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Eagles shock the world, and the Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The interview with Bill Davis was pushed into a corner, outside the main section of the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium, to get Davis away from the joyous, blaring music.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tries in vain to catch Eagles safety
Malcolm Jenkins an interception return.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tries in vain to catch Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins an interception return.Read more(Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The interview with Bill Davis was pushed into a corner, outside the main section of the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium, to get Davis away from the joyous, blaring music.

This had not been much of a problem for the Eagles' defensive coordinator in recent weeks. During the three-game losing streak that ended with Sunday's shock-the-world, 35-28 Eagles victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, the only music that accompanied Davis' interviews ran through the minds of his questioners. It sounded like Frederic Chopin's "Funeral March.''

But Davis' group, though still far from perfect, intercepted Tom Brady twice, Malcolm Jenkins taking the first pick 99 yards for a touchdown, and sacked the NFL's top quarterback four times. With the help of a blocked-punt touchdown and a Darren Sproles punt return touchdown, somehow it was enough for the now-5-7 Eagles to spring the NFL upset of the season. Brady, who entered the day with four interceptions, last threw two picks in a game in a lopsided victory over the Colts, back on Nov. 16, 2014.

"What we just went through the last two weeks (losing twice by a combined score of 90-31), it takes high character to get through that . . . To get a win at Foxborough, when Tom Brady's the quarterback, no matter what the stats are, is in and of itself so hard," Davis said after the Eagles abruptly returned to the land of the living, making all those NFC East title scenarios a tad less theoretical. If Dallas beats Washington Monday night, the Eagles, Giants and Redskins will all be 5-7.

"The guys executed their tails off tonight and made a ton of plays . . . The hardest thing is to keep staying together; when you lose three in a row, that's when it gets real tough in the NFL," Davis said.

The Eagles fell behind 14-0, scored 35 points in a row, then gave up a pair of late touchdowns. A Kenjon Barner fumble with a minute and two seconds left had their fans squirming, until Brady finally threw incomplete on fourth and 10 from the New England 37, under strong pressure from Fletcher Cox, with 20 seconds remaining.

"When you give up 21 points when your defense isn't on the field, you lose about 98 percent of those games," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team had been 94-0 since 2001 when leading by more than eight at any point in a game. Brady had been 40-8 with 10 wins in a row as a starter coming off a loss; Denver had edged the now-10-2 Pats in overtime a week ago.

The Eagles sprang to life after the Patriots tried a strange drop-kick onside kick, after going ahead 14-0. Seyi Ajirotutu recovered at the Eagles' 41 and they drove right in for a touchdown, Sam Bradford hitting Zach Ertz from 5 yards out on third and 4.

Bradford, returning from a concussion and a left AC sprain, might have managed only 120 passing yards, with a longest completion of 20 yards, but he hit some clutch throws and didn't turn the ball over. Bradford finished with a 99.3 passer rating to Brady's 71.4, just as we all envisioned.

"I wouldn't say (the failed drop kick) was the turning point, but I think it was another huge play by our special teams," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.

It was a momentum shift, as was Najee Goode's touchdown on Chris Maragos' punt block just before halftime. But if we're going to declare a true turning point, it probably was Jenkins' return of the interception, which felt like a 10- or 14-point swing - third and goal from the Eagles' 5, midway through the third quarter, score tied. Brady tried to thread a pass to Danny Amendola that Walt Thurmond tipped to Jenkins, who grabbed it and took off.

"I've just got to catch the ball, that's the biggest thing," Jenkins said. "I've got the ball in my hand, I can run it . . . When I caught it, it was a lineman and Tom Brady (between Jenkins and the end zone). I'm like, 'I think I can get that.' Chip really doesn't coach the defense, so this has been the first week where he's actually coached me up. I dropped one or two earlier in the week in practice, so all week he's just been coaching me up on catching the football. I'll be driving from one drill to the next and he'll just call my name and throw a ball at me.

"He told me . . . 'If you'll just focus on this, you'll get one this week, I promise you.' "

The Eagles' defense hadn't forced a turnover since its last win, at Dallas on Nov. 8. Byron Maxwell had the other pick Sunday.

"I think anybody would have been happy just with the interception . . . to be able to take it the distance, I was really happy for him," Kelly said of Jenkins. "He's worked a lot on this - sometimes he gets maligned (for dropping picks), but he's worked really hard on catching the football . . . to convert that into a score is a real good turning point."

As he pranced toward the locker room, outside linebacker Brandon Graham passed Eagles chairman Jeffery Lurie, walking with team president Don Smolenski and vice president Howie Roseman.

"You fired me up today!" Graham shouted to Lurie, who smiled.

Turns out, according to Kelly, the chairman speaks to players and coaches individually, before every game. This time, Graham said, he challenged Graham and the other OLB, Connor Barwin.

"He kinda lit us up," Graham said. "That was kind of a surprise, but it was needed . . . We just kept the energy all day, because we knew that was what we were going to need. Especially when we went down 14-0 - everybody was still believin', man . . . I'm just so happy that we stayed together."

Graham said Lurie's message to him and to Barwin was "play angry. Just go out there and play angry, and get after '12.' And I think we took it personal - when you hear the owner tell you that, you're going to go out and do exactly what he wants you to do."

Barwin said the Eagles "didn't finish exactly how you want to," but "we did make the plays at the end to win."

And a few before then, along the way. Sproles accounted for 100 of the Eagles' 248 total yards, and that, of course, doesn't include the punt return. He ran for 66 on 15 carries and caught four passes for 34 more, on a day when DeMarco Murray (eight carries, 24 yards) seemed de-emphasized.

"Sproles is like a little jackrabbit," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Whenever he gets the ball, he's dangerous."

The stands actually started emptying when the Pats had to punt on the possession after a beautiful touchdown throw from Bradford to Jordan Matthews, 10 yards on third and 2, that gave the Birds a 35-14 lead with 11:14 remaining. When New England couldn't muster anything, and the Eagles got the ball back with 10:10 left, several thousand fans suddenly remembered they had dinner reservations.

But you don't blow out Belichick and Brady, especially not if you're the Eagles. Next Pats possession was a TD drive, and this time the conventional onside kick was fumbled away by Ertz.

"I ultimately gave them a shot to win the game," Ertz said. "I might make that play 99 times out of 100, but I didn't make it that time."

Brady ended up scoring the final TD on a 1-yard keeper, with three minutes remaining. This time, Riley Cooper batted the ensuing onside kick out of bounds at the sideline. The Birds were grinding out clock, within range for a field goal that would have given them a 10-point lead, when Barner fumbled.

But Brady needed to drive 75 yards in 1:02, and he only managed 12 of them before he ran out of downs.

"I've always been proud of them," Kelly said of the Eagles. Had this been another blowout loss, Kelly might be looking at his final month coaching the team, whether Lurie really wanted that to be the case or not. Now Kelly certainly has breathing room. "I told these guys that. I think sometimes they don't see in (themselves) what I see in them. I know we have a good football team, and I think they showed it today."