line and only have to go 60 yards, it makes a difference," Ertz said. "Tutu (Ajirotutu) made a heads-up play. You have to be prepared for anything against that team and we were."
It stayed that way until late in the second quarter when Chris Maragos shot a gap and blocked Ryan Allen's punt with 15 seconds remaining in the half. Najee Goode scooped up the football and ran 24 yards untouched into the end zone for a touchdown and, just like that, the Eagles and Patriots were tied at 14-14 in the third quarter.
The tide turned for good thanks to some great play by Malcolm Jenkins and the Eagles' defense. The Patriots were poised to take a lead in the third quarter when they had a first-and-goal at the Eagles' 1-yard line. Jenkins made the first of two huge plays when he penetrated up the field and reached running back James White on a first-down handoff and dropped him for a 4-yard loss. On second-and-goal, Brady was pressured and threw incomplete in the end zone. On third down, his pass for Danny Amendola was deflected by Thurmond and intercepted by Jenkins, who weaved his way toward the end zone for a 99-yard scoring return.
And the Eagles had a lead! And they piled on with the Sproles punt return for a score to make it 28-14 and then went ahead, convincingly, on a Bradford touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews that extended the lead to 35-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
Brady wasn't done, of course. He threw two touchdown passes as the Patriots made things close, but when it mattered at the very end the Eagles defense stopped the Pats on a final passing play -- rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, who battled and played well -- broke up a fourth-and-10 pass intended for wide receiver Keshawn Martin and the game was over.
And the celebration began.
The Eagles needed this game in a huge way. It was not a fun week at One NovaCare Way after the Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit. The media chirped loudly about the team. The fans were angry. The players kept their cool and head coach Chip Kelly and his staff stuck to the plan and the program and the Eagles responded as a group.
"I think all the negativity and all of the hype was outside of our doors," Jenkins said. "We had one of the best work weeks we've had in terms of preparation, our attention to detail, our players giving input of what they want and what they don't like. I thought our coaches did a great job, especially on defense, of tweaking things to put our players in the best position to do what they do best. We knew that they were going to make plays, but we knew that we were going to have some plays to make, too.
"Inside our doors, it was probably one of the best weeks we've had."
It showed on the field. Using more of Sproles (15 carries, 66 yards) and Kenjon Barner (9 carries 39 yards) instead of DeMarco Murray (8 carries, 24 yards, but a big 19-yarder in the fourth quarter), the Eagles ran for 128 yards. Bradford was efficient, completing 14-of-24 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 99.3 in his return after missing two games with injury. Sproles accounted for an astounding 215 all-purpose yards, including 115 punt return yards, the second-highest single-game total in team history. The Eagles were perfect on two trips inside New England's 20-yard line and the Eagles turned the ball over just once, on a fourth-quarter Barner fumble, and won the takeaway battle, 2-1.
So now what do the Eagles do with the win? Buffalo comes to town on Sunday. Every game in December means the world. For a day, anyway, the Eagles will relish the win over New England and see if they can turn a November of frowns upside down in December.