|A.J. Feeley threw for a career-high 345 yards, despite constant pressure from Adalius Thomas and the Patriots. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
FOXBOROUGH - The Eagles were without injured quarterback Donovan McNabb for their rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots last night at Gillette Stadium, but backup A.J. Feeley gave Philadelphia as good a chance as any team has had this season to wreck New England's run at perfection.
Feeley, making his first start since 2004, passed for a career-high 345 yards and three touchdowns, but threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and the Patriots hung on for a 31-28 win to keep their undefeated season (11-0) intact.
Feeley, who completed 27 of 45 passes, played well, but took little consolation in coming close to being the first team to beat the Patriots.
"The feeling's not bittersweet, it's just bitter," Feeley said. "To come up short like that, personally I take it on my back."
The Eagles led, 28-24, with 1:34 left in the third quarter after Feeley's 8-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Brown. The Patriots went ahead on Laurence Maroney's 4-yard TD run with 7:20 left.
After Maroney's score, Feeley guided the Eagles to the New England 29, completing 5 of 6 passes on the drive. On second and 4, Feeley launched a deep ball toward the end zone that cornerback Asante Samuel corralled for his second pick of the night.
Kevin Curtis was the nearest receiver, but Feeley said he was just trying to get rid of the ball.
"I felt some pressure and I was trying to put it in the back of the end zone, but [Samuel] was so deep he ended up making a play on it," he said.
Samuel intercepted Feeley on the third play from scrimmage, returning it 40 yards for his third career regular-season touchdown. Linebacker Adalius Thomas had charged up the middle at Feeley just before he let the ball go.
"Again, I was trying to get rid of it," Feeley said. "That's not the way you want to start the game, but you have four quarters to play and you have to bounce back. That play didn't even enter my thoughts the rest of the game."
James Sanders intercepted Feeley with 18 seconds left to end Philadelphia's comeback bid.
McNabb sprained his ankle and jammed his thumb last week against the Dolphins. Feeley came in to complete 13 of 19 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia's 17-7 win.
Last night, Feeley connected with wide receiver Greg Lewis for a pair of TDs, and with the touchdown pass to Brown, the Eagles became just the second team (along with the Colts) to lead the Patriots in the third quarter this season.
"I thought [Feeley] did a heck of a job," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I know he had those picks, but he came back after the first one to rally the troops and he stayed aggressive. He got the ball out fast and made some plays."
Feeley, in his eighth season, is in his second stint with the Eagles. Back in 2002, he was thrust into the starting role for the final five games when injuries sidelined McNabb and Koy Detmer. Feeley posted a 4-1 record.
"We knew he could [do what he did last night]," Reid said. "We know what kind of player he is. We're very confident in him. He's won some games for us before. We expected him to step in and do a nice job for us."
In 2004, when the Patriots stormed into Miami with a 12-1 record, Feeley was the Dolphins starting quarterback and, on a fourth-and-10 play, threw a go-ahead 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:23 to play. The Dolphins held on for a 29-28 win.
Feeley was 3-5 in eight starts for the Dolphins and was traded to San Diego after 1 1/2 seasons in Miami. He returned to Philadelphia last season.