28 - 31 Final
  for this game

Eagles give Patriots a scare, but not a defeat

Nov 26, 2007 - 6:50 AM
By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) - Asante Samuel made sure the New England Patriots stayed in line for history.

The Patriots cornerback ran back one interception for a touchdown and killed a potential go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter with an interception in the end zone as New England held off the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-28, Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots (11-0) had already clinched their fifth straight AFC East title earlier in the day when Buffalo lost at Jacksonville. The Eagles (5-6) had their modest two-game win streak snapped.

"We won the division, which was one of our goals to start the season so that's an accomplishment that the team should be proud of," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "As I told our team in there, in the end, they made enough plays to win the game and that's something they should be happy about."

Just 82 seconds into the game, the Patriots had their sights set on another blowout.

Samuel, the featured Patriots player on the cover of the game program, stepped in front of a pass intended for Brian Westbrook along the near sideline and raced 40 yards untouched for the game's opening score.

"A quick step, quick (coverage) drop during the game," Samuel said. "They tried to throw it out to Westbrook and I just read it and broke on it."

It was Samuel's first interception for a touchdown this season and third career in the regular season for a touchdown.

"That's what it's about, making plays in the NFL," Samuel added. "You never know what kind of game you are going to have. You try to help your team out and playing hard for 60 minutes, and that's what we did."

The Eagles then showed that they would not be another intimidated opponent, putting together a 14-play, 77-yard drive, capped off with a one-yard hurdling run by Westbrook for his sixth touchdown of the season.

Tom Brady threw for 380 yards but was held to just one touchdown pass while A.J. Feeley, filling in for the injured Donovan McNabb, threw for a career-high 345 yards and three TD passes.

"I thought they played really well and I thought they executed really well," Brady said. "I think as a team, I wish we had played a little bit better but I give those guys a lot of credit. They've been in a lot of games this year. I'm proud of the way we played in the fourth quarter and overcame a deficit and came from behind and scored when we needed to."

Brady and the New England offense didn't get their first chance until there was 6:38 remaining in the first quarter. The Patriots drove the ball 78 yards in 10 plays, taking the lead again when Heath Evans dove over from one yard, putting New England up 14-7.

Feeley rebounded from the early interception and threw two TD passes to Greg Lewis, one of 28 yards on third down and the other of 18 yards on a post pattern, which put Philadelphia up, 21-17, stunning the crowd of 68,756.

"That was about the way I expected it tonight," Belichick said. "Philadelphia is a good football team. They played well. They did a good job. It was a hard-fought game that came down to a couple of plays and I was glad we were able to make them."

The Eagles, sensing a rare chance to jump on the Patriots in their own stadium, successfully executed and recovered an on side kick. But they could not take advantage and had to punt.

But Brady got the ball back with three minutes remaining and engineered a nine-play, 54-yard march, ending with a 19-yard connection to Jabar Gaffney, who was able to drag both feet in bounds before falling out of the back of the end zone. New England's 24-21 halftime lead was its slimmest all year at home.

Feeley's third touchdown pass of the night, an eight-yard strike to Reggie Brown on third down, gave Philadelphia a 28-24 lead with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Brady and Welker connected three times for 39 yards on a 10-play drive that culminated with a four-yard Laurence Maroney touchdown run with 7:20 remaining in the fourth, putting the Patriots up, 31-28.

"They gave us a lot of different looks, which was something different than we are used to seeing," said Welker, who ended with 13 catches for 149 yards, both career highs. "We just needed to make some adjustments and make sure we are all on the same page and seeing the same stuff out there."

"The credit goes to the New England Patriots," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "They're a heck of a football team. I'm proud of our guys and the way they battled. We came up a little bit short, but it's something we can learn from and build from and we'll do that."

The Eagles drove to the New England 29 with four minutes remaining when Feeley threw an ill-advised pass to the end zone, picked off by Samuel. Feeley's third interception came when James Sanders picked off a pass with 11 seconds to play to seal the win for the Patriots.

"I'm just bitter," said a frustrated Feeley. "It's just disappointing to come out there and be so close and come up short like that. Personally, I take it on my back for the outcome. I can't put myself or the team in a position like that and turn the ball over."