FOXBORO, Mass. – The New England Patriots dug themselves an early hole in their season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, which they were not able to climb out of. Despite a valiant comeback, the 16-0 first quarter deficit was too much to overcome for the Patriots.
The Eagles got the ball to start the game and took advantage. Philadelphia had possession for over seven minutes, behind the arm and legs of quarterback Jalen Hurts. The methodical drive brought the Eagles to first and goal from the New England nine-yard line, but they were unable to get in the end zone. A huge third down sack from Matthew Judon brought on Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, forcing Philadelphia to settle for a 3-0 lead.
New England’s offense looked good instantly under the guidance of new OC Bill O’Brien. Mac Jones led the Patriots 34 yards downfield in five plays, working their way onto Philadelphia’s side of the field. This is where the game’s first major mistake took place, with the Eagles taking full advantage.
A pass intended for Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne from Jones sailed high and deflected off of his fingers. The deflection landed in the hands of Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, who took off down the sideline and went untouched. After 70 yards of open field, Slay arrived in the end zone, giving Philadelphia a 10-0 lead.
Things went from bad to worse for New England, as their next offensive play resulted in a second straight turnover. A screen pass that was completed to Ezekiel Elliott was fumbled, recovered by Philadelphia’s Jordan Davis. Four plays later, Jalen Hurts found DeVonta Smith open in the end zone. Although the extra point attempt failed, the Eagles now led 16-0 with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The score would remain 16-0 as the two teams combined for six consecutive possessions resulting in punts. It was clear that the defenses had the edge over the offenses early in this one.
With 9:22 to play in the second quarter, New England began a drive from their own 29 yard line. Mac Jones went 7-for-8 on the drive. Mike Gesicki, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeMario Douglas and Ty Montgomery all picked up solid yardage on receptions, before Jones finished off the drive by finding Hunter Henry in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. Rookie Chad Ryland scored his first career NFL point on the PAT, making the score 16-7.
New England defense forced a quick three and out from the Philadelphia on the Eagles next possession. This gave the Patriots the ball back on their own 37 yard line with 2:33 to go in the first half. Jones led another excellent drive, this one culminating in a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne.
Heading into halftime, the Eagles led the Patriots 16-14. However, all of the momentum had switched to the New England side after the back-to-back scoring drives to all but erase their early deficit.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, momentum was all but lost at halftime. While the Patriots franchise and fans were honoring Tom Brady on the field, the Eagles were apparently adjusting what New England had accomplished on their scoring drives.
Although New England received in the second half, their first two drives both stalled out quickly, resulting in punts. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense continued to prevent Jalen Hurts and company from finding the end zone, but the Eagles were able to move the ball enough to score points. Jake Elliott had missed an extra point earlier but was good on consecutive field goal attempts from 56 and 48 yards out, the second one off the upright. The lead had increased to a 22-14 Eagles advantage.
Now in the fourth quarter, New England had the ball trailing by a single score.
Jones led the Patriots back into the red zone. This drive featured large gains to Gesicki, Stevenson, and Henry. When it became second and five from the Eagles 19, the Patriots turned to their ground game. Unfortunately for New England, consecutive carries from Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott netted only two yards. Facing a fourth and three situation, Bill Belichick opted to gamble instead of taking the points. The resulting pass attempt to Elliott went incomplete, and the Eagles regained possession.
When Philadelphia got the ball back, Jalen Hurts went deep to A.J. Brown for a 48-yard completion along the sideline. Belichick challenged the call, which was overturned. Despite this, Hurts and Brown then collaborated on four completions for 48 yards to make up the wiped away gain. The Patriots defense was able to hold, thanks in part to a sack from rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez. Jake Elliott once again proved to be a weapon for the Eagles however. The Philadelphia placekicker booted his third field goal of the day, this one from 51 yards out, to give the Eagles a 25-14 lead with 5:38 to play in regulation.
New England’s offense showed the spark they had at the end of the first half when the got the ball back. Despite the drive beginning with an incomplete pass, Mac Jones was perfect the rest of the possession. The Patriots QB went 4-for-4, passing for 70 yards, and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bourne (his second of the game) to finish it off.
Now trailing by five points, the Patriots went for a two-point conversion. Mac Jones scrambled away from pressure to his left and into the endzone. Unfortunately for Jones, the play was brought back on a very questionable holding call against right tackle Calvin Anderson. The second attempt resulted in an incompletion, which left the Eagles with a 25-20 lead with 3:37 to play.
New England wasn’t without the ball for long. On Philadelphia’s next play from scrimmage, Jabrill Peppers caused a Jalen Hurts fumble, which was recovered by the Patriots Marcus Jones. Suddenly the Patriots had the ball back and a chance to take the lead.
The offensive drive, which began at the Eagles 41-yard line, ended up losing seven yards. A seven-yard sack, coupled with a delay of game penalty, left the Patriots facing a fourth and 17 near midfield. Belichick opted to go for it on fourth down for the second time, and an incomplete pass attempt to Henry once again saw them come up short.
With the use of the two-minute warning, timeouts, and great defense, New England’s defense enabled the Patriots to get the ball back yet again. This time it was Philadelphia going for it on fourth down, but Christian Gonzalez broke up the pass attempt to DeVonta Smith.
With 1:57 to play in regulation New England had the ball, trailing by 5, on their own 44 yard line. Jones was able to find both Bourne (nine yard reception) and Gesicki (17) on the drive, and the Patriots were inside the Eagles’ 20 with a chance to win the game.
The Patriots first two attempts on fourth down could be questioned, but this was now four-down territory. Jones threw incomplete to rookie Kayshon Boutte before being sacked on second down. A short pass to Rhamondre Stevenson brought them back to the 20, leaving the game in the balance on fourth and 11 with 29 seconds to play. Jones once again went to Boutte, who was making his NFL debut, and completed the pass at the nine. The replay official reversed the call however (correctly) due to Boutte failing to get down his second foot.
Philadelphia took over on downs, and Hurts took a knee for the win.
New England showed great fight coming back from the early 16-0 deficit, but it was too little too late. The Patriots (0-1) now move on to Week 2, where they will play host to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles (1-0) will play their home opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football.