The Patriots put together a solid showing in their second preseason game of 2021 against the Eagles, winning the game 35-0, but more importantly making good strides as the regular season rapidly approaches.
Defensively, the team got off to a great start, capitalizing on a botched snap which the offense then turned into an early lead. From there, the Pats would keep rolling with both Cam Newton and Mac Jones under center, while the defense forced multiple turnovers, gave up just 163 yards of offense and allowed no points on the board.
After two joint practices and a satisfying win, it was a productive week in Philadelphia for the Pats, who now return home for the final preseason push.
Here are the five key takeaways from the win!
Newton, offense show strides
Cam Newton saw more extensive action this week than he saw last week and got a chance to show the development he's made within the Patriots' offense. Newton's decision-making, pocket comfort and delivery were all markedly improved from last season, as his most impressive throw of the night came on a late crosser to Jakobi Meyers, with Newton showing patience on the play.
Meyers then did his part and took into the end zone with some hard-nosed running. It had to sting a bit that the touchdown came in the preseason for Meyers, who is still in search of his first regular-season touchdown, but it was overall another strong performance for the Patriots' most consistent receiver this summer. He had three catches for 56 yards and the touchdown.
Newton would finish after three series, going 8-of-9 and throwing the one touchdown to Meyers. It was an encouraging performance and offered some reassurance as to why Newton has remained atop the New England depth chart this summer. Still, it was again a short sample size and next week's joint practices and game against the Giants should provide continued opportunity for Newton to make further strides before the opener.
Matt Judon is a force
Simply put, Judon has been all over the place for the Patriots defense this summer and he made another immediate impact against the Eagles, getting in on the botched snap that helped Jalen Mills recover the fumble for New England, then getting another pressure two possessions later that forced a punt. Judon's energy and physical play on the edge figures to be a huge part of the Patriots defense this season after he arrived signing a four-year deal this summer.
As a whole, the first-team defense forced a fumble and two straight punts before the team began to rotate in more players, but the performance did come against Joe Flacco and not Jalen Hurts, who was a thorn in their side during joint practices.
And again, pitching a shutout is something everyone on defense can feel pretty good about.
New-look backfield taking shape
A week after busting off a 91-yard touchdown run in his debut, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson put forth another intriguing performance with two more touchdowns. He showed some surprising speed last week, and now Stevenson showed some impressive power in this one. However, it wasn't all perfect from the rookie as he'd cough up a fumble in the fourth quarter, which should be a good teaching moment to take from the game for him.
Not to be outdone, Sony Michel also showed up positively, but most notably as a pass catcher, catching four balls for 37 yards, while also rushing for 34 yards. Michel is emerging to potentially play a more balanced role this season, a welcome relief after Rex Burkhead's departure. He could give the Patriots a more unpredictable offensive backfield.
Damien Harris was surprisingly quiet, picking up just 14 yards on five carries in the first quarter. Harris was often met in the backfield as the run game looked a bit out of sync early on in the game, something made even more surprising by New England's starting line going against the Eagles' second-teamers.
J.J. Taylor did his part again as well, largely against the Eagles' low-end backups, but looking quick and explosive while rushing for 93 yards and picking up a rushing touchdown of his own. He also returned punts, illustrating his value. As expected, he's making a strong case to make the roster once again.
Jones continues stacking valuable experience
Mac Jones entered the game early in the second quarter and led the offense to a 17-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. Jones converted a 3rd-and-13 from his own end zone on the drive, finding N'Keal Harry in a middle soft zone to keep the drive going. Jones would just miss Harry on the next drive with a long bomb, looking for the quick strike after the Patriots defense forced a fourth-down interception. It was the third time in two games Jones has just missed on a deep pass, but he continues to take shots and that's a good sign, and it's likely just a matter of time before he starts hitting them.
Jones would come out firing in the hurry-up offense in the second half, throwing for 54 yards on the drive, setting up another touchdown, this one a toss to J.J. Taylor. Then he'd lead another scoring drive on the ensuing drive, this one lasting nine plays with good run-pass balance. The offense was consistent with the rookie at the helm.
Jones showed good overall command, going 13-of-19 for 146 yards and, by putting together multiple sustained drives, again showed the remarkable progress he's made since arriving as a first-round draft pick in April.
It was not a night to remember for undrafted rookie kicker Quinn Nordin, who missed an early field goal attempt and then missed two straight extra points. After limited work in joint practices and limited time left in preseason, every kick counts for Nordin as he tries to dethrone veteran Nick Folk. Thursday night's performance might be unrecoverable for the youngster, depending on Folk's injury status and availability for the start of the regular season.
Nordin would hit a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter to bounce back, but the damage might've already been done.