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Coming Attractions: Win over Pats puts Eagles in thick of NFC East race

By Jay Skurski

NEWS SPORTS REPORTER

1. They’re not out of it in the wide-open NFC East. Despite a 5-7 record, the Eagles could be tied for the NFC East lead if Dallas beats Washington on Monday Night Football (although the Redskins do own a head-to-head win). That speaks to the terribleness that is their division more than it does anything good the Eagles have done, but Philadelphia gets big-time credit for staying in the race by knocking off New England on Sunday. That represents one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this season. The win put an end to a three-game losing streak, and should at least temporarily quiet speculation about whether coach Chip Kelly will be fired at the end of the season.

2. Special teams played a big role in Sunday’s win. The Eagles were able to shock New England by getting contributions from all three phases of the game. Eagles safety Chris Maragos blocked a New England punt that was recovered by linebacker Najee Goode and returned for a 24-yard touchdown, while Darren Sproles returned a punt 83 yards for a score as the Eagles got two touchdowns on special teams. Safety Malcolm Jenkins also intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. That’s 206 yards on three returns, resulting in three touchdowns.

3. They’ve got a new starting running back. Sproles took that job over from DeMarco Murray against the Patriots, although the Eagles did use a rotation between those two and Kenjon Barner. Ryan Mathews missed the game because of a concussion. Sproles finished with 15 carries for 66 yards, while Barner had nine for 39 and Murray got eight for just 24 yards. As a team, Philadelphia finished with 128 yards on 33 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per rush. After finishing ninth in rushing last season as a team, the Eagles have dropped back to 13th this year.

4. Kiko Alonso hasn’t done much. The linebacker, acquired in a trade with the Bills in exchange for running back LeSean McCoy in the offseason, had just 17 tackles and an interception on the season entering Sunday’s game against New England. Alonso suffered a knee injury in Week Two against Dallas and missed the next five games. He returned to the lineup following Philadelphia’s bye in Week Eight, but had just 10 tackles in four games before facing the Patriots.

5. They’ve got a decision to make at quarterback this offseason. Starter Sam Bradford is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and has not played well enough to justify a big contract. In nine starts before Sunday (he missed two games because of a concussion and separated shoulder), Bradford had thrown for 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He went 14 of 24 for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Patriots.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com