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3 Promising Performances from Patriots Loss to Eagles

Here are three performances from the Patriots' loss to the Eagles to feel good about moving forward in 2023.

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The Patriots fell just short against the Eagles to start their 2023 season, mainly due to a slow start that included two turnovers, and a stagnant finish that bookended the effort. Still, there were quite a few positives to take away from the loss, and as the team shifts their focus to a nationally televised divisional contest with far greater implications than the opener against an NFC opponent these will be the things to build upon.

Here are three promising performances to take away from a disappointing first result.

Mac Jones & the Fight

Things looked pretty bleak after the Pats found themselves in a 16-0 hole early in the first quarter. Turnovers and penalties littered the start and those were followed up with three straight three-and-outs, but in the second quarter, the offense turned things around and climbed back into the contest when it might've been easy to fold.

Mac Jones led the way on the turnaround, completing 12 consecutive passes during the team's two second-quarter touchdown drives. Mac finished both drives off with touchdown strikes, as the offense showed early strides in the red zone, a spot where they finished 32nd in the NFL last season. They weren't able to recapture that magic at the end of the game, but the early results are already showing up.

Jones was hard on himself in the defeat, despite the positive strides.

"They gave me the ball twice to win the game, and I couldn't do it," admitted Mac post-game. "I just got to go back and watch and see what I can do better, but as a quarterback, that hurts, right? You get a chance to win the game twice and can't do it. You just got to learn from it. You only get so many opportunities in the NFL to do that, and I felt like I definitely let the team down."

Despite the ending and failure to score on their final two drives, Mac's teammates had his back after the defeat.

"I'll just say this about Mac, I'll go to battle with number 10 any day of the week," said Hunter Henry, who caught one of Mac's touchdown passes. "I love competing with that guy every single day, and I'll go to war with him wherever it is, man – conditions cold, rainy, beautiful day, a hot day, whatever it is. The dude's a competitor, and it's fun to go out there and play with a guy like that."

After spending much of the 2022 season trying to find their stride on offense, the early returns are already more promising in 2023. As is the fight that the team showed, a resiliency that they'll need as they continue their daunting slate of games this fall.

"I loved the way that we fought as a full team," said Henry. "It obviously didn't start the way we wanted it to start, at all, but for no one for back down, and continue to compete play after play after play. I mean, that's a great football team over there; it really is. You know, they beat us today, but I was proud of the way that we competed and just continued to fight. We didn't come out with the result that we wanted, but I was proud of that fight."

Maybe that fight was a surprise to some, but not to Matthew Judon, who said he knew all along that this is a team ready to battle through all the twists and turns.

"I didn't learn anything I didn't already know," said Judon. "That's for y'all. Y'all learn what we have in this locker room. Y'all learn what it's going to look like on Sundays or whenever we play. That's what y'all learn. We didn't learn anything new tonight."

Rookies

The Patriots had no problem getting a huge number of their rookies involved. In all, ten rookies made their debuts and while there were some ups and downs scattered through their performances, the major presence and contributions of the rookie class is an excellent sign.

On special teams, Chad Ryland wasn't called on for a field goal but made both of his extra point attempts, while Bryce Baringer was a big part in maintaining field position during the second quarter. Ameer Speed got in for 17 special teams snaps as well.

Offensively, Kayshon Boutte played more than two-thirds of the snaps, while Pop Douglas had four catches for 40 yards from his 33 snaps. Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow went wire to wire at guard and were part of a patchwork offensive line that allowed just two sacks.

"I think starting two rookies on the offensive line is tough, and they played really, really good all night," said Mac. "Didn't really feel the pressure at all against the best defensive line in the NFL. I felt like they did an amazing job. Couldn't thank them enough for the job they did tonight and just have to grow and continue on."

"I thought they did a good job," said David Andrews of the rookies who played on either side of him. "They got a lot of reps all summer, I think that helped them. You've got to learn the hard way, right? So, you learn by going out there – we all do, right? By taking our licks and bumps, getting beat and things like that. So they'll have a lot to clean up, we'll all have a lot to clean up from this game. I'm proud of the way they competed, the way they answered against a really good defensive football team and arguably one of the best fronts in football."

On defense, Christian Gonzalez played every snap, Keion White immediately looked disruptive in his 23 snaps and Marte Mapu was eased in with nine snaps and picked up two solo tackles while shifting between safety and linebacker. Gonzalez also picked up a sack and came through with a key fourth-down pass defense, earning praise from captain Ja'Whaun Bentley.

"Attention to detail. I would say that was the thing across the board, especially when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the game, when it comes to two-minute situations and fourth downs, the situational football," said Bentley of what stood out to him about Gonzalez. "Him as well as Te [Marte Mapu] when he was in the game, just having attention to detail and kind of knowing what we're trying to get done and what Philly wants to do, just doing well in those situations, I thought he did a solid job today."

Matthew Judon had even loftier praise for the rooks on the defensive side of the ball.

"It's a, 'Welcome to the NFL.' We knew when we drafted them, when we got them in here and actually put pads on that they were really good players," said Judon. "I think for Gonzo [Christian Gonzalez] to go out there and play the way he played, for Keion to get in and play how physical he played, Marte was in the game, him making plays just kind of all over the field. I don't really know Marte's background too much; I watched highlights and stuff, things like that. But, for him to be able to play linebacker, safety and outside linebacker, that's kind of unbelievable. As a rookie, those three guys had a lot of big plays. They handled it tonight exceptionally. They went out there and played their butts off."

Defense

Perhaps lost in the loss will be the performance of the defense, who kept the team in the game when things were hanging by a thread and Philly was leading by double-digits. The Eagles converted just 4-of-14 third downs and were stopped on their only fourth down attempt. Holding a vaunted offense like Philly's to just 250 yards was evidence that the 2023 Patriots defense could be even better than their recent units.

"That's a really good defense. They are really well-coached," said Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. "There's a couple that I saw, Smitty [DeVonta Smith], little throws on the sideline where I saw Smitty get out of those and spin out of those and they made really good tackles. That team, shoot, Bill Belichick-coached team, it's going to be well-coached, and I thought that's exactly what it was."

While Devonta Smith and A.J. Brown both saw plenty of targets, the Patriots held tight end Dallas Goedert without a catch and just a single target. That was part of a bigger plan that had the Pats containing Jalen Hurts in the pocket, taking away the big plays and forcing continued execution. After an opening scoring drive of 61 yards, no other Eagles drive went longer than 50 yards. The bend-don't-break was strong for New England, and they didn't even really bend all that much.

Sirianni acknowledged the Patriots did a good job of taking the tight end out of the game.

"[Goedert's] too good of a playmaker but there are some things that the Patriots did that made it difficult for us to be able to get him some quick, easy touches," said Sirianni. "So that happens, and so some of the plays that you think you can get easy touches for your guys, quick, don't necessarily happen for your backs and tight ends when you play a Patriots-style defense, and so again, hats off to them. They made it hard for us to get the ball to our playmakers, and that's what a defense like that usually does is try to take away your good play-makers, so we had to get it to the other guys."

Smith came up with a touchdown in the game as part of his seven-catch, 47-yard performance.

"That's a great defense. They do a great job disguising the coverage and things like that. They make it very tough for me to know what they're in. They hold their coverage and disguise it until the last second. They are very athletic, a very fast defense and a very physical defense."

Lastly came the big plays at the end, a characteristic of the best defenses in the league. With the Eagles looking to run out the clock, the defense got the ball back to the offense for a chance to win not just once, but twice. Jabrill Peppers forced a fumble after a hard hit on Jalen Hurts that was almost the game-defining play. After a year of getting healthy and accustomed to New England's defense, Peppers played 88 percent of the snaps on defense and almost half of the special teams. He's an emerging player from a surging defense. He had six total tackles, a pass defensed and the forced fumble.

"Jabrill walks around the weight room and the locker room shadowboxing, so we know he's a physical guy. You're going to hear him regardless," said Judon. "Last year, it was unfortunate that we couldn't get him on the field as much. Last year, we were kind of in the same situation and he told me, 'Go out there and make a play.' Today, I told him that, and in the first down, he got us the ball back. That's what we needed, and I think we're going to see a lot more of those type of plays: big hits, big spot. It was just a good play by a great player."

"We're always up for the challenge," said Peppers of the defensive performance. "Everybody knows if you're out there, you're capable. We expect you to do your job, the standard. We all know the standard. I think we played pretty close to it, but it wasn't good enough to win, so you have to do better."

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