‘He’s a fighter’: How Mac Jones kept the Eagles at bay while the Patriots seemed headed for disaster
Despite initial difficulties, Kendrick Bourne defends his position as the Patriots’ number 1 receiver with a 2-touchdown game
But it wasn’t meant to be. New England was unable to complete the game-winning performance that Patriots fans had seen Brady do countless times over the years.
In the end, when it mattered most, the Eagles kept the Patriots out of the end zone and dropped the Patriots to a 0-1 record with a 25-20 loss to New England in Foxborough.
But it wasn’t all bad. The Patriots showed what could make this an exciting season.
The play defense held Jalen Hurts to 170 yards and a touchdown, a remarkable performance against one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Mac Jones and the offense seemed light years ahead with a competent coordinator compared to last year. And rookies Christian Gonzalez, Keion White and Marte Mapu played well in their NFL debuts.
Here are three final thoughts from the campaign.
Jabrill Peppers gave Mac Jones what every quarterback wants: a chance to win late in the game
The crowd erupted in a roar as the Jabrill Peppers tied Jalen Hurts with a devastating hit that forced a Philadelphia fumble with 3:32 left in the fourth quarter.
It was a pivotal rally that gave New England the ball back and a dose of hope coursing through Gillette Stadium. It was the kind of opportunity that quarterbacks like Jones live for.
“That was a great piece. pep [Jabrill Peppers]“He’s the man,” Jones said. “He told me to win, but we couldn’t and that hurts me.”
Peppers said he didn’t know the ball was coming out at first, but he felt like he got a good hit on Hurts.
“I wanted to do a better job of getting him up in the air and on his back,” Peppers said. “But he squats a lot, so I kind of took him to the side. It was still a good little pop.”
The offensive line was able to hold its own against the “monsters” of Philadelphia’s front seven
The Eagles had 70 sacks last season, which was the third-most in NFL history, according to the Patriots Media Guide.
The Patriots only allowed Jones to be sacked twice on Sunday. And that was without the two starting guards Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu, who were out due to injuries.
“When you go into a game with that kind of pressure on your shoulders, you know you have to keep Mac clean so he can make plays,” offensive tackle Calvin Anderson said. “And you have to keep all the defenders clean so they can get on the field. You have to face these challenges and not be afraid to think that these guys are too good. This is the league, we are all here for a reason. You have to go in there with that mentality.”
Rookies Sidy Sow and Atonio Mafi started in place of Strange and Onwenu. David Andrews and Trent Brown were the only offensive players last year. Anderson, who signed in the offseason, stepped in at the right spot.
“They played pretty damn well,” Peppers said. They have some monsters on that D-line and I felt like they held their own tonight. They gave Mac nice, clean pockets and the running game. I take my hat off to those guys, but at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough to win.”
Have the Patriots addressed their weakness against mobile quarterbacks?
It’s the first game of a long season and an incredibly small attendance, but keeping Hurts in check is no easy task, and the Patriots appeared to be doing just that.
Hurts had as many turnovers (one) as touchdowns. His yardage was limited to 37 yards. The Patriots sacked him three times.
That’s a performance to be expected for a team that has struggled with mobile quarterbacks in recent years.
“We knew this was one of our focuses this year,” Peppers said. “Just lane integrity, everyone has their eyes on the quarterback, plays with their instincts, and when you get a chance to hit him, you grab it.”
The rain also helped, Peppers said. But also disguising coverages and forcing Hurts to throw on the run to limit explosive plays.
“We camouflaged ourselves with our safety precautions and made sure we were deep enough,” Adrian Phillips said. “We know they like the 50-50 balls and like to throw them [A.J.] Brown, they like to increase it to 16 (Quez Watkins) and 6 (DeVonta Smith). We just made sure our haste got there, [Hurts] We didn’t have time to sit back and we always made great efforts to prevent that.”
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