By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — That was a beatdown. After a couple of joint practices in Philly this week, the Patriots had zero interest in giving even an inch to the Eagles in their preseason game on Thursday night.
New England took a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes and never looked back, en route to a 35-0 victory.
Despite the blowout win, there were still some negatives for the Patriots. There might have been a few positives as well.
Matthew Judon & Jalen Mills
A pair of new Patriots combined to make a game-changing play right off the bat. After the Eagles had picked up a couple of first downs on the opening possession, an errant shotgun snap flew over the head of quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco was able to recover the loose ball, and he tried to make something happen with the play. That was unwise.
Matthew Judon smelled blood and caught up to Flacco with ease. When Judon made contact, the ball came loose from Flacco’s grip.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 19, 2021
Jalen Mills — the former Eagle — was hot in pursuit, and he ended up recovering the fumble at the Philadelphia 9-yard line. Damien Harris was in the end zone two plays later.
Third-Down Run Stuff/Fourth-Down Stops
The Eagles looked to bounce back from that embarrassing start with a scoring drive of their own. The interior of the Patriots’ defense made sure it didn’t happen.
With the Eagles facing a third-and-1 and their own 31-yard line, the call was for an inside handoff to Jordan Howard. Rookie Christian Barmore and Carl Davis went to work on the line, getting some push from Dont’a Hightower. With a clogged lane for Howard, Kyle Van Noy came flying in to finish off the third-down stop, forcing a Philadelphia punt.
Improving the run defense was a significant need for the Patriots in the offseason. This was a positive sign in that regard.
The Patriots’ defense got another opportunity to make a big play in the second quarter, when the Eagles opted to go for it on a fourth-and-3 from the New England 9-yard line. Flacco threw toward Quez Watkins, but Mills had him covered well. Kyle Dugger came over to get both hands on the pass. He couldn’t make the pick, but he easily broke up the pass for the turnover on downs.
The Eagles tried it again on a fourth down before halftime, but the Patriots made another stop. This time it was Justin Bethel in tight coverage against Jalen Reagor. Bethel broke up the pass, and linebacker Harvey Langi flew in to make an interception. The Patriots’ defense came to play in this one.
Cam was good. Real good. Looking like he’s ready for Week 1 good.
Newton was on the field for three drives. The first involved two handoffs, the second of which went for a touchdown.
On the second drive, he was 4-for-5 for 56 yards. On the next one, he was 4-for-4 for 47 yards and a touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers.
The Running Backs
It would be wrong to choose just one. The running backs were spectacular.
We could start with stats … or we could start with jukes. And man, we ought to start with the jukes.
Damien Harris: Certified Juke Haver.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 20, 2021
Sony Michel: he brought jukes.
— NFL (@NFL) August 20, 2021
J.J. Taylor: His first name may be Juke Juke.
J.J. Taylor with the spin 🌪 #NFLPreseason
— NFL (@NFL) August 20, 2021
That’s a lot of juking.
Stat-wise, here goes.
Sony Michel: 7 rushes, 34 yards; 4 receptions, 37 yards
Damien Harris: 6 rushes, 14 yards, TD
Rhamondre Stevenson: 15 rushes, 66 yards, 2 TDs; 1 reception, 8 yards
J.J. Taylor: 12 rushes, 93 yards, TD; 3 receptions, 18 yards
As a team, the Patriots ran for 210 yards on 41 carries. (That’s excluding three kneeldowns by Brian Hoyer.) Taylor also had 34 punt return yards on three attempts.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) August 20, 2021
The blocking was, obviously, excellent. And the running backs had a fun evening.
Jakobi Meyers was the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver, and with three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown on three targets, he delivered the way the team would like. … Mac Jones wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but he looks good for a rookie. He was 13-for-19 for 146 yards. … Adrian Colbert preserved the shutout with a late interception off a deflection.
The undrafted rookie kicker missed his first field goal attempt of the night. It was a 36-yarder, a mere chip shot, but he pushed it right.
Later in the first quarter, he missed an extra point. Wide right.
Early in the second half … another PAT … another miss. Wide right.
And that is how quickly careers can change in the NFL. At that position, the margin for error is so small.
The third-year defender is looking to make an impact. He missed time this offseason, and he didn’t exactly get a huge endorsement from Bill Belichick the other day.
But he made the wrong kind of impact early in the second quarter, when he got a little too aggressive in going after Joe Flacco. After the pass was released, Winovich kept pursuing the QB. Winovich might have been gently shoved, leading to him falling directly into Flacco’s legs.
Instead of a third-down incompletion, a flag flew for roughing the passer. That’s not what Winovich needed.
He made up for it later in the second quarter when he reached out and sacked Flacco on a second-and-3, and he came up with a sack of Nick Mullens (who stood in the pocket for 45 minutes) in the third quarter, both of which certainly help his cause. (The third-down roughing the passer penalty outweighs the sacks against third-stringers in the coaches’ meetings.)
The receiver’s still trying to make an impact. He tried by laying out for a deep ball from Mac Jones late in the first half. But he couldn’t haul it in, and he suffered an injury on the play. Whether it was his shoulder or his head or his back or anything else is anyone’s guess, but he remained down on the turf for quite some time before walking to the sideline with the Patriots’ medical staff.
Absolute dime from Mac Jones and a good route on the go ball from N’Keal Harry. Hope he’s alright but this has got to be caught. Two weeks in a row now Mac has dropped one in the bucket up the left sideline. pic.twitter.com/Xy29MBnx2h
— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) August 20, 2021
Harry did have a big catch earlier in the game, finding a soft spot in the defense for a 19-yard gain to convert a third-and-13. But ending this game early might be a problem for him as he moves forward.
He, of course, had his fun, as has been mentioned already. But he also coughed up the football in the fourth quarter. Even late in a preseason blowout, giving the football to the other team is a major demerit on Bill Belichick’s team.
Belichick actually bailed out Stevenson in the first half, after the officials ruled that the running back had caught a pass and fumbled it. Belichick challenged the play, even though the benefit was only a difference of five yards. The Patriots won the challenge, thus turning the fumble into an incompletion. But there was no saving Stevenson on that fourth-quarter fumblerooski.