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Philadelphia Eagles spoil New England Patriots' Tom Brady celebration with opening victory

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. − What started out as a laugher for the Eagles turned into a quagmire in the rain as the offense struggled to get anything going.

And then the Eagles had to hold on for their lives to beat the New England Patriots 25-20 on Sunday as Jalen Hurts' fumble with 3 1/2 minutes remaining set the Patriots up at the Eagles 41.

The Eagles stopped New England on fourth down with 2:20 remaining. Even then, the Eagles couldn't exhale just yet. The Eagles decided to go for it on 4th-and-2 from New England's 44 with 2 minutes left. Hurts' pass to DeVonta Smith was incomplete, giving the Patriots the ball near midfield.

But Mac Jones didn't have the Tom Brady magic on a day when Brady was honored at halftime. Eagles rookie Jalen Carter, playing his first NFL game, got his first career sack to set up 3rd-and-13 from the Eagles' 22. Facing a 4th-and-11, Jones threw to the sideline for Kayshon Boutte. The pass was ruled complete, then overturned after a replay.

It was a rough start to a season with Super Bowl expectations. The Eagles had the third highest-scoring offense in the NFL last season, averaging 28.1 points per game.

Yet they hardly looked the part Sunday against the Patriots. Hurts went 22-for-33 for 170 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles only had 251 total yards.

The Eagles could only muster four field goals on offense as one of their touchdowns scored on Darius Slay's 70-yard interception return for a touchdown. Another scored a few plays after Zach Cunningham recovered Ezekiel Elliott's fumble at the Patriots' 26 yard line.

The Eagles converted that when Hurts hit Smith for a 5-yard touchdown. Smith, who's expecting a baby with his girlfriend, celebrated by mimicking cradling and rocking a baby to sleep.

And it seemed like there would be plenty of celebrating. At the time, the Eagles led 16-0 and there was still 2:39 left in the first quarter.

Just like that, everything stopped for the Eagles.

The Eagles didn't get a single first down in the second quarter. Jalen Hurts, the MVP runner up last season, was often running for his life. He threw for only 47 yards in the first half, and the Eagles had only 98 as a team. Dallas Goedert didn't have a target until the fourth quarter, and he didn't catch a pass

The Patriots, meanwhile, cut into the Eagles lead.

New England quarterback Mac Jones and the offense, booed by Patriots fans after the early miscues on Tom Brady Day, came to life late in the first half.

He hit Hunter Henry from 10 yards out with 4:34 left in the half. Then Jones connected with Kendrick Bourne from 19 yards out with 25 seconds left.

Just like that, the Eagles' lead was down to 16-14.

Things didn't get much better in the second half. Hurts started it off with his longest pass of the day, 15 yards to A.J. Brown. But the drive stalled at the Patriots' 38 and Jake Elliott kicked a 56-yard field goal, the longest by an opponent in Gillette Stadium history.

Elliott then kicked a 48-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, getting a favorable bounce off the goal past to make it an 8-point lead.

The Patriots were still in it, however. Jones brought the Patriots to the Eagles' 36, where they faced a 4th-and-8. Jones then completed a 12-yard pass to Henry for a first down. The Patriots faced another fourth down, this time with 3 yards to go, from the Eagles' 17.

Haason Reddick had pressure on Jones, who threw incomplete. The Eagles added another Elliott field goal, his fourth of the game, from 51 yards out, and the Eagles were up by 11 with 5:33 left.

The Patriots responded with a Jones to Bourne TD from 11 yards out.

By then, the rain that had fallen throughout the first half, had stopped. Perhaps that explained New England's early struggles. Slay's 70-yard interception return came when he picked off Jones' pass after it deflected off intended receiver Kendrick Bourne.

That gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.

On the first play of the Patriots' next possession, former Elliott, the former Cowboy, fumbled the ball after he caught a short pass. Jordan Davis caused the fumble and Cunningham picked it up at New England's 26.

Smith then caught a 5-yard TD pass. The extra point missed, but the Eagles had an early commanding lead.

And then it nearly fell apart.

Still, the Eagles revealed for the first time their offense and defense under new coordinators Brian Johnson and drove down the field but stalled at the end of the drive and settled for an Elliott 32-yard field goal. Still, the opening drive revealed quite a bit. Kenny Gainwell was the starting running back, and the Eagles went to him often.

Gainwell had 6 carries for 29 yards, and 2 catches for 14 yards. Hurts, meanwhile, converted a 3rd-and-11 from the Patriots 23 by running for 14 yards.

But facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 6, New England's Matt Judon sacked Hurts and they settled for a field goal at the end of a 14-play drive that used up 7:18.

On defense, Justin Evans started at safety next to Reed Blankenship, and rookie Jalen Carter didn't start, but played often.

Also, linebacker Nakobe Dean left with a foot injury in the third quarter and didn't return. Christian Elliss replaced him. Fletcher Cox was injured late, too, but there was no report of his status.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on X @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Philadelphia opens with big performance, spoil Tom Brady celebration