DEFENSE MAKES KEY PLAYS DOWN THE STRETCH OF EAGLES WEEK 1 WIN OVER PATRIOTS
FOXBOROUGH: Tom Brady Day started off as a soggy, cloudy and somewhat squelchy season opener at rain-soaked Gillette Stadium.
For the lion’s share of the first half, the Philadelphia Eagles made this game a stormy affair for the seven-time Super Bowl Champion.
The Eagles jumped out to a 16-0 lead largely on two Patriots turnovers.
The rest of the game was an ugly rock fight that the Birds (1-0) managed to pull out by the score of 25-20.
At least Mac Jones and company fought back and made the outcome up for grabs until the final play.
Opening day victories are actually a thing for the Philadelphia franchise over the last few years.
The Eagles have the most season-opening victories in the NFL since 2011, capturing 11 of its last 13 kickoff weekend matchups (7-1 record in Week 1 games since 2016).
Eagles head coach Sirianni seemed to give New England’s defense that made the contest such a rough affair.
You know, that's a good defense,” Sirianni said in his postgame press conference. “That's a really good defense. They are really well-coached. There's a couple that I saw, Smitty (DeVonta Smith), little throws on the sideline where I saw Smitty get out of those and spin out of those and they made really good tackles.
“That team, shoot, Bill Belichick-coached team, it's going to be well-coached, and I thought that's exactly what it was.”
The Eagles had three-and-outs, turned the ball over on downs, coughed up the ball at a critical point in the fourth quarter and Jalen Hurts – who lost ball in the critical point of the fourth quarter - was sacked three times.
“Now was it our cleanest performance offensively? No.” said Sirianni, whose team finished with 97 yards rushing, (37 came from Hurts). “We have a lot of mistakes to clean up and we have got a short time to do so. But shoot, I thought that we just didn’t finish some drives.
“We got in a rut a little bit in the second quarter and didn't finish some drives late in the game. Jake (Elliott) did a really good job,” Sirianni continued. “We have a lot of confidence in Jake to kick the field goals to put us up a couple scores. A ton of respect. There's a lot of good players on that Patriot defense, also, starting with (LB Matthew) Judon. They all play really solid football. I've got a lot of respect for that team.”
Jalen Hurts is likely not going to look back at his performance with fondness. The fourth-year signal caller said he would prefer to look at the ‘W.’
“I think first and foremost, I think that's a great, great win, a great win for us, being able to be resilient,” said Hurts, who was 22 of 33 for 170 yards, one TD pass and pedestrian rating of 89.2. “Obviously for me, winning is the only thing that matters and that's something that I've always said all the time. And so that is the mentality right now.
“That will always be the mentality. Winning is the only thing that matters. I think we obviously have things that we need to work on and have to be better in those situations when the ball is in my hands, and I take full accountability for that. But good thing about it is we get the opportunity to play on Thursday.”
THE EAGLES DEFENSE NEVER GOT A CHANCE TO REST
After Eagles kicker Jake Elliott booted a 48-yard field goal that clanked off the left upright and through with 13:26 left in the fourth quarter to make the score 22-14, the Birds defense played well but the Birds still struggled to put their hosts on the ropes.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, safety Reed Blankenship (finished with 11 tackles, eight solo and two batted passes), Josh Sweat and company made the plays when they had to, forcing the Pats to turn the ball over on downs.
The Eagles did drive 50 yards but saw their drive stall at the New England 33-yard line.
Elliott did nail a 51-yarder to make the score 25-14, but there was still 5:38 left on the clock.
Jones put together a six-play, 75-yard drive ending with a 11-yard touchdown pass from Jones to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. The two-point conversion failed, making the score 25-20.
There is just 3:37 left in the fourth. All the Bird had to do is not turn the ball over, run some plays, get a first down and they walk out of Gillette Stadium 1-0.
For whatever reason, new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson calls a designed run for Hurts…who promptly fumbles the ball away to defensive back Marcus Jones.
Mac Jones started a drive at the Eagles 41-yard line, but the Birds defense stepped up with big plays by Cox, Jordan Davis, Sweat, Milton Williams and Slay forcing the Patriots to turn the ball over on downs.
IT’S OVER RIGHT? NOT TODAY
Hurts again was unable to move the ball. The Eagles turn the ball over on downs with 2:00 left.
Jones took over at his own 44. The third-year starter out of Alabama moves the ball al the way to the Eagles 20-yard line.
On fourth-and-11, Jones hits Kayshon Boutte at the eight-yard-line when it is called a catch with 29 ticks on the clock. The Eagles are on the verge of throwing away a game they played on their own terms all evening.
But Boutte, who was guarded by corner Josh Jobe (in for injured James Bradberry), was not able to get both feet in bounds on the play. Game over.
Rookie defensive tackle Jalen Carter recorded his first NFL sack on the final drive to help with the win was asked if he was surprised he played as much as he did on his first game as an Eagle.
“I don’t think anything surprised me,” said Carter. “The coaches and everybody got us ready for this game. It went exactly how they talked about it.”
Carter was asked to walk us through his first career sack.
“We had a call that we had run,” Carter said. “It gets the quarterback to step up in the pocket and he happened to come up right in my hands. It felt good.”
Carter was asked of the D-line has enough confidence that they all feel someone is going to come up with a big play when it is needed.
“We’ve got some dogs on the team,” Carter said. “If it’s not me, it’s somebody else that’s going to make the play. We’re very stacked on the D-Line…D-ends. If it ain’t me, it’s somebody else that’s going to make that play.”
Offensive guard Cam Jurgens was asked how the clutch play of the defense, in particular, the defensive line, can energize both sides of the ball.
“No doubt, we saw it all day,” said Jurgens, who started his first game at right guard. “We saw it all camp, that’s one thing Sirianni actually noted before the game…Season openers…you don’t want to turn the ball over. He just went back to our past games, ‘we need to get the ball away more…a couple turnovers from the ‘D’ they really came out and played well.”
The former Nebraska standout center said the offense did not pull its weight Sunday.
“I don’t think we played well,” Jurgens said. “I think there’s things we need to clean up. It’s always good to get out with a win and get to learn from it.”
Tight end Dallas Goedert did not record a catch on Sunday. The sixth-year standout out of South Dakota State was only targeted once. He said he still felt he contributed.
“I took my frustrations out on the D-ends and the linebackers,” Goedert said. “I had a lot of fun playing out there today. It was a great team win for us. We have great people all over this field so…maybe next week will be my week.”
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones said he had the game in his hands….twice.
“Yeah, not good by me,” said Jones, who finished 35 of 54 for 316 yards, three touchdown passes and one interception. “They gave me the ball twice to win the game, and I couldn't do it. I just got to go back and watch and see what I can do better, but as a quarterback, that hurts, right? You get a chance to win the game twice and can't do it.
“You just got to learn from it. You only get so many opportunities in the NFL to do that, and I felt like I definitely let the team down.”
JAKE ELLIOTT WAS THE MAN OF THE MATCH
Elliott, who ended up scoring 13 points on four field goals and an extra point (missed one) said he knew after warm-ups he was going to be able to kick to his full range.
He talked about kicking on the road.
When he struck the ball from 56 yards with 8:48 left in the third quarter, he knew it was good by just listening to the sounds of silence as it sailed through the Foxboro air and between the posts. You could literally hear a pin drop.
“I love that,” Elliott said, breaking a little smile. “I love going to away stadiums and kind of hearing that away noise in the background and being able to silence that quick. That’s a great feeling as a kicker…that’s what you live for.”
Pro Bowl defensive end Brandon Graham finished with one tackle for loss, said he was OK with the way the defensive played. He said he knew the game would get ugly.
“I feel good,” Graham said. “We’ve got much respect for the Patriots. We know how well coached they are. We’re well coaches too. This was just one of those games that you’re going to fight to the end.” *
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