3 keys to victory for Patriots in season opener vs Eagles

The New England Patriots kick off their 2023 regular season schedule on Sunday afternoon in a showdown with the reigning NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

It’ll be a jam-packed game at Gillette Stadium with former long-time Patriots quarterback Tom Brady expected to make his return for part of an ongoing retirement celebration.

Last season, the Eagles went 14-3 and stormed all the way to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Patriots finished the 2022 season with an 8-9 record and missed the playoffs.

If the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick hope to get a win with Brady in the building, they’ll need to neutralize one of the best rosters in all of football. Here are three keys to victory for the Patriots in this primetime matchup.

Contain Jalen Hurts

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts is an electric dual-threat quarterback who can make the most out of any situation, if the initial play breaks down. With his athletic traits, the Eagles run a ton of RPO (run pass option), read option and even some designed quarterback runs to throw the defense off.

The Patriots will need to force Hurts into becoming a pocket passer in this game by containing him consistently throughout the matchup. It’s easier said than done, but Matthew Judon, Keion White, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche and Deatrich Wise will need to set wide edges to contain him from rolling out.

If they can do that, while also using rookie third-round draft pick Marte Mapu and veteran Mack Wilson as quarterback spies on occasion, they should be able to find success.

Hurts is not a terrible passer whatsoever, and the Eagles have elite weapons on the outside. But the Patriots have a great secondary willing to stand toe-to-toe with the defending champs. If they can contain Hurts inside, they may be able to keep up with a loaded offense.

Utilize Jones' best skill set

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien need to be really creative together to get the ball out quickly and mitigate a banged-up offensive line from going off the rails.

The Eagles’ defensive front is downright scary, and they’re going to be looking for opportunities to wreck things in the backfield.

There is no real answer for their front-seven besides getting the ball out quickly, making the correct reads and manipulating the defense with control at the line of scrimmage. Luckily for the Patriots, those are Jones’ best attributes.

This needs to be a game where Jones wins the mental battles at the line of scrimmage before the snaps even happen.

Win the turnover battle

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

With two elite defenses, both offenses will have to be polished, and the Patriots will need to control the ball for as long as possible to keep it out of the hands of Hurts.

If the Patriots can create a turnover, manage the game and contain Hurts’ big-play ability, a win could be in sight for Week 1, which would shock the league.

It’ll be a home game with the potential for a Super Bowl hangover for the Eagles. Sure, the Patriots face an uphill battle for victory on Sunday, but it isn’t impossible that they find a way to rally and knock off the Eagles.

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Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire