PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles hit their peak too early Sunday.
They followed an encouraging start with a lousy finish in a 17-10 loss to New England at Lincoln Financial Field.
The defeat, combined with Dallas’ 27-21 victory over Detroit, left the Eagles (5-5) one game behind the Cowboys (6-4) in the NFC East with six regular-season games remaining.
“The guys are disappointed and frustrated,” coach Doug Pederson said. “They understand we’re a better football team than we showed tonight.”
The Eagles jumped to a 10-0 lead with a field goal and an impressive 95-yard touchdown drive, but the offense stalled as if it had run out of gas over the final three quarters.
“We had some positives early with the field goal and long drive,” Pederson said. “But after that, we kind of felt ourselves going backwards. Penalties, turnovers and just a lack of production kind of stymied us.”
Tom Brady and the Patriots (9-1) weren’t much better but were good enough.
The Pats relied on a little razzle-dazzle to take the lead on their first possession of the second half.
Brady tossed a lateral to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who then hit wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. Running back James White ran in the two-point conversion for a 17-10 Patriots lead.
Brady completed 26 of 47 passes for 216 yards.
Without wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey (ankle) and leading rusher Jordan Howard (shoulder), the Eagles offense never developed any consistency. It got even worse when right tackle Lane Johnson left the game early in the second quarter with a concussion.
Wentz was under constant duress, getting sacked five times and absorbing at least a half-dozen other hits. That pressure, combined with the lack of reliable receivers other than tight end Zach Ertz, kept the offense from gaining any rhythm for most of the game.
Wentz completed 20 of 36 passes for 214 yards with one TD and one turnover via a fumble.
Wide receivers Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside combined for six receptions for 75 yards.
Running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott team up for 64 yards on 18 carries. Jay Ajayi, who was re-signed Friday, was in uniform but didn’t play.
“You’d love to have all your guys,” Pederson said. “But this is the National Football League. Other guys have to step up and make plays.”
One of the few exceptions to the ineptitude was their second drive.
They moved 95 yards in 16 plays, chewing up yards and the clock with short passes and runs. Wentz capped it with a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Dallas Goedert that gave the Eagles their 10-point lead.
They had one more opportunity late in the game. Wentz hit Arecega-Whiteside for a 29 yards, his first reception since the third game of the season against Detroit, and found Agholor for 19 to put the Eagles at the Patriots’ 26-yard line.
With the fans on their feet, Agholor couldn’t hold on to Wentz’s fourth-and-10 pass in the back of the end zone with 58 seconds remaining.
The Eagles’ defense played well enough to win. Linebackers Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill and cornerbacks Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox helped limit the Pats to just one touchdown.
The unit came up with a big goal-line stand in the second quarter, forcing three incompletions from the 4-yard line that ended with the second of Nick Folk’s three field goals.
“Our defense kept us in the football game for the most part,” Pederson said. “Our offense just failed to execute. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Note: Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced Johnson at right tackle.