Defeat Is an Orphan That's the Subject of Many Paternity TestsIn no particular order, here are the leading theories as to how the Eagles, a team best described by the newspaper word "disarray," were able to upset the Patriots 35-28 yesterday.
Lost the Big Plays Theory
Primary advocate: Bill Belichick, who said, "give up 21 points without your defense on the field, a team is going to lose 98 percent of those games."
Primary argument for theory: Truth and logic. Any other coach, one would assume they made up that 98 percent statistic. Belichick, no. It just popped out of one the dustier cabinets in the endless Hall of Football Knowledge in his brain.
The Eagles aren't a good team and the Patriots are. But New England gave away 21 points, which is more than twice the spread Las Vegas was willing to give Philadelphia before the game. A coast-to-coast pick six is about the single most game-determining catastrophe there is. Having a punt blocked for a touchdown is a close second. Punt returned for TD is maybe fourth. All three in one game? Instant defeat.
Primary drawback to theory: Has a total lack of the hot takes so necessary for today's NFL commentators.
Primary advocate: Eagles players, who said the Pats' failed pooch rugby onside kick while leading 14-0 insulted them, leading to added motivation for revenge.
Primary argument for theory: Well, the Eagles ought to know how they felt during the game, and things certainly seemed to go straight to hell for the Pats thereafter.
Primary drawback for theory: It's hooey. The Eagles entered the game with the most compelling motivation in pro football. Players and coaches were in serious jeopardy of losing jobs due to the ongoing debacle of the 2015 season. Players expound nonsense like the karma theory because they believe their psychological states are somehow more important their physical abilities, near-superhuman skills they tend for granted. They also believe "we made the big plays" is not a hot enough take to get them on SportCenter.
Panic at the Top Theory
Primary advocate: Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, who said poor decision-making by Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady was a major factor in the loss, and was caused by their dismay at the continued casualty rate on the New England offense.
Primary argument for theory: Neither coach nor QB had a very good game. Belichick's tactical decisions swung between hyper-aggression and a curious diffidence, with unhappy results in each mode. Brady threw two of the most misguided interceptions of his career.
Primary drawback: Fails the smell, eye, and other of the five senses tests. Panic? Brady? Belichick? They wouldn't get rattled if Gillette Stadium caught fire. Each man was plenty unhappy after the game, and Brady was harshly critical of his own decisions, but if either displayed the slightest sense of desperation or alarm, I couldn't see it.
Attrition theory: All those injuries have finally caught up to the Patriots, making them about 75 percent of the team they were in September and vulnerable to any NFL rival in any game.
Primary argument for theory: Plausibility, plus Brady's passing stat lines for the past three games. He was sacked four times and hit over a dozen more by the Eagles. You know what else besides panic leads to poor decisions? Having the crap knocked out of you for three hours.
Primary drawback to theory: Insufficient evidence. A road loss in Denver means Denver remains a tough place to play. Subtract the 21 blown points, and what's the score yesterday? Brady was at his best at game's end, when the effect of getting battered should have been most evident. If the Pats lose in Houston Sunday night, the attrition theory will have its day in the sun, but not yet.
S@$! Happens Theory
Primary advocate: Me. It's my belief based on experience that every NFL team, including the eventual Super Bowl champion, turns in one completely horrible stinkeroo game each season.
Primary argument for theory: The Pats sure stunk, plus history. Look back no further than 2014 and Chiefs 41-eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots 14.
Primary drawback to theory: Again, insufficient evidence. Should New England rout the Texans next Sunday, I will regard my theory as vindicated once more. It could be invalidated, too, of course.
Secondary drawback to theory: It's a lukewarm take at best.