Trick play on kickoff, blocked punt hurt Patriots as game tied at halftime

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are tied at 14 at halftime, and special teams have hurt the Patriots.

They had just taken a 14-0 lead on Danny Amendola's 11-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady midway through the second quarter when the call was made for some special-teams trickery on the ensuing kickoff.

Instead of kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicking off, safety Nate Ebner instead attempted a 24-yard drop kick that Eagles receiver Seyi Ajirotutu fielded at the Philadelphia 41-yard line and didn't try to advance it.

At a time when the Patriots had created some separation from the Eagles, and Gillette Stadium was rocking, that took a little bit of air out of things. And when the Eagles drove 59 yards for their first touchdown to close the gap, it changed the dynamic of the game.

Why the trickery?

The Patriots obviously saw something on film that they felt they could exploit and practiced it. It's similar, albeit with different execution, from the onside kick they attempted in the first half against Washington on Nov. 8.

When those plays work, as they did against Washington, they are often viewed as genius. When they don't, it opens the decision up to scrutiny.

That was one of two special teams plays that hurt the Patriots in the first half.

The second came when Eagles linebacker Najee Goode rushed through the gap between Geneo Grissom and Darius Fleming on the punt-protection unit late in the second quarter and blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown.

Not a good showing by the Patriots' special teams.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have struggled along the offensive line to protect Brady consistently. That has made things difficult on offense at times. Defensively, they're playing primarily a three-safety nickel package and the Eagles' fast tempo and running game has challenged them.

The Patriots get the ball to open the second half.