Eagles Nearly Knock Patriots From Undefeated

Tom Brady (AP Photo)

Did Philadelphia really provide a blueprint of how to compete with seemingly unstoppable New England? Or did the Eagles simply come in motivated with a solid game plan good enough to put the best scare we'll see into the Patriots' march toward history?

The Eagles had a legitimate chance to snap the Patriots' march toward undefeated glory. A previously great job of coaching went down the drain when Andy Reid let quarterback A.J. Feeley attack the end zone in what turned into the game-clinching interception. The smart move would have been to work the field, milk the clock, try to score a touchdown in the final minute while settling for a tying field goal if necessary.

Even if Philadelphia had scored on Feeley's pass, there would have been plenty of time for New England to march back down the field. For all of the talk you'll hear about how pressuring Tom Brady is the way to knock off the Patriots, remember that he completed 34 passes for 380 yards and no interceptions.

Granted, Brady had multiple passes that could have been picked off, and the Eagles effectively contained Randy Moss to five receptions for 43 yards.

But New England has arguably the league's best coaching staff, and two things are evident:

--Coach Bill Belichick will harp on every mistake throughout the week and use the close victory as a tool to motivate his troops. Expect the Patriots to simply circle the wagons, get angry at the outside world for talking about their vulnerability and then take Baltimore behind the woodshed for four quarters next Sunday.

--The Patriots can combat the offensive questions by running the ball more. New England called 54 passes to just 15 running plays against the Eagles, who blitzed the spread formation with abandon. Brady won't survive that for 16 games, and neither will the Patriots' unblemished record. They play their final five regular-season games on the East coast. With the unpredictable winter weather likely to throw in a few curveballs, it's time for the Patriots to get running back Laurence Maroney more involved in the offense.

Are the Patriots beatable? Perhaps. Did the Eagles provide some glimpses into potential cracks in the armor? Certainly.

But come February, we'll most likely look back on Sunday night's game as the one true scare that refocused the Patriots and helped propel them into the stretch run of an undefeated season.

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