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Patriots Week 1 Report Card In 25-20 Loss To The Eagles

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
September 11, 2023 at 12:37 pm ET

Patriots Week 1 Report Card In 25-20 Loss To The Eagles(PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Sep 11, 2023 12:37
🕑 Read Time: 6 minutes

The Patriots lost their first game of the season, which was eminently winnable at the very end of the game. We will watch the replays of the Kayshon Boutte catch where he couldn’t drag his second foot to stay inbounds and play the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” game that ultimately goes nowhere. 

But give credit to the Eagles’ defense; it is an excellent unit, and they ratcheted up the pressure in the fourth quarter. 

The offense showed that they are going to be much better this season with Bill O’Brien and had a decent showing despite the fact they began very sloppily with two turnovers that led to a 16-0 deficit in the first quarter. Missing starting guards Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu, as well as WR DeVante Parker, it went better than most thought after the inactives were announced. ***Hey Mike Tirico, Do the Eagles get an asterisk?*** 

The Patriots’ defense, I thought, played very well, giving up only one offensive touchdown against the Philly offense. The rookies on defense played very well (more to that below), but they held the high-flying offense of Jalen Hurts to just 251 yards of total offense. As Tony Romo pointed out in the broadcast, the Patriots’ defense was playing fast, something we’ve not heard often here. 

So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Eagles game. 

Quarterback: B-

Mac Jones took the blame for the loss, saying he didn’t perform at the critical time. He held himself accountable. While he shared some of the blame early in the game for a pick-six and for failing to punch it in at the end of the game, there were some really good moments as well. 

His touchdown throws to Bourne (two), where he zipped the ball in hard, and to Henry, where he showed great touch, were excellent throws. He had others in the game as well. He moved well in the pocket, buying himself some time, which were all good signs. He got the ball out quickly, which was obviously part of the game plan, but at times he rushed throws when there was plenty of time. The receivers had some drops. 

The pick-six was not a good throw, Bourne tried to adjust to it, and as luck would have it, the ball bounced straight up… and right to Darius Slay.  It’s never a good sign for that to happen in the secondary. 

Jones finished 35-54 for 316 yards, with 3 TDs and 1 INT, for a passer rating of 91.3. 

Running Backs: C

The Patriots couldn’t get the running game untracked, rushing 22 times for just 76 yards, a 3.5-yard average, but with both starting guards out, running between the tackles was a tough row to hoe against the Eagles front seven. Jordan Davis had a big game for Philly, and Jalen Carter looks the real deal (no surprise), so it was hard on the backs to get consistent yardage.  

Rhamondre Stevenson had just 25 yards on 12 carries, while Ezekiel Elliott had 29 on seven carries. Having the top two backs gain only 54 yards hurt the offense to stay balanced.

However, Stevenson added 64 yards on six catches, including a nice 32-yard catch and run on the final drive. Elliott had only 14 yards on five catches. He made a great catch on an errant screen pass from Jones but promptly fumbled after Davis’s big hit. Ty Montgomery had two catches for nine yards.

Wide Receivers: B-

DeVante Parker was out, so Kayson Boutte saw action, especially at crunch time on the final drive. Boutte couldn’t get both feet down on the final offensive play, which would have been a first down at the Eagles 11-yard line with 10 seconds to go. There’s no way to predict what would have happened next, but it still hurt. 

The Matt Patricia Effect? Kendrick Bourne is on Line 2 and would like a word. Bourne was easily the Patriots’ most dynamic receiver on Sunday, catching six passes for 64 yards and two very good TDs, one of which where he dusted Slay, no easy feat.  However, it wasn’t all good. Bourne had a couple of drops. The pick-six? Was it on Jones or Bourne? Yes.

Demario Douglas had four catches for 40 yards in his first NFL action, including a nice 23-yard reception from Jones, but also had a drop. JuJu Smith-Schuster had four catches for 33 yards in his first Patriots’ game.                                 

Tight Ends: B+

We said this spring that Hunter Henry would have a resurgence with Bill O’Brien at the helm of the offense. And he made his presence felt on Sunday. Henry had five catches for 56 yards and a nice TD grab where he beat Blankenship up the seam. Henry (as Bourne above) was so underused last season that it defied description. More of that Matt Patricia effect.

Mike Gesicki saw his first action as a Patriot and was only targeted three times but caught all three for 36 yards. The Patriots used some “13 personnel” with three TEs on the field. 

This unit is just scratching the surface of what they can do.

Offensive Line C

The offensive line performed better than many expected, given that Strange and Onwenu were missing. However, despite a great debut by rookie Jalen Carter who had a sack and six QB pressures, the OL held up pretty well in pass protection. 

 This was helped by Bill O’Brien and Jones as they game-planned to get the ball out of Mac’s hands quickly. But the failure to get anything going on the ground made play-action a rarity, and the Eagles pass rushers didn’t have to respect the run.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad day, but it wasn’t a great one either. Going against that front seven, perhaps it was better than we’re giving it credit for.                                                         

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line had a very good day on Sunday. We were concerned about the Eagles ground game coming into this matchup, where they dominant in 2022. In our keys to the game, I wrote that the DL had to slow the RPOs on early downs. And they did a fine job limiting the potent running game to just 97 yards and 3.9 yards per rush.

Hurts gained only 37 yards on nine rushing attempts. Keion White is just limited action (14 snaps), had four pressures, and was relentless in chasing after Hurts. Deatrich Wise also played very well, setting the edge.   

In the middle, Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy did a great job of stuffing the runs in the middle and limiting the running game to run between the tackles.     

Linebackers: A-

Ja’Whaun Bentley again led the team in tackles with nine and had a TFL. He was on the field for every defensive snap (66), which shows some incredible conditioning in Week 1 of the season. Bentley and Jahlani Tavai were very good at limiting yards after contact. 

Matthew Judon appears in mid-season form. He had a key sack on the Eagles’ first drive, forcing them to settle for a field goal. He added a TFL. Josh Uche also added a sack. Going against an offensive line that is widely considered the best in the NFL, the Patriots pressured Hurts on 41 percent of his throws. 

The linebackers were a big part of holding Philly to just 19 points of offense. That bodes well for moving forward on the season. 

 Secondary: B+ 

The secondary was a question mark heading into Sunday as Christian Gonzalez was making his debut in the NFL. And if this game was any indication, he will be a very special player for years to come. I’m not saying that it was all perfect, but he made his presence felt out there and contributed to some strong secondary play that held the Eagles to just 170 yards passing. 

Gonzalez had a sack of Hurts on a corner blitz, a TFL, and a stellar pass defensed that stopped an Eagles drive on 4th down near the end of the game. Adding in seven tackles, it was a very impressive debut. 

The secondary limited A.J. Brown (7-79) and DeVonta Smith (7-47-1) to 14 catches and 126 yards total, which considering those players, was very impressive. Jabrill Peppers forced a fumble on Hurts with a thunderous hit late in the game. Holding Philly to 170 yards passing is the kind of performance that we’ll take any time.

Special Teams: B

Bryce Barringer had a very good game; he punted five times, with three of those inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line. He had a long of 65 and averaged 45.2 yards, quite a change from the 2022 season. On one occasion, he outkicked the coverage, but overall it was a solid debut for the rookie. 

Chad Ryland didn’t attempt a FG but made both PATs. Ty Montgomery had two kick returns for 62 yards, including a nice 43-yarder where he almost broke it. Marcus Jones had three punt returns for 21.

Coaches:

The coaches had good game plans, both offensively and defensively. However, they started out very sloppy on offense, and those two early turnovers were the difference. The coaches have to work on limiting those killer mistakes. Overall, I thought the Patriots were the better team, but Philly won because they limited their mistakes, something good teams do. The Patriots are getting there but have work to do. 

The defensive game plan was excellent, and they executed it very well. Offensively, Bill O’Brien’s plan was good at trying to negate the Eagles pass rush. Fewer mistakes and finish-off drives will be a coaching point moving forward. 

I had no issue with not going for the field goal, I thought (and Belichick too), that threes weren’t going to win the game; they’d need to score TDs. 

That’s a wrap for the Eagles week. We’re on to Miami.

_____________

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected].

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Christian Gonzalez Darius Slay Hunter Henry Jalen Carter Jalen Hurts Jordan Davis Keion White Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon Philadelphia Eagles

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    Michael P. McGrath
    Michael P. McGrath
    5 months ago

    Steve,

    As usual a nice objective non-reactionary article. Your forte. I have been following the Pats since Gino, Babe and Nance. While nobody will ever compare to will McDonough (or Bob Ryan, Jackie M and Peter Gammons) of all writers since then I like you the best. I also like Ian and Mark. This is my go to site for thorough and sensible (most of the time) coverage and analysis. Please share my sentiments with Ian and Mark. TY! Hope all is well.

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