Still on pace for perfection
Pats shouldn't feel bad about close win over Eagles
Posted: Monday November 26, 2007 1:59AM; Updated: Monday November 26, 2007 2:03AM
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Dispatches from that wildly entertaining and better-than-we-ever-expected Eagles-Patriots game at the Big Razor Blade on Sunday night ...
They had to earn this one. Work for it. Break an honest to goodness sweat. Pitch a tent and make a night of it.
But in the end, when they added up the pluses and stacked them against the minuses, the New England Patriots still protected everything that really matters. They lost nothing but a little aura of invincibility, and the truth is, that could wind up being a good thing. Their perfect record is intact at 11-0, and so is their clear-cut path to history, which just got narrowed to a five-game march through the month of December.
The Patriots were severely tested by the prideful Eagles in their 31-28 victory -- their closest game of this memorable season -- but ultimately the lessons they learned didn't cost them any of their goals. New England was reminded that no team, no matter how talented, can play its A game every week in the NFL. The league is too tough, the season too long. Some games you just survive, and tip your hat to an opponent that nearly had the measure of you.
There's no shame in that.
"It was just one of those games,'' Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said afterward. "A bad day. You ever wake up and just have a bad day? But we hung in there. We were very resilient. We showed a lot of character, a lot of heart. It wasn't going to be easy.
"You're not going to be able to play your best game each and every week. But the thing that's positive, the thing that's encouraging is that we were able to pull it out despite not playing particularly well. You can't take away from what (the Eagles) did. They came out and they handed it to us. They came into a hostile environment and they were able to make plays all over the field. But at the end, we were able to clinch, and that's the important thing.''
As close a call as it was for New England, the Patriots drove for the go-ahead touchdown on offense when they had to -- scoring midway through the fourth quarter -- and came up with the game-saving interception when they had to (by cornerback Asante Samuel, with 3:52 remaining). That's what the good teams do. Do it enough, and you're a great team.
Something tells me the Patriots have one or two more of these nail-biters coming this season, and Sunday night's tense unfolding of events might be a resource that New England draws on for positive muscle memory.
"It gives you confidence, confidence in the team and confidence in the other players,'' Harrison said. "You're not going to blow people out by 30 points every game. Especially in November and December, when it starts getting cold outside and you can't really pass the ball as much, and you have to do different things. It helps build confidence to know when a game is close we can pull it out.''