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Eagles vs. Patriots: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Highlights and lowlights from Philadelphia’s Week 1 win.

Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

On a gray Sunday at soggy Gillette Stadium, the Eagles opened their 2023 season by winning a game against the New England Patriots that they were supposed to win, though not in the dominant fashion that they were expected.

The Eagles’ 25-20 victory was as sloppy as the weather.

The Eagles got in their own way more than New England, with a defense that produced as many touchdowns as the offense, accentuated by some of the dubious calls made by head coach Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts sudden inability to find open receivers down field.

The offense sputtered, and the so-called vaunted defensive line finished with two sacks against a Patriots team that was missing starting guards Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu, replaced by rookies Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow.

New Eagles’ defensive coordinator Sean Desai allowed New England quarterback Mac Jones to throw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, while new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson oversaw an offense that produced one touchdown—off a turnover—and that somehow forgot tailback D’Andre Swift, who had two touches, and tight end Dallas Goedert, who was targeted just once.

“Was it our cleanest performance offensively, no, we have a lot of mistakes to clean up and we have a short time to do so,” Sirianni said. “I think we didn’t finish some drives. We got into a rut in the second quarter, and ended finishing drives at the end of the game. There are a lot of good players on that Patriot defense.

“We weren’t winning on first down, and we were getting ourselves into second down, and that’s on everybody. Some of it was the run game, and some of it was the pass game.”

There was a trickling of good, some bad, and piles ugly—despite the fact that the Eagles escaped with a 25-20 victory.

The Good

Kicker Jake Elliott’s second-half field goals of 56, 48, which clanged off the left upright with 13:21 to play, and 51 yards was the difference. Elliott finished with four field goals overall and was one of a few positives on offense.

The Eagles first quarter defense, forcing two turnovers, which resulted in 13 points. The Eagles held New England 0-for-2 on third-down conversions and 35 yards of offense from scrimmage in the first quarter.

Receiver DeVonta Smith’s diving catch in the end zone, that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first quarter. The TD resulted off the Patriots’ second turnover. It was a nice touch by Hurts, who threw in the only place Smith could catch it, with Pat’s nickel back Marcus Jones closing from Smith’s right.

Defensive tackle Jordan Davis doubling back on the Pats’ first play of their second drive, stripping rusting Ezekiel Elliott from behind and linebacker Zach Cunningham on the spot at the New England 26 for a fumble recovery, which resulted in an Eagles’ 16-0 lead. The svelte Davis collapsed everything the Patriots tried up the middle.

Darius Slay’s 70-yard zig-zagging interception touchdown return in the first quarter, which was the Eagles’ first touchdown of the season and have them an early 10-0 lead. At the time, New England was moving the ball against the Eagles, but an errant throw by Jones was deflected and played wonderfully by Slay, who found his way to the end zone dodging Pats’ offensive players. Slay came up with another great play with 7:31 left in the first half, when Jones launched a long pass intended for Kendrick Bourne and Slay high-pointing it and smacking it away.

On the third play of the game, right guard Cam Jurgens pulling then crashing down on Patriots’ linebacker Jahlani Tavai to open up a gaping hole for Kenneth Gainwell to go slashing through the New England defense for a 16-yard run, which put the Eagles in New England territory.

The Eagles’ opening drive going 61 yards over 14 plays ending in a Jake Elliott 32-yard field goal. Gainwell looked great, with eight touches for 43 yards.

Safety Reed Blankenship played very well. He got stung once on the Pats’ first touchdown, but he led the Eagles with 12 tackles, nine solo, and he made some key plays, though they may have gone unnoticed. On third-and-17, with just under four minutes left in the third quarter, it was Blankenship that came up and forced a holding call downfield on rookie left guard Atonio Mofi, who did a nice overall job handing the Eagles up front. That forced New England into a third-and-21 at the Eagles’ 39. On third-and-10 at the Eagles’ 38, he pulled down Rhamondre Stevenson in the open field off a screen play for a two-yard gain with 12:17 to play.

Slotback Avonte Maddox coming up to make the negative stop on the Patriots’ third-and-21 with 3:37 left in the third quarter. The vital play pushed New England out of field goal range.

Hurts’ five-yard scramble on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 27 with 1:09 left to play.

Defensive tackle Flecther Cox placing pressure on Jones on consecutive plays with the Patriots driving with less than 10 minutes to play. On the first play, Cox took down Ezekiel Elliott for no gain on third-and-three at the Eagles’ 17, then followed up by forcing Jones to throw away a pass when New England tried converting on fourth-and-three.

Rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter’s three-yard sack on second-and-10 at the Eagles’ 19 with 51 seconds left to play. The sack was the second for the Eagles in the fourth quarter and plunged the Patriots into a third-and-13 at the 22. The Eagles survived the scare by stopping Jones and the Patriots when Kayshon Boutte could not get his left foot down in bounds.

The Bad

Hurts missing a wide-open Dallas Goedert twice in critical moments of the game. The first time came on a first-and-10 at the New England 46 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Hurts was looking for A.J. Brown, who was double-covered in the end zone, while Goedert slipped down the middle of the field uncovered. The second time came two plays later, on first-and-10 at the New England 22, when Hurts rolled right looking at Smith and didn’t see Goedert roaming free about 20 yards down field.

On the Eagles’ opening possession, Siriani’s call on first-and-10 at the Patriots’ 22. Why have Hurts roll right when the running game was smashing right through the Patriots at that stage of the game.

Maddox getting burned on Demario Douglas’ 23-yard reception on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 43. Three plays later, New England scored for the first time.

The Ugly

Hurts’ fumble with 3:28 left to play on a great midsection hit by safety Jabrill Peppers, who jolted the ball loose. New England’s Marcus Jones recovered at the Eagles’ 41. Why did Sirianni call that play, when Hurts could have simply handed it off to one of the running back and chewed up some clock? Or was it a case of Hurts trying too hard to be the hero by not sliding? Fortunately for the Eagles, the Patriots quarterback is Mac Jones.

Sirianni opting to go for it on fourth-and-two at the New England 44 with 1:57 to play. Hurts’ pass intended for Smith was batted away by corner Christian Gonzalez. Why go for it there with the game on the line and that much time left? Again, fortunately for the Eagles, the Patriots quarterback is Mac Jones.

Left tackle Jordan Mailata’s holding call on a first-and-10 at the Patriots’ 31 on the Eagles’ first drive of the second half. The flag short-circuited a promising series and eventually forced the Eagles into second- and third-and-long situations.

The Eagles blowing a timeout because of miscommunication with 8:52 left in the third quarter prior to Elliott’s 56-yarder. Elliott set up, and if you noticed, he raises in arms in frustration because the right personnel are not on the field, causing Sirianni to burn the TO.

The Eagles’ second quarter. Last year, the Eagles owned the second quarter. This was not a very good start to 2023. The offense underwent four-straight three-and-outs, which only happened once last year, though never under Hurts. The Eagles only picked up 19 yards of total offense, while the defense gave up 137 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, new/old Patriots’ offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien picked them apart once he figured them out. O’Brien found a soft underbelly through the middle of the field and Jones exploited it, ending the half by completing 10-straight passes. Everything the Eagles tried in the second quarter offensively was stymied after the first drive of the game. The Eagles established a new team record with 70 sacks last season and went the first 30 minutes without one—against two starting rookie guards.

The Eagles’ defensive front. The Eagles first quarterback hit did not come until there was 6:59 left in the third quarter.

Cornerback James Bradberry and safety Justin Evans getting burned by Pats’ receiver Kendrick Bourne on the 19-yard touchdown pass from Jones with 25 seconds left in the half. Bourne blew by Bradberry, but Evans, who was looked off by Jones, came over too late to help. The score pulled New England to within 16-14 at halftime and turned what was looking to be an Eagles’ blowout into a competitive game.

With 3:37 left to play, Bourne then made Slay and again Evans miss again when Jones hit him with an 11-yard TD pass that drew the Patriots to within 25-20.

Tight end Jack Stoll getting nailed for a chop block penalty on a second-and-seven at the Eagles’ 28 with 3:47 left in the half. The flag wiped out a 12-yard completion from Hurts to A.J. Brown, which would have given the Eagles a first down. In fairness to Stoll, the penalty was not intentional. As Stoll crossed over to block, he tripped over center Jason Kelce’s feet and careened low into

Blankenship getting stung by New England tight end Hunter Henry on the nine-yard touchdown Mac Jones. The pass sailed right over Blankenship’s head. It seemed all Blankenship had to do was out his hands up. It seems a problem Eagles’ defensive backs have traditionally had with not knowing where the ball is when thrown in their direction.

Bill Belichick catching Sirianni off guard on Hurts’ eight-yard sack by linebacker Matt Judon on the Eagles’ opening drive, forcing a field goal. Otherwise, it was a good start for the Eagles offense.

Jake Elliott’s missed extra point that would have put the Eagles up 17-0. Those early extra-point misses always seem to haunt the teams that miss them.

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for,,,, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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