Wow. That’s about the only thing you can say after the Philadelphia Eagles’ shocking 35-28 victory over the New England Patriots, a game the Eagles were supposed to lose by double-digit points against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
The Eagles scored 35 unanswered points after a 14-0 deficit, which included three non-offensive touchdowns, yet they still needed a last-second defensive stop to claim their biggest victory of the Chip Kelly era. It’s not a stretch to call this win one of the biggest upsets in franchise history. After all, the Patriots were 10-1 and the best team in the NFL. Even with no Rob Gronkowski, the Eagles, fresh off consecutive beatdowns to a pair of NFC teams with losing records, were heavy underdogs.
Below I highlighted the five biggest regular season upset wins for the franchise since 2000, the start of the new millennium and the beginning of the current 16-year reign where the Eagles have been, for the most part, one of the top teams in the National Football League.
5 – 2000, Week 1: Eagles 41, Dallas 14
Record: Eagles (0-0) at Dallas (0-0)
Spread: Cowboys -6.0
Expectations for the Eagles were moderate heading into the second season of the Andy Reid era. After all, the Eagles won just five games during Reid’s rookie season, and while Donovan McNabb showed flashes at quarterback, nobody envisioned the period of success the Eagles would experience over the next half-decade.
One of the boldest play calls in franchise history came on the first play of the season, as Reid opened the game with a surprise onside kick. The Eagles recovered, drove down the field for a touchdown, and ended up blowing out the Cowboys by a 41-14 score.
It was current Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley who provided the signature performance of the game, carrying 26 times for 201 yards, the second-highest single-game total in team history, plus a touchdown. On defense, the Eagles collected five sacks of Randall Cunningham – yes, that Randall Cunningham – while linebacker Jeremiah Trotter returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown.
Major credit goes to trainer Rick Burkholder, who provided the team pickle juice to deal with the insane 109-degree temperature.
For Reid and the Eagles, it was the first of nine wins they would collect over the Cowboys over the next five seasons, including seven by more than 20 points.
4 – 2002, Week 12: Eagles 38, San Francisco 17
Record: Eagles (7-3) at San Francisco (7-3)
Spread: 49ers -7.0
The entire city of Philadelphia was in full-blown panic mode after Donovan McNabb suffered a broken ankle against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11. With the Eagles already at 7-3, the playoffs had appeared to be a virtual certainty, but backup Koy Detmer was a major drop-off from a top-five quarterback in McNabb.
Making his first start in three seasons, Detmer torched the 49ers, completing 18 of 26 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. But a dislocated elbow ended his game (and season) late in the third quarter, opening the door for the legendary AJ Feeley era.
The Eagles cruised to an easy 38-17 victory, improving to 8-3 on the season. Down to their third-string quarterback, they would win four of the final five games to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC East.
3 – 2008, Week 14: Eagles 20, NY Giants 14
Record: Eagles (6-5-1) at Giants (11-1)
Spread: Giants -7.0
Complete disaster seemed to strike the Eagles in the middle of the 2008 season. The Eagles tied the lowly Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11 before suffering a humiliating 36-7 beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. At halftime of the loss, Andy Reid benched franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb for unproven second-year quarterback Kevin Kolb. The results were disastrous, and the outcome of the game put serious doubts in the Eagles’ ability to contend for a playoff spot.
But a Thanksgiving massacre of the Arizona Cardinals gave the Eagles life, setting up a rematch with the 11-1 New York Giants. Although the Eagles won 20-14, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Giants scored on the final play of the first half, blocking a David Akers field goal and returning it 71 yards for a touchdown. Their final touchdown came with 15 seconds remaining and the outcome of the game already decided.
It was a clean, efficient, mistake-free win for the Eagles, as McNabb threw for 191 yards and a touchdown, while 29-year-old Brian Westbrook rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 33 carries. A month later, the Eagles were back in the NFC playoffs, where they would win, again, at New York, this time in the divisional round.
2 – 2007, Week 15: Eagles 10, Dallas 6
Record: Eagles (5-8) at Cowboys (12-1)
Spread: Cowboys -10.0
In a year reminiscent of their mid-1990s dominance, the Dallas Cowboys established themselves as the best team in the NFC, winning 12 of their first 13 games en route to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For the Eagles, it marked just the second non-winning season of the new millennium.
At 5-8 heading into Texas Stadium against Tony Romo and the Cowboys, the Eagles’ best chance was to play spoiler against a likely Super Bowl contender. Against all odds, they came through, holding Romo to the following stat line: 13 of 36 for 214 yards and 3 interceptions. Quintin Mikell, Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins all grabbed interceptions, with the final one coming to clinch a win in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
The game is remembered for one of the most selfless acts you’ll ever see in the NFL, as Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook broke loose on a 23-yard run with just over a minute to go. Rather than score the easy touchdown, Westbrook, off the encouraging of right tackle Jon Runyan, kneeled down on the one-yard line to guarantee that the Eagles could run out the clock and clinch a victory.
1 – 2015, Week 13: Eagles 35, New England 28
Record: Eagles (4-7) at Patriots (10-1)
Spread: Patriots -8.0
The Patriots have been pretty close to unbeatable over the last 15 seasons. Especially at home. With a 14-point lead. So it’s still hard to comprehend the 35 unanswered points the Eagles put on Belichick and company in the second and third quarters.
It took an all-around team performance for the Eagles to essentially save their season, remaining right in the thick of the NFC East race. Sam Bradford returned from missing the previous two games with a concussion to throw for two touchdowns. Multipurpose back Darren Sproles topped the Eagles in both carries (15) and receptions (4).
But the key stretch of the game occurred from late in the second quarter to the midway point of the third quarter, when the Eagles scored three consecutive touchdowns, none from the offensive side of the ball. First, Chris Maragos blocked a punt, which was returned 24 yards for a score by Najee Goode. That gave the Eagles a 14-14 tie at halftime. Then Malcolm Jenkins grabbed a deflected pass and raced coast to coast for a 99-yard interception touchdown. And the veteran Sproles added a dramatic 81-yard punt return touchdown to increase the Eagles’ lead to 28-14.
A touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews gave the Eagles a commanding 35-14 lead, but a pair of Tom Brady touchdowns cut the deficit to 35-28 late in the fourth quarter. The game could have been lost when Kenjon Barner lost a fumble near the red zone with under two minutes remaining, but the Eagles’ defense forced six incompletions from Brady on his next seven dropbacks, clinching an improbable victory.
It remains to be seen whether the Eagles’ win over Belichick and Brady will have an impact on their final stretch of the season, but right now, it’s a win that gave the Eagles’ fan base some much-needed optimism in an extremely disappointing season.