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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 23 - 02:00 PM | Wed Apr 24 - 11:55 AM

5 Keys from Patriots opening loss to Eagles

Here are the immediate key takeaways from the Patriots

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The Patriots welcomed Tom Brady back on Sunday afternoon, honoring the all-time great with a halftime ceremony, but Brady's return was not enough to get the team a win on the scoreboard as they fell to the Eagles, 25-20.

It was a nightmare start for New England, with a pick-six and a fumble that turned into another touchdown quickly putting the Pats in a points deficit, but they'd climb back into the game powered by a stout defensive performance that forced four-straight Eagles punts and an offense that came alive in the second quarter with two touchdowns.

However, Philadelphia's offense came back to life in the second half just enough to add three additional field goals that would be the eventual difference. Mac Jones and the New England offense couldn't rediscover their touchdown magic from the first half as New England's attack went cold again in the second half until it was too late.

A late Eagles fumble gave the Pats a late chance to get into the end zone for the win, but that drive fizzled in four plays, sealing New England's fate. They'd get still another chance with time running out after a defensive stop, but the final drive would come to a stop at the Eagles' 20-yard-line.

Here are the key takeaways from the loss.

Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (91) and linebacker Matthew Judon (9).
Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (91) and linebacker Matthew Judon (9).

Patriots start sloppy

Despite the rainy conditions, the Eagles had a strong start to the game, first engineering a 61-yard field goal drive on their opening possession while throwing a heavy dose of their run game at the Patriots. Philly converted three third downs on the drive, with Hurts running a QB draw on a 3rd-and-11 to pick up 14 yards himself. However, the Patriots were able to get a red zone stop thanks to a Matthew Judon sack that came off a zero blitz to hold the Eagles to a field goal. It was a little taste of the old bend-don't-break.

The Patriots moved the ball well on the opening plays of their first possession picking up 34 yards but on the first third down they faced Mac Jones' throw deflected off of Kendrick Bourne's hands and into the arms of Darius Slay who returned the interception for a 70-yard touchdown that extended the Eagles lead to 10-0.

Matters got worse on the very next play of New England's second possession with Ezekiel Elliott coughing up a fumble on a screen play that was recovered by Philadelphia deep in Patriots territory. Four plays later Hurts threw a five-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to extend the led the lead to 16-0 with a missed extra point.

Not much went right for the Patriots in the opening quarter, with two turnovers and two penalties, along with an extended seven-plus-minute drive to open the game. It was about as sloppy as it gets and they quickly found themselves in a 16-0 hole.

Patriots defensive lineman Davon Godchaux (92) and linebacker Matthew Judon (9).
Patriots defensive lineman Davon Godchaux (92) and linebacker Matthew Judon (9).

Defenses take over

After the Eagles built their 16-0 lead the two defenses too over and turned the game into a punt-fest from the mid-1st quarter into the 2nd quarter. Both teams would go three-and-out three straight times, with the Patriots keeping the Eagles pinned deep in their own end.

Rookie Bryce Baringer contributed two nice punts, not allowing the Eagles to get out of their own territory and then the Pats defense kicked into gear, showing tight, disciplined coverage that held up. Their run defense was equally stout as the defense closed the door when they had to to keep the game within reach.

Offensively, the Patriots had the same kind of problems, struggling to pick up yards either through the air or on the ground. Juju Smith-Schuster's third-down drop of a would-be conversion was a disappointing moment as the Pats tried to get something going. The team liberally used two-back sets with Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott both on the field, but couldn't translate the formation to production.

New England finally broke through with their first third-down conversion midway through the second quarter when Jones hit Mike Gesicki for his first reception as a Patriot. Smith-Schuster added in a third-down conversion reception a few plays later of his own as New England's offense started to show signs of life.

Patriots offense wakes up, surges

After the defense forced a third-straight punt the offense finally found their stride, getting third-down conversions to Gesicki and Smith-Schuster, while rookie Demario Douglas chipped in a 23-yard reception downfield.

Jones hit Hunter Henry from nine yards out for the Pats' first scoring play of the season, a nicely placed ball that Henry managed to secure while remaining in bounds. Henry, named a captain for the first time this week, had just two touchdown receptions last season and already looks poised to get back closer to his total of nine from 2021.

After starting the season off with two turnovers and three punts, the offense's 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive closed the gap to 16-7 and got the fans inside the stadium back into the game. Mac hit Douglas for one big play and just missed Kendrick Bourne on another one as the offense started pushing the ball down the field more.

Meanwhile, the defense continued their stout play, forcing a fourth-straight punt as New England continued to gain momentum after the shoddy start.

Mac and the offense resumed moving the ball on the ensuing possession, with Henry picking up two more catches of 13 yards each. After an eight-yard scramble, Mac would fire a laser up the seam, hitting Kendrick Bourne for a second second-quarter touchdown that made it 16-14 at the half.

Just like that, the Patriots were back in the game, setting up an intriguing second half with Mac firing away all over the field, distributing the ball around to all his receivers.

Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84).
Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84).

Bend Don't Break, Not Enough

After two scoring drives to end the first half, the Patriots received the ball to open the second half and went cold, going three-and-out and punting the ball back to the Eagles. Philly was able to get their offense in gear on that drive, but the Patriots defense continued to make it tough on them, getting another stop thanks to first, a drawn hold by Deatrich Wise and then, a pass rush pressure by Keion White who got a hand on Hurts arm as he attempted a third-down throw that fell incomplete.

White had a strong debut, consistently finding his way into the backfield in limited snaps. The Eagles settled for a long field goal of 56 yards to extend their lead to 19-16 in the third quarter. Their first points of the game since scoring off of Elliott's fumble.

After another New England punt, the Eagles would add another three with an 11-play, 53-yard drive. The Pats had their chances to get off the field, including a third down where they had Hurts pinned in the backfield, but the quarterback escaped and picked up enough yardage to get his team within striking distance.

Philly continued to extend their lead carrying a 22-14 lead in the fourth quarter, putting the pressure on Mac Jones and the Patriots offense to break their two-possession rut, but even a promising Patriots drive in the fourth quarter came up empty.

Another Eagles field goal, their third of the second half, looked like it put the game away at 25-14 though New England would finally get back into the end zone with Rhamondre Stevenson which added some late-game intrigue. Still down by five, Jabrill Peppers made what was almost the biggest play of the game, hitting Jalen Hurts on a scramble and forcing a fumble that was recovered by Marcus Jones.

It was an unexpected and thrilling twist that gave New England a shot at the win but one they were unable to take advantage of as the offense lost a net of seven yards. Another final possession also fell short as New England was unable to pull out the late-game win despite two excellent chances at it.

Patriots are 0-1

With the loss, the Patriots have started their season off with a defeat for the third straight year. The start was a killer that the Pats couldn't quite overcome, posting two turnovers on their first two possessions that quickly led to a double-digit deficit. Despite the rough first quarter, the Patriots showed a lot of poise that many teams may not have. They closed the gap to just two points at halftime with strong defense and an offense that suddenly showed the ability to push the ball down the field and get the Eagles vaunted defense off balance. Unfortunately, the offense went cold in the second half and the defense couldn't maintain their mid-game shutout mode.

After flashing signs of promise in all three phases, the '23 Pats now must figure out how to start and end games better. If they do that, New England showed they could hang with even a team as talented as the Eagles.

Next up for the Pats is an even bigger game, a matchup against their divisional rival the Miami Dolphins. Miami has won four of their last five against the Patriots, with the Patriots still looking for their first defeat of Miami with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback.

It's an important division game, one that will very likely have implications at the end of the season. It's a victory that the 0-1 Patriots now badly need.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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