Stew Milne//USA Today Sports

10 quick takeaways from Patriots’ win over Eagles in Super Bowl LII rematch

Ryan Hannable
August 16, 2018 - 10:53 pm
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FOXBORO — While revenge likely wasn’t high on the minds of the Patriots Thursday night, their performance against the Eagles had to have felt good. 

The Patriots beat the Eagles soundly, 37-20 in a rematch of Super Bowl LII.

Tom Brady played up until the final kneel down of the first half and exited the game with the Patriots leading 27-7.

Here are 10 quick takeaways from the contest.

1. In his first game action since the Super Bowl, Brady picked up just where he left off. The quarterback led an eight-play, 62-yard opening drive, which was capped off by a four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. The quarterback was 5-for-5 with 26 yards on the drive. While he wasn’t as good the rest of the half, he finished 19-for-26 passing with 172 yards and two touchdowns. He was relieved by Brian Hoyer for the second half following a very solid first performance of the season. If there were any questions about how he would look since turning 41, he put those to bed in a hurry.

2. It’s pretty clear how the Patriots are going to approach the first four weeks of the season: feed James White and the other running backs. Brady relied heavily on White when he was in the game, as the running back touched the ball on 27 percent of the Patriots’ plays during the first half. White finished the game with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown, while also adding 31 yards on the ground. It’s also worth noting Rex Burkhead didn’t dress for the game and he is another running back who will see a ton of touches with Julian Edelman out.

3. There was one negative offensively as rookie lineman Isaiah Wynn left the game late in the first quarter with a left ankle injury. Wynn got in at right tackle on the second drive of the game and after a play he immediately went off the field and right to the medical tent behind the bench. After a few minutes, a cart was called to take him to the locker room and he didn’t return. The No. 23 overall pick was slated to play a major role on the offensive line as the backup at several positions.

4. Defensively, it was a much better effort than last week against the Redskins. It started with the pass rush, as the Patriots finished with eight sacks. The play of the game was Adrian Clayborn strip-sacking Nick Foles and rookie linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley picking up the loose ball and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown in the first half. Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers (when he gets back on the field) will be tough for any offensive line to defend. This area should be much improved from a year ago.

5. Even though it is just two preseason games, Brian Flores seems to have a different approach than Matt Patricia. Flores has been much more aggressive with his calls when it comes to pressuring the opposing quarterback and it paid off Thursday. With how good the majority of the Patriots cornerbacks are, he should feel comfortable doing this. Patricia had a more laid back approach centered around not giving up the big play. It will be interesting to see if this continues into the regular season or if the Patriots are just experimenting in the preseason. 

6. When it comes to the wide receiver position, if the regular season started today, the Patriots likely would go with Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson and Eric Decker with Julian Edelman out. Patterson had a 11-yard receiving touchdown in the second half on a screen play, something we should see a lot of this year given his speed. Riley McCarron seems to be on the outside looking in as he didn’t play at all in the first half with the first-team offense and Braxton Berrios curiously didn’t even dress. The wild card is Kenny Britt, who has yet to participate in a full practice this summer. It was a good sign for Decker to get some reps with the first-team offense, especially during the two-minute drill to end the first half.

7. In terms of cornerback reps, the Patriots mixed and matched a bunch. Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty all rotated early on in the game. McCourty did allow a touchdown on a fade route in the end zone. With Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones not playing, Keion Crossen saw lots of reps in the slot, but it did not go well. He committed three defensive penalties and dropped a would-be interception. J.C. Jackson and Jomal Wiltz saw most of the snaps in the second half. This position still has a lot to be sorted out, especially with both Jones’ not playing yet.

8. Bentley did a lot of good for himself again, as besides his touchdown, he was all over the field. The rookie out of Purdue is a hard-hitting linebacker and could potentially see some time over Elandon Roberts. Overall, it was not a good night for the younger cornerbacks, which could potentially lead to McCourty making the team. That could change if one of them has a strong final two weeks of the preseason. Like last week, Jeremy Hill performed better than Mike Gillislee. Hill is getting closer and closer to being in the roster lock category. Keionta Davis continues to see first-team reps in Flowers' absence, which is something to keep an eye on moving forward. He could sneak on to the roster.

9. It was worth noting after getting extended playing time last week in the preseason opener, Dont’a Hightower didn’t play at all Thursday. He did seem to be an active participant in the game as he had a what looked like a play sheet and was constantly in communication with Flores. Given the third game is a dress rehearsal, he should play next week against the Panthers.

10. Relating to special teams, Ryan Allen once again saw all of the punts. It is interesting that Corey Bojorquez hasn’t seen a single punt yet in the preseason. One theory is the team is trying to sneak him on to the practice squad, but that doesn’t make much sense for a punter. It is also worth noting Patterson hasn’t returned a kick in a game, and also not in practice in quite some time. It was mostly McCarron Thursday night. Perhaps, the Patriots know what they have in Patterson and don’t want to risk injury. Cyrus Jones didn’t play, so we’ve yet to see him return a punt in a game since last preseason. This will be something to watch in the final two preseason games.

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