March 18, 2010

Give thanks, Patriots fans, for one worth watching

— FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Thank you, Philadelphia. Your Eagles came to Gillette Stadium Sunday night with a new starting quarterback and more disappointment than a bad boy on Christmas morning.

Tom Brady
click image to enlarge

Tom Brady

AP

Tedy Bruschi, Asante Samuel
click image to enlarge

Tedy Bruschi, Asante Samuel

AP

A team three years removed from the Super Bowl and now going nowhere. A team with a head coach dealing with too many headaches and heartaches in his own home.

The Eagles ran onto the turf with a ton of attitude. Stuck their chins out at the team the rest of the country thinks is the new bully of the NFL. What audacity. What gall.

The Patriots still won, 31-28, but it wasn't the 24-point blowout the wiseguys in Las Vegas had predicted. No, sir. A.J. Feeley and his teammates came to play, ignoring everything the rest of the football world was saying.

Peyton Manning couldn't beat the Patriots this season. Tony Romo couldn't. Why would anyone believe Adam Joshua Feeley, the 30-year-old sometime starter, mostly backup quarterback, could?

That's why sports fans pay attention. For one day, anyone can play the game of a lifetime.

Feeley hadn't started a game since the end of the 2004 season. Donovan McNabb went down last week with a bad ankle and a bad thumb on his throwing hand. Coach Andy Reid didn't turn to rookie Kevin Kolb. Feeley got the call.

His second pass of the game was intercepted by Asante Samuel and returned for a touchdown. The game wasn't two minutes old and the NFL's perfect team had a 7-0 lead. Say good night.

Thank you, Philadelphia. Feeley didn't rattle and everyone got a real football game to watch. The Eagles earned their paychecks. The Patriots weren't going to roll up a big margin of victory on them.

Feeley stuck to the game plan of short passes to receivers who found the open seams and stuck it to the Patriots secondary. Brian Westbrook hurdled over the left side of the Patriots' line for a 1-yard touchdown. He spiked the football so hard, it's a wonder it didn't blow up.

Westbrook's display of emotion didn't sit well with Patriots fans in end zone seats, but that's OK. The rest of us are tired of first-round knockouts. Sometimes you want to see a real fight, er, game.

The Eagles are not the Colts, the Packers, or the Cowboys. They're not the Steelers. They're no longer among the NFL elite. Sunday night, they stood in front of the Patriots' steamroller and didn't flinch. Not that it mattered at the end. The Eagles couldn't stop the machine.

One more victory added to what may yet be a perfect season. Eleven straight wins and counting. Baltimore on the road is up next, Pittsburgh back in Gillette is on deck.

The streak has become its own monster, of course. Not in the locker room. Coach Bill Belichick has everybody on board. The next game supersedes everything else. Look around the corner at your peril.

Thank you, Philadelphia. Your Eagles took a little air out of a hyper-inflated fan base and it's always good to be brought back to reality. Especially when that reality is an undefeated football team.

But a three-point game against a 5-6 team gives Belichick a reason to tighten the screws again. Besides being the genius, he's also the master mechanic.

The Patriots made mistakes. Yes, Feeley was playing within a system, a game plan. But few thought he was another Jeff Garcia, last year's Eagles backup who rescued a season after McNabb went down.

A.J. Feeley was 27 of 42 for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Those are Tom Brady numbers. The three interceptions aren't typical Brady, and Feeley was guilty of that.

No one will ever compare Feeley's arm strength to Brett Favre. But for one night he was the gunslinger who made you squirm.

He gave everyone a football game.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

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