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Eagles Overcome Lackluster Offense, Hang On to Beat Patriots

Sept. 11, 2023

Morgan Killian-Moseley

FOXBORO, Mass.- The Philadelphia Eagles first-string offense had not seen game action since Super Bowl LVII in February. And there was plenty of rust, as Jalen Hurts and company struggled to move the ball at times, especially near the red zone.

But they did enough to set up kicker Jake Elliott for four field goals, and the Eagles were able to escape Gillette Stadium with a 25-20 win over the New England Patriots, spoiling Tom Brady's jersey retirement party.

The first drive for Philadelphia stalled in the red zone, as Hurts was sacked on third-and-goal from the New England 6-yard line by Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon, resulting in Elliott's first field goal from 32 yards out; but the drive did take over seven minutes off the clock. 

New England had built some momentum on their first drive, but Eagles cornerback Darius Slay intercepted a pass from Patriots quarterback Mac Jones that deflected off the hands of receiver Kendrick Bourne and took it 70 yards for the Pick Six. The extra point from Jake Elliott would make it a 10-0 lead for the Eagles.

On the next play from scrimmage for New England, the Pats would cough the ball up yet again. Running back Ezekiel Elliott took a screen pass from Jones, but was stripped of the ball by Eagles defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Linebacker Zach Cunningham came up with it, and the Birds were in business yet again. The ensuing drive paid off with a five-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Devonta Smith, who "rocked the baby" in celebration of the birth of his daughter the day before. Jake Elliott missed the extra point, however, so the Philadelphia lead stood at 16-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

That lead would hold until less than five minutes in the second quarter, when Jones would find tight end Hunter Henry for a nine-yard scoring pass to put the Patriots on the board. And on their next drive Jones would find Bourne from 19 yards out to cut the Philadelphia lead to 16-14 at the half.

Jake Elliott would continue to prove his worth to Philadelphia, hitting a 56-yard boot with 8:48 left in the third quarter, and got a lucky doink on a 48-yarder early in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a 22-14 lead. He would also hit a 51-yarder clean through with 5:35 remaining to make it 25-14.

But the Pats would show major resilience, as on the next drive running back Rhamondre Stevenson would break off a 32-yard scamper on a screen that would help set up another Jones-Bourne connection, this one from 11 yards out. New England would go for two to make it a three-point game, and looked to have it on a scramble by Jones. But offensive lineman Calvin Anderson was called for holding, and the second attempt from the 12-yard line failed, keeping the score at 25-20.

The Eagles would try to chew up the remaining 3:35, as Hurts would call his own number on a QB keeper up the middle. But he was hit hard by New England safety Jabrill Peppers, and coughed up the football. Linebacker Marcus Jones scooped it up, and the Pats had life.

Ezekiel Elliott got five yards on first down. But after being held in check for the entire game, the vaunted Eagles D-Line finally got to Mac Jones, as Davis and Josh Sweat sacked him for a seven-yard loss. A 3rd-and-12 pass was broken up, and a 4th-and-17 after a delay of game penalty stood no chance.

Again the Eagles had a chance to salt the game away with 2:20 left, as one first down would end it, even though New England had all three timeouts plus the two-minute warning to help them. When the two-minute warning hit, the Birds had a 4th-and-2 at the New England 44. Traditional logic might dictate punting in situations like this to force the opponent to go the length of the field. But today's NFL head coach tends to go for it in "no man's land" situations like these, and Nick Sirianni was no exception. Unfortunately, the call didn't work out, as Hurts failed to connect with Smith, giving the Patriots one last chance.

The Pats offense certainly looked up to the task as Jones was able to extend the drive in the air and on the ground, getting New England into the red zone with less than a minute left. But Eagles rookie D-lineman Jalen Carter came up huge on 2nd-and-10 from the Philadelphia 19, collecting his first NFL sack and forcing the Patriots to burn their last timeout. 

After a quick dump off to Stevenson, it was 4th-and-11 from the 20 as the clock ticked inside 30 seconds to play. Jones found Kayshon Boutte on an out route for what looked to be a first down.But the signal came down from the replay booth to take a look. And the review revealed that Boutte had only gotten one foot down in bounds. It would have been a catch in college, but not in the pros. The Eagles took the ball on downs, and their fans exhaled.

This was not a good game for the Eagles offense as Hurts was 22-for-33 in passing attempts for 170 yards while adding 37 yards on nine attempts on the ground. Running back Kenneth Gainwell only managed 54 rushing yards. Through the air, A.J. Brown had 79 yards receiving, including a 23-yard catch in the 4th quarter which was the only 20+ yard play for the Eagles offense in the entire game. Smith added 47 yards and the lone touchdown for the Philadelphia offense. Shockingly, tight end Dallas Goedert, who was an essential part of the Eagles offense last season, did not have a single reception against New England, and was only targeted ONCE.

For the Patriots, Mac Jones was impressive, going 35-of-54 for 316 yards and three scores. Bourne and Stevenson each had 64 receiving yards, with Bourne finding the end zone twice. Henry added 56 receiving yards and a touchdown. Stevenson added only 25 yards on the ground, while Ezekiel Elliott led the sparsely-used New England ground game with just 29 rushing yards.

Things may have turned the Pats' way if the Eagles D hadn't forced turnovers on downs in three of New England's last four drives.

After the game, it was announced that Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean had sustained a foot injury and would be out multiple weeks. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the injury will not require surgery, but the injured reserve list with a designation to return may be an option.

In the post game press conference, Sirianni said that he regretted not giving the first-string offense any preseason work.

"I'll definitely re-evaluate some of the preseason stuff next year," Sirianni said. "If I had to do it over again right now… I would have played starters one or two drives in the preseason. But next year will be a new thing with new situations and new everything, so I'm not worrying about that right now. I've just got it in my notes to think about right now, though."

It's clear the Eagles offense has plenty to work on, and they don't have much time to work on it; as they return home for a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, who are looking to rebound after a tough 20-17 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As for the Patriots, they have plenty to build on as they prepare for a Sunday Night Football matchup at home against the division rival Miami Dolphins, who hung on for a 36-34 win against the L.A. Chargers at SoFi Stadium.

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