FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - With his team in the midst of a monstrous free fall that would have rendered the season meaningless in a more competent division, Chip Kelly tried something a little different during the Eagles' Saturday night meeting at the team hotel in Providence, R.I.
And given the Eagles' stunning 35-28 victory over the Patriots on Sunday, you'd have to say it worked.
The head coach's intention was to restore confidence and remind his players that they have the ability to win at a time when the season was on the brink of being lost. It is a message he had been trying to relay verbally for weeks, but this time he opted for some visual aid.
He showed video of Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce blocking out in front on a big gain in Atlanta. He showed a Connor Barwin sack and a big special-teams play by Chris Maragos. One by one, he used video evidence to remind each and every one of his players what they are capable of doing when playing at their best.
"He played a highlight reel of every player on this team doing something good," Johnson said. "It was kind of a confidence booster, and I think that got us going today. Any time guys see positive vibes, it's going to definitely help out. That's the first time he has done that since I've been here. I think it was good for us."
Even better for the Eagles was what happened Sunday at Gillette Stadium, a place where the best of teams have gone to die during a 21st century that has belonged to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots. Having lost three in a row, including the last two by the combined score of 90-31, the Eagles were given little chance of resuscitating their season on this day.
But that's what they did by scoring 35 unanswered points and then holding on for a frantic victory that pushed the Eagles into a tie for second place with the New York Giants in the dreadful NFC East. The Eagles (5-7) are a half-game behind the Washington Redskins, who play Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
"I've always been confident in them, and I told those guys that," Kelly said. "I think sometimes they don't see in them what I see in them. I know we have a good football team, and they showed that to me today. They've shown it to me at other times during the season. The last two weeks we didn't show it, and that's what is disappointing."
Even though it was only one win for a team that has been maddeningly inconsistent all season and absolutely awful in recent weeks, this was a victory that should be savored at least for the night.
Consider this: Brady went into the game with a 110-18 home record and had never lost to the Eagles.
"We're very aware that [the Patriots] have a first-ballot Hall of Fame coach and a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, maybe the best quarterback to ever play the game," Kelly said. "His record here is off the charts."
The slimmest of chances to leave with a victory were on the verge of slipping to none when the Patriots took a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter on a couple of touchdown passes by Brady. The first TD pass vaulted him ahead of Dan Marino and into third place on the all-time list. The second one was his 30th of the season, marking the sixth time he has reached a total that most quarterbacks never reach once. At that point, the Eagles had been outscored by 128-37 since holding a 16-3 lead against Miami in a game last month.
What happened next was as unpredictable as an earthquake.
The Eagles got back in the game with their first touchdown after an arrogant drop kick by the Patriots gave them great field position. Momentum belonged to the Eagles at halftime, thanks to a blocked punt by Maragos that was returned for a touchdown by Najeh Goode with just eight seconds left in the second quarter.
Brady and the Patriots were a yard away from regaining the lead midway through the third quarter when Malcolm Jenkins intervened. First he threw down running back James White for a 4-yard loss, and two plays later he intercepted a pass on the goal line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
An Eagles defense that sacked Brady four times and came up with two interceptions forced a punt immediately after, and Darren Sproles navigated his way down the left sideline for an 83-yard return that gave the Eagles a 28-14 lead.
A Byron Maxwell interception in the end zone near the end of the third quarter was followed by a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive from the Eagles offense that ended with Sam Bradford connecting with Jordan Matthews.
It was 35-14 Eagles, but this was Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots, so it was not over. New England got within seven and had one final chance to win, but this was one of the rare times the Patriots came up short.
Afterward, you could hear the celebration in the visitors' locker room. It was a big win after a series of bad losses.
"It has been miserable," Johnson said. "It really has been miserable. We had put ourselves in quite a predicament. This is a big win for us. It has created a lot of energy for us. We had our backs pressed up against the wall. I think a lot of people counted us out. We still have a long way to go, but this win definitely creates a lot of energy for us."
It remains to be seen what they do with it.