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Patriots Week 1 Takeaways: Moral Victories All Around

Foxborough, MA - People go back and forth on the meaning of the "moral victory". Is it actually worth anything? For the Patriots on Sunday, there's no doubt that this one had meaning. Ultimately falling short 25-20 against the Eagles, the Patriots engineered an excellent comeback after a very rough start to things that had them down 16-0 at the end of the first quarter. Here are three key takeaways from the game that explain the optimism felt by the fanbase.

Ball Security And Situational Issues

Let's get the negatives out of the way. Had the two early turnovers not happened for New England, they would have not only won this game, but also done so without much of an issue. The Eagles' only two TDs of the game happened off turnovers, via a pick-six and a fumble leading to a touchdown.

Untimely turnovers were a problem last season as well, and the Patriots continue to have a tendency to force themselves to have to come back, falling just short a bizarre number of times. The Patriots also need to avoid falling behind the sticks as much as they've been doing in critical possessions. Too many long third/fourth downs were created on potential game-winning drives, ultimately making the equation unnecessarily hard.

Lastly, but importantly, the Patriots made the equation harder for themselves with untimely penalties negating big plays/a two-point conversion, as well as putting them in longer down/distance situations. At seven penalties for 50 yards, the Patriots had a very un-Belichickian clip.

For the Patriots now, the priority needs to be starting and finishing - because when they're settled in, they play some pretty great ball.

Patriots Offense Actually... Played Cohesively?

After shaking off the rust, the Patriots' offense was actually playing at an extremely high level. While tackle continued to be an area of some issues, Calvin Anderson and Trent Brown actually settled into the game nicely on the ends. The interior offensive line continued to be as solid as they've been, and rookies Antonio Mafi and Sidy Sow played admirably in the place of injured Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange.

Mac Jones had an incredible game. Over 300 yards, three touchdowns to one interception - that was off a deflection. He wasn't perfect, and there were a handful of other throws that were interceptable. He looked much more like first-year Mac, except with even more poise, than last year's version. He was accurate, decisive, and distributed the ball extremely well - eight different receivers got the ball on Sunday.

The running game didn't put up a ton of yards, but it was effective when called upon. Both Stevenson and Elliot were effective and were used properly in tandem. Elliot's versatility also lends itself to interesting formations where Elliot is lined up at WR while Stevenson is in the backfield. Both were effective in the pass-catching game.

Bill O'Brien's new offensive still needs fine-tuning and game practice, but it's a cohesive and welcome change from what the Patriots had with Patricia - especially considering the talent level of the Eagles' defense.

Potential Top-5 Defense

25 points allowed seems like a somewhat average defensive outing. However, first of all, the Eagles boast a prolific, deep offense that averaged over 28 ppg in 2022. Furthermore, the Eagles were held to just two touchdowns, one of which was a pick-six, and the other being off a short 25-yard field.

The Patriots succeeded in getting the Eagles off the field in the big moments, forcing them to just 4/13 on third downs, and 0/1 on fourth downs. They only allowed 251 yards to a team that averaged 386 last year, and overall didn't allow the Eagles to get much going at all. The secondary was effective and Christian Gonzalez had a great debut, including a sack and a stunning fourth-down deflection.

The pass rush was extremely effective. Judon and Uche started right where they left off in 2022, each sacking Jalen Hurts, and getting plenty of penetration throughout the game. Keion White and Marte Mapu also looked strong in their rookie debuts and the versatile group of safeties matched their talent level.

If New England's defense can play like this consistently, expect a simplified equation for the offense.


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