Eagles survive a sloppy showdown with the Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) reacts after a touchdown against the New York Giants during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Well, that was a mess. The Philadelphia Eagles rolled into Foxborough for their opening game of the season and a date with the New England Patriots. They were favored to win and for good reason. Coming off of a commendable Super Bowl performance, this team looked poised to start 2023 hot. Oh, how we were mistaken.

Eagles start out hot but cool off quicker

The Eagles won the game 25-20 in the end, giving Jalen Hurts his 9th consecutive regular-season road win, but it was hardly a convincing one.

Things started out well enough. The Eagles burst out of the gate to a 16-0 lead in the opening quarter, thanks to a Darius Slay Pick-Six. Jordan Davis forced a fumble on the next drive and Jalen Hurts was able to find DeVonta Smith for the first offensive touchdown on 2023. It was going a little too well considering what was bubbling beneath the surface.

The play-calling offensively looked bizarrely run-focused and lacked creativity, Jalen Hurts looked like he did in 2021 – a little skittish in the pocket and quick to rely on his feet, and the offensive line struggled. As the game went on, the Patriots settled in and the Eagles couldn’t find a rhythm.

Outside of Jake Elliott being as reliable as ever and a rogue Sydney Brown hit, the Special teams unit was disorganized and left a lot of meat on the bone.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 15: Philadelphia Eagles punter Cameron Johnston (1) holds the ball for Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott (4) during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on November 15, 2020 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles surrendered 2 touchdowns in 4 minutes as Kendrick Bourne danced his way through the secondary and Bill Belichick guided QB Mac Jones to take advantage of a very soft-shell defensively. Hunter Henry kicked off the Pats scoring, and Jones went 12-13 for 2 touchdowns in those 2 drives alone.

Something had to change at the half. Rust was to be expected. The Eagles starters hadn’t played a single preseason series together, meaning their last full-contact reps came in that heartbreaking Super Bowl loss. The rust was evident and the teething problems of inducting two new coordinators were clear.

Unfortunately, things continued down a disappointing path for Philadelphia. While they did put up three consecutive field goals, the drives were plagued by an insistence to run the ball up the middle and short/intermediate play designs. It felt like Jalen Hurts was almost being kept on a leash and the offense suffered as a result.

That was until the fourth quarter when things eventually opened up. Hurts launched a Carson Wentz vs Seattle level throw to A.J Brown who somehow hauled it in for a deep gain – but he couldn’t get control before stepping out of bounds. The Eagles had found a much-needed spark, but then Hurts was speared to the ground and coughed up the football and all the momentum dissipated.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (10) runs for a first down in front of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Ben VanSumeren (57) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Eagles defense showed its teeth to gift possession back to the offense with 2:11 left on the clock. The Pats had 3 timeouts, but the Birds had a 5 point lead and a star-studded offense. Somehow, some way, they ended up on 4th down with 2:01 left on the clock. Nick Sirianni decided to randomly go for it which inevitably backfired and gave the Pats offense yet another chance to steal a win.

Had a Mac Jones pass to Kayshon Boutte been thrown a fraction of a second earlier, the Eagles may well have lost this game. Luckily for all in Philadelphia, that wasn’t the case, and the Birds escape with the 1-0 record.

There’s a lot to take from this game. Perhaps the biggest thing is that even when the Eagles are as rusty as Mater from Disney’s movie ‘Cars’, they can still (just about) drag themselves to victory. When Jalen Hurts isn’t at his very best, the team can still win. The same could not be said for Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow this week. That counts.

All eyes now turn to a short week. The Eagles face the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night and the Vikes are bound to present a much stiffer challenge. It’s time for the Eagles to return home, reflect on what shouldn’t really be considered a win, and prepare to get back to their best against a team who will demand it from them.

AP Photo/Adam Hunger