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September 10, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 25, Patriots 20

Though it was an uneven affair, the Eagles gutted out a sloppy win over the Patriots in New England. Here's what we saw from their Week 1 victory.

FOXBORO, M.A. — It was ugly, sloppy and assuredly infuriating for the Delaware Valley, but the Eagles are 1-0 after their 25-20 win over the Patriots. The Birds spoiled Tom Brady's halftime ceremony at Gillette Stadium, sending distraught New Englanders packing. 

Here's what I saw from an uneven Eagles performance as they bring things back to South Philly this week...

(First half observations can be found here)

The Highs

• The Eagles' most unstoppable play? A slant to A.J. Brown. With the Eagles offense rudderless in the first half, that was their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, picking up a 15-yard gain. They needed anything to get going, to get the stench of those second-quarter three-and-outs away from themselves. The Birds had to settle for a field goal after some iffy work from Jalen Hurts and everyone else, but points have been a scarcity here in Foxboro. That should not be considered a win on a grander scale for an Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations, but on a micro level, getting back on the board brings some brief relief. 

Britain Covey had a 25-yard return after New England punted on the opening drive of the second half that put them in decent field position to pick up that field goal. He's more than capable at his job.

• Though I am sympathetic to Philadelphia fans who believe every ref in every sport is conspiring against them, the Eagles got bailed out with some key penalties in the third quarter. What would've been a reasonable field goal for the Pats after a third-and-19 conversion fell short was called back after a holding call. A loss of four yards on the ensuing play took New England out of field goal range entirely. Every single point was at a premium in this game.

• A 48-yard field goal to give the Eagles an eight-point lead hit off the crossbar and went through the uprights. The Eagles' success with doinks over the years is unmatched. 

• Defending a fourth and three at their own 17, Haason Reddick fought through New England right tackle Calvin Anderson and a chip block from Ezekiel Elliott to get his to Mac Jones, wrapping him up before the QB tossed an incompletion that had zero chance of being caught. That was a game-saving play from a guy who truly should've garnered an All-Pro selection in 2022. Fletcher Cox was right there beating down on Jones, too. Two big-name vets came up clutch.

Jake Elliott missed an extra-point attempt early during the super wet portion of this game, but the dude nailed all four of his field goals, including a pair of 50-yarders. Reliable kicking shouldn't be taken for granted and Elliott is among the best in the business.

Jordan Davis had the best game of his career. He teamed up with Josh Sweat for a sack late in the fourth quarter after Hurts' fumble. He was the run-defender he was always supposed to be the entire game. His floor was to be an elite run-stuffer. His pass-rushing ability was his upside toward stardom. The early returns are good on that front. It's the most complete he's looked since his days at Georgia. 

Jalen Carter picked up his first sack with a minute remaining in the game, sandwiching Mac Jones. Huge. Huge. While the d-line was staunch in the run game all day, the pass rush came along late when it was needed the most.

These Georgia dudes? Not bad. Not too bad...

The Lows

• The Eagles had to use a timeout on their first drive of the third quarter because Sua Opeta wasn't out there for the field goal team in time to get the snap off. That should just be automatic things the special teams unit is ready for, especially when the Eagles were facing a third and 20 on the play prior. Odds are that you're going to be kicking! Elliott did knock home the 56-yard field goal though. 

• Eagles fans are always pretty tough on the team's coordinator, but in their respective debuts, offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and defensive coordinator Sean Desai are going to draw some ire this week.  

• Jalen Hurts' final stat line: 23-for-33, 170 passing yards, one touchdown pass, 37 rushing yards, one fumble. Hurts excels most when throwing over the middle. Bill Belichick took that away from him, forcing him to throw outside. There were times when he did just that, like with his first-half touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith, but, for the most part, it was a struggle. That is the thing that the nucleus of Hurts, Johnson, Nick Sirianni, and Alex Tanney need to get to work on. The Eagles' offense should be slump proof with this cast of talent.

Hurts' costly fourth-quarter fumble threw a struggling defense back on the field against an increasingly successful offense, too. The D did its job and shut down New England, but the vibes were tense to say the least.

• The Eagles' pass defense was torched over the middle of the field. Their two biggest weaknesses entering this season were linebacker and safety. New England keyed right in on that. Mac Jones' fourth-quarter touchdown toss to Kendrick Bourne came exactly there. This cast between Nakobe Dean, Reed Blankenship, Justin Evans and more is inexperienced and that's showing early. There's a whole lot of bad tape for Sean Desai to view and implement a plan to change, but a short week ahead of Thursday night's home game against Minnesota gives him precious little time to do so. 

They made Mac Jones look way better than he is!

The Whoas

• Gillette Stadium did a tribute to the late Jimmy Buffett with a rendition of "Margaritaville" in the fourth quarter. The relaxed vibes of Buffett's music conjure upon perfect summer images, which is in contrast to a too-close-for-comfort Eagles game, but I appreciate the sentiment. 

• The eternal "no cheering in the press box" rule was not enforced upon the Boston media members at Gillette. I will tell you that right now!

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