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Despite Loss, Competitive Patriots Prove They’ll Be Dangerous This Season

Bob George
Bob George on Twitter
2 weeks ago at 9:30 pm ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Despite Loss, Competitive Patriots Prove They’ll Be Dangerous This SeasonBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH – In the end, this is pretty much what everyone in Patriot Nation was hoping for.

The loss still stings. But the Patriots played the Philadelphia Eagles tough all game long on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Eagles, defending NFC champs and far superior to the Patriots on paper, bludgeoned the Patriots early on with two very damaging turnovers, but the Patriots came back and made a game of it. The issue was not settled until the final play of the game.

On a day where Tom Brady was honored at halftime, and delivered a very cathartic speech which everyone enjoyed listening to, one had to wonder what would have happened if Brady had been in the game instead of in the Kraft luxury suite watching the game with his parents and sons John and Benjamin and daughter Vivian. Could Brady have pulled off the win? Did Mac Jones show that he’s a good quarterback but not yet great enough to complete a great comeback against a great team?

The bottom line is the Patriots spotted the Eagles an early 16-0 lead thanks to two turnovers, and didn’t quite have enough to win in the end. Bill Belichick said that the Patriots played “well enough to be competitive, but not well enough to win”. The Eagles were able to hang on in the end and defeat the Patriots, 25-20, and the fact that the game did come down to the final play speaks well for the team in general, but the turnovers were something the Patriots could ill afford to commit against a great team like Philadelphia.

The Eagles opened with a 14-play drive that ended with a Jake Elliott field goal (one of four field goals he would kick; he missed one extra point attempt). Jones took over and drove the Patriots to the Eagle 42 yard line. On third and five, Jones tried to hit Kendrick Bourne in the right seam but slightly overthrew the ball. It caromed off his fingertips and into the arms of Darius Slay, who returned it 70 yards for the pick-six.

The Patriots got the ball back, and on the first play, Ezekiel Elliott took a pass from Jones in the left flat, then was popped by Jordan Davis. Zack Cunningham recovered the fumble, and five plays later Jalen Hurts hit DeVonta Smith from five yards out to claim a 16-0 lead in the first quarter. The Patriots suffered two giveaways on consecutive offensive plays. Against the Eagles, this should have been instantly lethal.

It was lethal in the end, but give the Patriots credit for making a competitive game of it.

After the teams exchanged three three and outs, the Patriots scored touchdowns on their next two second quarter drives. Pop Douglas caught a 23-yard sideline pass and Ty Montgomery caught a dump pass for 10 yards to set up the Patriots at the Eagles’ 10 yard line. Two plays later, Jones hit Hunter Henry for a touchdown on a lob pass into double coverage. On the next drive, Jones hit Henry for 13 yard gains on consecutive plays, then found Bourne from 19 yards out on a left seam pass to get the Patriots within two points at the half. The Patriots got the second half kickoff, had momentum, and the crowd was jacked up following the Brady halftime speech.

But Philadelphia reclaimed control of the game in the third quarter. Instead of a double score, the Patriots went three and out and the Eagles responded with a 56-yard field goal by Elliott. The Patriots responded with a 14-play drive that resulted only in a punt. The Eagles came back with still another Elliott field goal, a 48-yarder that doinked off the left upright and through. It was 22-14, and the missed extra point by Elliott meant that the game was still one score.

The next exchange probably cost the Patriots a real chance to win the game. The Patriots drove from the 25 to the Eagle 17 in ten plays. But the Patriots turned the ball over on downs thanks to two plays from the veteran Fletcher Cox, stuffing Elliott on third down and hurrying Jones on a fourth down pass. Again, the Eagles responded with another field goal, a 51-yarder to make it 25-14.

The Patriots went into full game win mode at this point, and they nearly pulled it off. Jones hit Rhamondre Stevenson with a 32-yard screen pass, and another one later for 11 yards, then hit Bourne from 11 yards out to make it 25-20. Jones ran in the two-point conversion which would have made it a field goal game, but Calvin Anderson was called for holding. A re-try was unsuccessful.

With enough time left and all three timeouts, the Patriots needed to stop the Eagles and get the ball back. They did stuff Hurts on fourth down at the Patriot 44, and had just under two minutes and one timeout to drive only 56 yards.

A Mike Gesicki catch for 18 yards put the Patriots in a position to score the winning touchdown. On fourth and 11 from the Eagles 20, Jones hit Kayshon Boutte on the left sideline for what appeared to be a first down and stopping the clock. But the play was looked at on replay, and Boutte failed to get both feet down in bounds, and the game was over.

In addition to the turnovers, penalties also hurt the Patriots. A first quarter Deatrich Wise sack was negated on a holding call on Kyle Dugger. Two holding calls torpedoed that long drive in the third quarter which ended in a punt. The holding call on Anderson on the 2-point conversion was a killer.

One thing the Patriots can take away from this game was the nice job the offensive line did in protecting Jones. Jones was not sacked until the last three minutes of the game when he was sacked twice. Jones looked mostly comfortable during the game and made some nice throws during the game. Jones took responsibility for the pick-six, but other than that he did play a good game.

Jones finished 35 of 54 passing for 316 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception. His rating was 91.3. Bourne and Stevenson each had six catches for 64 yards; Henry had five catches for 56 yards.

Elliott had a nice first game as a Patriot save for the fumble. He had 29 rushing yards on seven carries, and five catches for 14 yards. Stevenson was held in check all game long, with only 25 yards on 12 carries.

The Patriots stay at home next weekend and will host Miami next Sunday night. The Patriots will look for their first win ever against Tua Tagovailoa, and could very well do so if they don’t make mistakes on offense and defense him as well as they did Hurts.

A competitive game is basically what everyone wanted, and they got just that. The Patriots almost won the game. But not actually winning still stings, and that’s mostly a good thing.

We invite you to catch Bob George’s new Boston Sports Podcast, broadcast every weekday on YouTube. Go to YouTube handle thepic413 to view the podcasts. Please click on the Subscribe button so you don’t miss any of the podcasts.

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