Patriots-Eagles takeaways: Early miscues prove costly in Week 1 loss

Patriots-Eagles takeaways: Early miscues prove costly in Week 1 loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Philadelphia Eagles spoiled Tom Brady's long-awaited return to Foxboro on Sunday.

While there was plenty to like about Mac Jones and the New England Patriots' performance, they were unable to overcome an abysmal start to the regular-season opener. The reigning NFC champions jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first quarter thanks to multiple Patriots turnovers.

New England cut the deficit to two points before the half and kept it close from there. Bill Belichick's team had a chance to steal a victory on its final possession of the fourth quarter, but it came up just short and ultimately fell to 0-1 with a 25-20 defeat.

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Despite the loss, Jones showed signs of improvement under new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. The third-year signal-caller completed 35 of his 54 passes (both career-highs) for 316 yards and three touchdowns. He did, however, throw a costly pick-six in the first quarter.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was mostly held in check. The Patriots defense limited him to only 170 passing yards and one TD. The unit also forced a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter that gave New England an opportunity to pull off the upset.

The Patriots will look to bounce back against the Miami Dolphins next Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. Before we look ahead to that matchup, here are our takeaways from Week 1.

Early miscues prove costly

The score says otherwise, but the Patriots actually outplayed the Eagles for the majority of this game. Unfortunately, their early mistakes put them in a hole they couldn't get out of.

The first quarter couldn't have gone much worse for Bill Belichick's group. A string of unforced errors -- including two brutal turnovers -- quickly put the Patriots down 16-0.

The first Patriots turnover was a pick-six that bounced off wideout Kendrick Bourne's hands. Their second turnover, an Ezekiel Elliott fumble, came on their next snap and led to more points for Philly.

According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, it was the first time since 2015 that the Patriots turned the ball over twice in the first quarter. Those uncharacteristic miscues proved to be the difference.

Defense keeps it close

Outside of a shaky opening drive, the Patriots defense impressed on Sunday.

The unit allowed only 95 total yards in the first half to help make up for the offense's first-quarter woes. It forced three consecutive three-and-outs to finish the second quarter and kept the Patriots within two points.

Josh Uche, Matthew Judon, and Christian Gonzalez each notched sacks on Hurts. Rookie defensive end Keion White was a disruptive force throughout the day with consistent pressure on the QB.

Jabrill Peppers rocked Hurts and forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter to give Jones and the Patriots offense a chance to take the lead.

The Pats D allowed only one touchdown, a DeVonta Smith receiving TD in the first quarter. Otherwise, all of the Eagles' points came from field goals and Jones' costly pick-six.

Another tough test for the Patriots defense is coming next week against Dolphins wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Sunday's performance should inspire optimism heading into that matchup.

A moral victory?

Whether you believe in moral victories or not, you can expect to hear that phrase plenty over the next week.

It isn't a stretch to say the Patriots looked like the better team for the final three quarters. Along with the defense's impressive showing, Pats fans can hang their hats on the Jones-led offense appearing to take a step forward under Bill O'Brien.

After a rough start to the game, Jones caught fire in the second quarter to chip away at the Eagles' early lead. He finished a 10-play, 71-yard drive with the Patriots' first TD of the 2023 season, a nine-yard toss to tight end Hunter Henry.

Jones connected with Bourne for another touchdown to cap off a six-play, 63-yard drive just before the half. The TD marked 10 consecutive completions for the Alabama product.

As our Phil Perry pointed out, the short-handed offensive line deserves credit for giving Jones time in the pocket. The group was without starting guards Cole Strange (knee) and Mike Onwenu (ankle). Starting right tackle Riley Reiff is on injured reserve.

Jones wasn't able to propel the Patriots to a comeback victory, but it's fair to assume fans are mostly pleased with what they saw from him in Week 1. You can include our own Tom E. Curran in that optimistic group as well.