Picture this: You open the game with a 10-0 lead. You hold Tom Brady to just 216 yds, no TDs and a 32.5 QBR. He throws 21 incompletions for just the 15th time in his career. The Patriots offense scores just one TD and it comes off a trick play. ....And you still lose the game.
Somehow, the Philadelphia Eagles managed to pull off that feat of disappointment on Sunday as they fell to the New England Patriots 17-10 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia got out to a 10-0 lead in the 2nd quarter but went the rest of the game without a score. That allowed New England to crawl back with three field goals and a TD to win the game.
The Birds had several opportunities to drive down the field late in the game, but the drives stalled out as QB Carson Wentz missed throw after throw. At one point, three consecutive passes either went into the feet or over the head of the receiver.
Wentz nearly tied the game with a desperate fourth down heave to the back of the endzone in the fourth quarter, but (surprise, surprise) Nelson Agholor dropped the ball once again. Halloween is long gone and Philly fans want nothing to do with Agholor's Butterfingers anymore.
In the WR's defense, it was a tough catch: he had to slide and bend backward a bit to try to reel it in before going out the back of the endzone. But those are the catches - the challenging TD grabs when your team is trailing - that you've got to make to be a good wideout in the NFL. The Eagles have needed Agholor to step up and he hasn't.
Patriots' WR Julian Edelman, on the other hand, stepped up big time. He not only led New England in receiving, but also led both teams in passing. His lone throw was a 15 yd TD, giving him a 100 QBR. Though the fact the Patriots had to rely on a WR to throw their only TD shows is not a promising sign.
Despite the ugly win, New England is a virtual lock to make the playoffs. The Pats have two guaranteed wins with games against the winless Bengals and the tanking Dolphins. That would give the Patriots a minimum of 11 wins. Only two teams have ever missed the playoffs after finishing 11-5 (but one of them was the 2008 Patriots).
To be an absolute lock, and to secure home field advantage, New England will have to beat playoff teams. Four of the remaining six games for the Patriots are against teams that are over .500 (Cowboys, Texans, Chiefs, Bills). All four teams are in playoff contention and could pose a legitimate threat to this New England team.
But if the Pats play better than they did against the Philly, all four are winnable games. They'll look to make a statement next week with a win against the Dallas Cowboys to complete the sweep of the NFC East.
The Eagles, at 5-5, can slip into the playoffs if they finish the season strong. Their remaining schedule is fairly easy: they have two games against the Giants and one each against the Dolphins and Redskins. Those three teams combined have just five wins. A week 16 match-up with the division leading Cowboys will be crucial.
But the home stretch starts with a major test next week against the Seattle Seahawks. Wentz and the offense will need to play at a much higher level to hang with MVP front-runner Russel Wilson and his high powered offense. If both teams show up, The Battle of Birds is sure to be a high flying affair.