Jalen Hurts, Eagles build early lead, hang on to beat Patriots 25-20 as Tom Brady is honored
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jalen Hurts walked off the field following the Eagles’ season-opening victory unsure of what the offense he leads can achieve this season.
He likes what he has to work with, though.
Hurts threw a touchdown pass and Darius Slay had a 70-yard interception return for a score as Philadelphia built a big early lead, then hung on at the finish to beat the New England Patriots 25-20 on Sunday.
The Eagles capitalized on two early turnovers by the Patriots, spoiling a day when New England honored former quarterback Tom Brady at halftime.
Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles brought in several fresh faces, including a new coordinators on offense (Brian Johnson) and defense (Sean Desai). After Philly’s uneven debut, Hurts said figuring out this group’s identity will take more than one game.
“That’s something that we’re navigating,” he said. “We’re going to continue to grow. And it’s always better when you win.”
Hurts was 22 of 33 for 170 yards and the TD but had a costly fumble in fourth quarter that gave the Patriots a chance. Jake Elliott kicked four field goals for Philadelphia, which didn’t reach the end zone after the first quarter.
“Was it our cleanest opportunity? No. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We didn’t finish some drives late in the game.”
New England’s Mac Jones recovered from a rough start to finish 35 of 54 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Kendrick Bourne had two TD receptions. Hunter Henry added the other scoring catch for an offense that outgained the NFC champion Eagles 382-251.
Jones felt he could have done much more for New England, which twice failed to take the lead after defensive stops.
“I feel like in the most critical times I played my worst. … I know I can do it. I’ve done it before,” Jones said. “I let the defense down and I’ll have to live with that.”
Trailing 25-14 late in the fourth quarter, New England got within 25-20 on Jones’ 11-yard TD pass to Bourne. But a 2-point conversion run by Jones was nullified by a holding penalty, and a second attempt was no good.
The Eagles opened their next series with an 8-yard run by Hurts which ended with him fumbling after a hit by Jabrill Peppers. Marcus Jones recovered, setting New England up on the Philadelphia 41 with 3:28 remaining.
A second-down sack by Jordan Davis and Josh Sweat helped the Eagles end that Patriots possession. Philadelphia then struggled to move the ball, turning it over on downs at the New England 44 when Hurts’ pass to Smith was broken up.
The Patriots got the ball to the 19 on a 17-yard pass from Jones to Mike Gesicki with 1:02 left. But on second down, Jones couldn’t avoid Jalen Carter and was sacked.
On fourth-and-11, Kayshon Boutte appeared to reel in a catch inside the 10. But a replay review showed he had only one foot inbounds.
New England hired offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in the offseason to turn the page on a dismal 2022 by a unit that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL.
Injuries on the offensive line made hindered the Patriots’ debut.
With starters Cole Strange (knee) and Mike Onwenu (ankle) both inactive, the Patriots started rookies Antonio Mafi and Sidy Sow at left and right guard, respectively. The absences were felt early opposite an Eagles defensive line that put pressure on Jones throughout.
The Patriots’ first five drives of the game ended with a pick-6, a fumble that led to another Eagles touchdown, and three consecutive three-and-outs that added up to a 16-0 Philadelphia lead.
But the Eagles’ offense finished the half with four straight punts to help New England close the gap to 16-14.
Philadelphia carried a 19-14 edge into the fourth quarter and stretched it to 22-14 when Elliott’s 48-yard field-goal attempt banged off the left upright and through.
“It’s fun getting to go out there and just earn it,” Elliott said. “I love having all those opportunities. I know it was a little more interesting that we wanted it to be. But that’s what we prepare for.”
Eagles: Linebacker Nakobe Dean left in the second half with a foot injury and was wearing a boot after the game. … Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox left following a fourth-quarter injury.
The Patriots dressed 11 of the 12 members of their rookie draft class. The exception was cornerback Isaiah Bolden, who is on injured reserve with the head injury he suffered during New England’s second exhibition game.
Elliott converted from 56 and 51 yards and now has 21 kicks of 50 yards or more, including the playoffs, extending his franchise lead.
Eagles: Host Minnesota on Thursday night.
Patriots: Host Miami next Sunday night.
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