Philadelphia -- To sort of steal a phrase from FDR, the Patriots have no offense to fear but their offense itself. It was once again its own worst enemy as Bledsoe and the gang fumbled (five of them, three lost), bumbled (six Bledsoe sacks) and threw interceptions (four) on its way to a 24-9 loss to the now 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles in Veterans Stadium.
The loss dropped New England to 7-7 and if it didn't mathematically kill their playoff chances, it spurred cries of euthanasia across the Patriots valley.
It was without question New England's poorest game of the season. It committed seven turnovers and that total could have easily been in double digits. As spirited as the 3-11 Eagles played this was clearly a game in which New England lost rather than was beaten. If it wasn't turnovers, it was an offensive line which couldn't hold its own, Bledsoe misfiring or receivers dropping balls. On the day, Bledsoe had 331 yards passing but the total can be completely discarded when the six sacks and four interceptions are factored in.
The Patriots did their best impression of the Keystone Cops in the first half. The wackiness reached its height during the second quarter. Here's the sequence: The Eagles were forced to punt on their own 28. Larry Whigham broke clean and made a beautiful block. While he celebrated with his back to the play, the Eagles recovered the loose ball and wound up with a first down on its 36. No damage was done as the Eagles could do no better than a missed 51-yard field goal.
The Patriots took over and quickly found themselves in great shape on the Eagles 7 after a 41-yard reception by Jefferson. Terry Allen got it to the 2 but a 4-yard stuff and then a Bledsoe sack for 19 yards forced the Patriots to settle for a 43-yard field goal.
Patriots kickoff, Marty Moore forces a fumble which Troy Brown recovers. Bledsoe throws his second pick of the game, this one to Al Harris who takes it 75 yards. He fumbles and Brian Dawkins picks it up and is finally tackled by Tony Carter on the New England 11. Koy Detmer hits Torrance Small over the middle for the touchdown. The half ended with the Eagles up, 17-6.
Turnovers were the name of the game in the first quarter and the tally was well on the side of the Eagles. Four times the Patriots fumbled, twice losing possession. Throw in a Bledsoe interception to Jeremiah Trotter that set up a 50-yard Detmer to Small touchdown pass on the next play, and the Patriots had no chance.
It was Kato Serwanga who was in coverage when Small broke free. It may have been safety help that never came, but the play reminded everyone that starting corners Ty Law and Steve Israel were not on the field for New England.
The score gave the Eagles an early 10-0 lead.
The Patriots finally got on the scoreboard on the next drive with a 23-yard Vinatieri field goal.
New England handed the Eagles their first score when Tony Simmons ran up the back of one of his own blockers on the opening kickoff. He fumbled, the Eagles recovered and Philly wound up with a 43-yard field goal after the Patriots defense allowed minus-1 yards in three plays.
After a half that resembled an out-of-control video game, the Patriots aimed to settle down in the second half. They did just that in their first drive keeping to the ground for five plays and earning a 46-yard field goal to move within eight at 17-9. On the drive, Allen ran for 15 yards while Lamont Warren had a nice 14-yard run.
The return to normalcy didn't last long. After the Patriots held the Eagles to three and out, they took over on their own 36. On the first play, Bledsoe was stripped in the pocket by Tyrone Williams and Steve Martin recovered.
Not to be outdone, Detmer lofted a pass into the end zone just as Willie McGinest laid a vicious hit on him. Kato Serwanga fielded the pop-up for the interception and the Patriots had the ball back on their 20. But the Patriots went three and out and neither team could take advantage of the turnovers.
The Eagles moved to a 24-9 lead when they found themselves in good field position due to the Patriots punting from their own 14 and Detmer found Dietrich Jells over the middle. The ex-Patriot finished the 48-yard pass play with Chris Carter in pursuit