In 2014, the Eagles were 10-6, thanks in large part to dominant play on defense and special teams that contributed 11 return touchdowns.The theme of dominant play by the defense and special teams resurrected itself Sunday as the Eagles upset the New England Patriots, 35-28, pulling even with the Giants at 5-7, a half-game behind the Redskins, who are 5-6, with a Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys.The Giants blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Jets in overtime Sunday.Here are some observations from the Eagles' win against the defending Super Bowl champions:
- Sam Bradford outplays Tom Brady: His final stat line was modest (14-for-24 for 120 yards and two touchdowns), but both of Bradford's touchdown passes came through incredibly tight throwing windows to tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Jordan Matthews. He went toe-to-toe with Brady, and provides hope for what the Eagles can expect from him down the stretch this season and maybe even beyond that. Bradford's biggest throw came on the final possession when he converted a third-down and allowed the Eagles to keep the ball and run out the clock.
- Dominant in all phases: The Eagles scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. It was the first time that the Eagles scored three return touchdowns or more since last season's 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
- Special teams special again: After historic production from the special teams' last season, Chris Maragos' blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Najee Goode in the second quarter Sunday to tie the game, 14-14, before halftime. Later, Darren Sproles scored the seventh return touchdown of his career.
- Pass rush emerges: For the Eagles to have had a fighting chance against the Patriots, they needed to make life miserable for Brady. Brady was hurried 12 times, hit 12 more and sacked four times.
- DeMarco Murray earns part-time role: After signing a $40 million free-agent contract in the offseason, Murray played himself into a part-time role Sunday, carrying the ball only eight times for 24 yards. Kenjon Barner averaged 4.3 yards per attempt and Darren Sproles averaged 4.4 yards per carry. The Eagles ran the ball 33 times, and Murray once again was largely a non-factor. One has to wonder if the excessive workload with the Cowboys last season really has damaged Murray irreparably. Barner, however, fumbled in the game's final minutes, giving the Patriots one last shot.
- Too much laundry: Penalties have stalled drives for the Eagles all season and Sunday was no different. By game's end, the Eagles had been penalized eight times for 97 yards. Less than five minutes into the second quarter, the Eagles had already been penalized six times for 67 yards.
- It took 11 games for the Eagles to put forth this type of complete effort: In what has been a disappointing season, overall, Sunday's victory is by far the most impressive of 2015 and perhaps of Kelly's NFL coaching tenure as well.