Patriots at Eagles NFL preseason score, takeaways: Cam Newton, Mac Jones both sharp as New England wins big

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Less than four calendar years ago, the Eagles and Patriots met in the Super Bowl, producing one of the biggest offensive showcases in the history of the NFL's championship game. On Thursday night, they clashed again, but this time amid entirely different circumstances. Kicking off Week 2 of the 2021 preseason, Philadelphia rested most of its starters ahead of its anticipated regular-season kickoff of Nick Sirianni's youth movement. That included quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was a surprise absentee due to a last-minute illness. The Patriots, meanwhile, got sharp performances from Cam Newton and Mac Jones in their bid to get one step closer to crowning a true Tom Brady successor going into the new year, claiming an easy 35-0 victory in the process.

Here are our instant takeaways from Thursday night's Eagles-Patriots showdown:

Why the Patriots won

This will sound like a copout, but the biggest reason New England started strong and built an early lead is because the Eagles rested almost all of their top defensive starters. All week, reports out of camp indicated Philly had its way with Newton and Co., but against second- and third-team D-lines, Newton had little trouble finding open passing lanes. Big plays from Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne helped. Jones was even more impressive later, carving up the Eagles' backup secondary with a lively arm and getting assists from a deep running backfield headlined by J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson. And then the Patriots defense, headlined by a busy front that included Chase Winovich and Christian Barmore, made Eagles quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens uncomfortable to further bury the home team.

Why the Eagles lost

Well, for one, they started Flacco at QB, thanks to Jalen Hurts coming down with a last-minute illness. The vet started his night by chasing down an errant snap and ended it with just 86 yards on 17 throws. Nick Mullens, the No. 3, was even worse, dancing around in the pocket while trailing by 30-plus. Aside from DeVonta Smith, who got consistent separation in his anticipated debut, no one really popped on the Eagles offense. The "D" wasn't much better, with rookie Milton Williams maybe the lone standout on a night when other young backups like Zech McPhearson struggled to keep up in pass defense.

Turning point

Honestly, it could've been the moment Flacco trotted out as the Eagles QB instead of Hurts, who at least brings some mobile swagger to Philly's offense. Instead, let's go with Flacco's first snap, when reserve lineman Nate Herbig sent the ball over the QB's head, forcing Flacco to chase after it and then fumble away the ball himself. This came on Philly's first possession, allowing the Patriots to go up 7-0 with ease.

Play of the game

Jones had a number of impressive darts, and Taylor had a killer spin move on a red-zone run, but let's give it to Patriots defenders Justin Bethel and Harvey Langi, who teamed up for a diving interception of Flacco:

What's next

The Patriots (2-0) will close their preseason schedule on Aug. 29 against the Giants. The Eagles (0-2), meanwhile, will finish their slate on Aug. 27 against the Jets.

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THU 7:30 P
PHI -1, o38.5
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PHI -1, O/U 38.5

Season Leaders

passing
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M. Jones 2850 YD, 16 TDS, 8 INTS
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M. Jones 2850 YD, 16 TDS, 8 INTS
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J. Hurts 2435 YD, 13 TDS, 8 INTS
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J. Hurts 2435 YD, 13 TDS, 8 INTS
rushing
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D. Harris 154 ATT, 643 YD, 8 TDS
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D. Harris 154 ATT, 643 YD, 8 TDS
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J. Hurts 122 ATT, 695 YD, 8 TDS
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J. Hurts 122 ATT, 695 YD, 8 TDS
receiving
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K. Bourne 42 REC, 623 YD, 5 TDS
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K. Bourne 42 REC, 623 YD, 5 TDS
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D. Smith 48 REC, 686 YD, 4 TDS
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D. Smith 48 REC, 686 YD, 4 TDS
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Some strong running here from Elijah Holyfield, who's trying to crack the Eagles' roster as a No. 4/5 running back. Makes a couple of powerful moves and even shows some cutback ability. Gained 33 yards on his first three carries and just added a catch as well.

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Sour note for Rhamondre Stevenson on the fumble there after another strong game.

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Very curious to see what comes of this Patriots backfield once the real games begin. New England backfields are always unpredictable, but if Damien Harris really is slated to be the No. 1, I just wonder how Sony Michel fits in with guys like J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson bringing contrasting skill sets and apparently deserving roles.

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J.J. Taylor does have a burst that separates him from the rest of New England's backs. Could become a factor when determining the final 53.

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Brian Hoyer is now in for the Patriots at QB. Mac Jones finishes his night 13 of 19 for 146 yards. New England also scored three times over his four possessions.

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One thing tonight is clear for the Patriots -- they are extremely deep at running back. Damien Harris should be the lead guy with James White as the main passing down back, but then you have Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson all with the ability to make plays. Arguably the deepest position on the roster.

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Speaking of QBs, Joe Flacco is done after one half of action for the Eagles. In comes former 49ers backup Nick Mullens, who isn't guaranteed a roster spot as Philly's No. 3. Mullens struggled mightily in limited snaps during the Eagles' preseason opener. Now he gets a shot against Patriots reserves. Flacco, meanwhile, finishes 10-of-17 for 83 yards and an interception.

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Very impressed by Mac Jones tonight. Couple his performance with his flashes from the preseason opener, and I think you already have a case he belongs in the conversation to be the Patriots' Week 1 starter. Cam Newton's trademark strengths are a rocket arm and brutish running ability. Jones doesn't give you the latter, but his arm looks plenty lively. Not only that, but he makes decisions quicker and has no trouble moving around the pocket. If you absolutely must, just use Cam as a specialist/runner. Is the downside really that much more significant than if Newton were to remain under center?

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Who is this kicker and what has he done with the Quinn Nordin from Week 1 of the preseason? Yikes.

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Don't look now, but Jones is starting to sling it. The competition at this point in the game is what it is, but I do like seeing Jones work confidently within the offense.

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An update on who will be catching passes for the Eagles in the second half:

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NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Jalen Hurts went through a full pre-game routine before his surprise removal from the lineup. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, meanwhile, tells the team broadcast that the plan was for Hurts to play one or two series but that he just didn't feel well after pre-game warmups.

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DeVonta Smith's easy separation and first-down catch goes to waste as the Eagles watch yet another offensive drive come up short. Joe Flacco is sacked on second down, can't get it past the sticks on third, and then on fourth-and-4 chucks one up for Jalen Reagor, who doesn't seem to know which route he's running. The Patriots pick it off and Mac Jones proceeds to uncork a bomb, but N'Keal Harry just can't haul it in.

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N'Keal Harry is down after extending himself to try and make a diving catch. Being looked at by the training staff now.

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Really nice cut by DeVonta Smith. The catches might not have been there early, but he was creating some solid separation. Exciting stuff for what should be a promising NFL career.

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Bill Belichick getting some preseason reps in as well as he throws out the red challenge flag.

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Something to monitor with Jones going forward throughout the summer.

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That physicality out of Stevenson is something that was featured when the Patriots drafted him earlier this spring. I believe has the potential to grow into a player both the Patriots and Eagles are familiar with: LeGarrette Blount.

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